Any performer involved in theatre falls under the category of Equity or non-equity. Equity performers are involved with a union called the Actor’s Equity Association (AEA). The AEA helps performers with negotiating salaries, time off, health insurance, and retirement plans to name a few. In this article, we detail the different aspects of being an equity member versus being a non-equity member.
All Broadway performances are equity shows. Performers who are equity members can only audition for shows that enable equity actors. Equity members cannot audition for non-equity shows. The AEA is a union and therefore has rules to which performers and theatre companies have to obey. In an Equity show, there are equity deputies who monitor the working environment of Equity performers to ensure they are following Equity guidelines.
There are several ways you can become an Equity actor. The quickest way to become an Equity actor is to be cast in a Broadway show. All performers in a Broadway show have to be Equity. Non-equity performers can audition for Equity shows. In this case, you will immediately be signed up to be an Equity performer. You can also work your way up to becoming an Equity performer through the Equity Candidate Membership program (ECM). The EMC will track hours spent working at an Equity theatre. After a certain amount of hours, you will become eligible to join equity. You can also join one of AEA’s sister organizations and after a year is eligible for joining equity.
If you are a performer and you are not in the AEA you are considered non-equity. Non-equity performances do not have to follow Equity guidelines and rules during the process. Being non-equity means, you will not be offered any benefits that come along with being an Equity performer. Retirement, salary negotiation, PTO will not be discussed between you and the theatre as a non-equity performer. There are some upsides to being a non-equity performer. You can audition for both Equity and non-equity shows. There is much more work for non-equity performers rather than Equity performers because of the guidelines the AEA implements. Being non-equity gives you the opportunity to build up your performance experience and master your skills.
Whether you decide to pursue being an Equity member or not it is essential to know the difference between the two so you can tailor your audition process for the best fit.