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View Full Version : What is a non-equity theatre?


cainxinth
04-13-2007, 11:56 AM
Couldn't figure it out from google.

Jayrot
04-13-2007, 12:00 PM
I wondered that myself. I'm just guessing that you also read the Conan O'Brien commencement speech (http://www.february-7.com/features/conan.htm?).

Precambrianmollusc
04-13-2007, 12:04 PM
Equity is the UK actors union - I believe the US has an actors union also called equity. So I would WAG a non equity theater is a theater that allows non union people to perform.
Apologies for WAGing in GQ.

cainxinth
04-13-2007, 12:08 PM
I wondered that myself. I'm just guessing that you also read the Conan O'Brien commencement speech (http://www.february-7.com/features/conan.htm?).

That I did.

Cheesesteak
04-13-2007, 12:20 PM
He's talking about Actors Equity (http://www.actorsequity.org/) which is the union for stage performers. Non-equity generally denotes a low level of theatre, a step above non-professional community theatre.

Performers who have their equity cards are generally not allowed to work non-union shows, so it's difficult to get decent talent if you don't go with Equity.

Voyager
04-13-2007, 02:43 PM
Film and TV have similar rules - SAG and I suppose AFTRA members are not allowed to work in non-union jobs, without special dispensation. (You can get it for a student film.) For SAG, you need to join the union for your second job in a union production.

Does anyone know if you have to join Actors Equity to work in equity theater?

NAF1138
04-13-2007, 02:49 PM
Film and TV have similar rules - SAG and I suppose AFTRA members are not allowed to work in non-union jobs, without special dispensation. (You can get it for a student film.) For SAG, you need to join the union for your second job in a union production.

Does anyone know if you have to join Actors Equity to work in equity theater?
It's a similar idea with Equity as with SAG. Out in LA they have special contracts that allow Equity Actors to work certain types of non equity shows. No, you don't have to join to work Equity theater, but being a non member makes it harder to get that work. But it is also the only way to get your union card. Every Equity show I have worked has had at least 1 or 2 non union members. I don't remember what the exact rule is regarding how many non union are allowed, but you can likely look it up on Equity's website (http://www.actorsequity.org/)

Also, SAG and AFTRA have a special dispensation that allows their members to be treated as Equity members when working in the theater, even if they haven't gotten thier Equity card.

Sampiro
04-13-2007, 03:04 PM
Does anyone know if you have to join Actors Equity to work in equity theater?

Yes, you do, but you don't have to be to audition for one. In fact, you can't join Actor's Equity until you have a contract with an Equity production. Some FAQs (http://www.actorsequity.org/faq/browse_public.asp?locator=7), incidentally. (It's $400 to join, $700 more due within 1 year, $118 per year thereafter + 2.25% of your gross theatrical earnings.)

Lots of Broadway musicals (all of which are Equity) have initial touring companies that are Equity, then when the musical's a few years old and just can't command as much money for a ticket anymore a non-Equity tour is licensed. I've seen several of these; the non-Equity tour has cheaper tickets and usually nowhere near as nice sets and wardrobe (prime example: Miss Saigon is famous for the helicopter landing on stage in the Fall of Saigon scenes and this was reproduced on the Equity tour, but on the non-Equity tour it was changed to a CGI). The acting talent may well be as good or better in the non-Equity version, but the actors are paid less.

If you join Actor's Equity you can never take a professional role in a non-Equity production without express permission. A few exceptions are allowed with written permission- juveniles can appear in non-Equity and Equity, adults can appear at benefits and fundraisers and unpaid performances within some guidelines, but something like a touring company or a professional stage production- no way.

A few years ago (2000 according to his wiki) Barry "Greg Brady" Williams, an Equity member, accepted the role of Baron von Trapp (? can't see it) in a non-Equity touring company of Sound of Music. Since he was the only name recognizable actor in the cast and this was really pumped in publicity he was being paid, IIRC, $15,000 per week, with the rest of the cast from Maria on down earning probably earning not much more than that combined- a hugely lopsided production salarywise as all the money was going to Williams' salary and not being Equity the only minimum wages in effect for other actors were Federal minimum wages plus room/board (but as starving actors I'm sure many were glad to get the work). Equity was furious and fined him something like $50,000- 2 weeks pay as punitive plus 2.25% of his salary in dues and other tack-ons. Williams never paid it.

Equity doesn't have the legal power to collect a fine, of course, but what they could and did do when he didn't pay (which he didn't) was expel him from Equity, meaning he can't appear in an Equity production until it (along with interest and all) is paid. That's very bad news for an actor- essentially it means he can not appear on Broadway or even in a Broadway road company OR in English theater/road companies that are Equity (for UK & US Equity are related and acknowledge membership in one as membership in the other). On the other hand, it's been 30+ years since Brady Bunch: who's gonna put him on Broadway again anyway? ("Johnny Bravo in RENT!") so it's not a great idea for him to turn down a $15k per week paycheck.

Sampiro
04-13-2007, 03:20 PM
PS- On google, there's tons of stuff about the Williams v. Equity dispute as it was appealed to government agencies by Williams and much written about by anti-union bloggers and commentators.

Williams is a member in good standing of SAG as Equity and SAG are not related. Since an actor of his name recognition can probably earn as much for a single guest appearance on a hit TV show as he can in several weeks of a tour, it's easy to see why he told Equity to skuh-rew themselves.