Recently, I found out that Equity was going to be doing away with the Equity members who volunteer their time to serve as monitors. I am disheartened by this news, and would like to take this time to say, as an Equity member, as well as a former monitor, that having someone friendly (such as Douglas, Ashley, Brian, Laura, Marci, David, et al.) on the other side of the door when auditioning made the process somewhat easier…a friendly face, a nice hello, someone who understood the rules, and who consistently played by them not only helped all of the actors, but the folks inside the room as well. They were guaranteed that someone was looking out for their best interests.
And this was all done on a “volunteer” basis. I would monitor sometimes three to four calls a week, depending on availability, and would receive a small stipend of $45 as a thank you for my time. While it was a nice thought, I wasn’t there for the money. Far from it.
I was there because I care about our union, my fellow actors, and because I know what it’s like to be on the other side of the table with someone who is less than, shall we say, cordial.
I do not agree with Equity’s current decision to hire outside workers to run these calls. I do not believe they will provide the quality nor the compassion that members over the years have shown me and countless others, ensuring that what is a somewhat stressful/possibly life-changing opportunity is run as smoothly as possible.
The math simply doesn’t add up. My shift often began, well before the appointed time, my lunch break didn’t begin until people were out of the room, and ready to go, and often, I would be the last person to leave the equity building. Over the course of an 9-hour day, it would easily stretch into ten hours, making sure that every member was taken care of, making sure we were on time, watching the clock, being firm but gentle when telling other members that they simply could not be seen that day, and often having to break the news to those waiting in the non-Equity line that they would not be seen, but they were welcome to leave a headshot and resume.
If you’re paying someone even minimum wage in New York State, at roughly 7.25 an hour for an eight-hour day, this will come to 58.00, seven dollars more than what we as monitors made. This doesn’t take into account what the labor laws will require, and will also require a complete revamping of the audition process, thereby allowing either auditions to run later, or — if Equity keeps the same hours, minimizing and shrinking the number of actors who will be allowed into the room to audition.
The EPA process, as I saw it heralded under Keith Howard’s leadership, was always an opportunity for actors to be seen. A chance for us to get out there and continue to get work. By removing those extra time slots in order to take care of a labor and industry break, as regulated by federal guidelines, it will no longer allow actors to be seen, lessening the chance that one of them may be hired, and then creating a domino effect.
It is our union dues that go to pay the Equity brass, as well as the new non-vested-nor-interested parties in who would be serving on the other side of the table. Once this is in effect, and Equity faces a shortfall, only then will the top officials wonder why they’re having a hard time meeting their deadline.
These LORT, TYA, and smaller venues that hire Equity actors really do make up the bread and butter of where the industry gets their money. If there is, in fact, a reduction for actors to be hired, I would imagine that it wouldn’t be too long before Equity finds itself with fewer theatres who are willing to take the time to hire the quality of talent that the member body represents — thus adding to the cycle.
I found my time as a monitor to be rewarding for a variety of reasons, most of all, because I got to interface with the other people in our business — actors and casting directors alike, all without the idea of promoting myself for a call.
My goal as I sat behind the table was to simply be the face of the union, to represent our entire member body, while doing what it was that.
I served as a monitor for three years, working my own schedule, covering those who had a last-minute audition, and sometimes even splitting the day due to a family emergency — and I knew that one of my fellow members, an actor, an Equity member, had my back.
I served for three years as one of the many faces of the union, proud to represent Actors Equity. It’s time Actors Equity recognized this sacrifice made not only by myself, but all the people who have served tirelessly to remain strong as union members.