Author Topic: Prospects of working toward equity at age 23  (Read 629 times)

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JJ Hersh

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Prospects of working toward equity at age 23
« on: Feb 26, 2018, 12:22 am »
I've been stage managing in community theaters for about 2 years, and am currently at a bit of a crossroads in my career. I may have the opportunity to be the resident stage manager at a small theater company near my home, but it's not equity, the pay isn't great, and the work isn't terribly challenging. I was discussing the possibility with a friend who works at an equity house and he told me that I shouldn't take it, because by now I should have started looking for PA work at equity houses and been working towards getting my card. The implication seemed to be that the longer I waited, the less likely it would be that I would be able to eventually go on to a professional house.  Is my friend's concern valid? And if so, how unlikely am I to find PA work at this point to work towards a professional career?

Maggie K

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Re: Prospects of working toward equity at age 23
« Reply #1 on: Feb 28, 2018, 03:53 am »
Honestly, when to get your Equity card is a difficult question to answer.  There are so many different factors involved that it really comes down to each person and their situation.  We also live in a day and age where people make frequent career changes.  So it will never be "too late" to work towards your card or even to join Equity.  Stage Managers come from all walks of life and it is your skill set that people will be looking at, not your age.  Without knowing you personally, your skill level, and your career goals it is difficult to give specific advice.  Probably not quite the definitive answer you are looking for.

However, I will say that your second sentence says a lot to me.  You say that "the pay isn't great and the work isn't terribly challenging."  So I ask you this question: What are the reasons for taking that job?  I don't necessarily need an answer, but you should certainly have one for yourself.  Here are a few more questions to ask yourself:  What are your career goals, short term and long term?  Does taking this position help in any way (contacts, experience, etc.)?  Are there Equity theatres in your area that may be hiring now or in the near future?  If not, are you prepared/willing to move to a different area or travel to an internship that may be far from home?  There are some areas where Equity positions are few and far between, so is there need for another Equity Stage Manager where you are or are there more positions available for non-Equity?  Do you need a steady income?  Which career path do you think would be more likely to provide the income that you need, now and later?  Frankly, I could go on and on.  The best thing to do is to sit down and be very honest with yourself about what you want and then weigh the pros and cons of each path.  Do what is best for you.  The only deadline is the one you set for yourself.
I like the ephemeral thing about theatre, every performance is like a ghost - it's there and then it's gone. -Maggie Smith

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smejs

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Re: Prospects of working toward equity at age 23
« Reply #2 on: Feb 28, 2018, 09:57 pm »
Maggie gave a lot of great comments, and yes, it's a personal decision for every single person of when to turn Equity (if ever).

I want to point out the recent Stage Manager Survey results (available at http://www.smsurvey.info/). One question asked of those who were Equity was what age they turned union. While 52% joined between ages 21 and 25, there were answers from all ages. One of the more interesting quotes to me in the entire survey was, "Most current AEA members joined in their twenties, though six members joined in their fifties and another joined in their sixties (1%)." So no, it's not too late, if that's your path.

Also, while there is the EMC route to get your card, which is what it sounds like your friend was suggesting, there is also what I call the "Poof, You're Equity" contract. If you've got good experience and seem to have everything it takes for the job, any Equity company can simply choose to give you an Equity contract. I don't necessarily recommend this route (or to think that it's an easy way to do it). I find that companies that do so are often hoping they get stage managers who don't really pay that close attention to the rules...this is technially how I got my card, though I was over 40 points into the system by that point. I had also been around enough that I looked at the rules and realized they weren't doing things quite kosher once rehearsals got going.

EDIT/ADD: Also, some people aren't aware what they're getting into with the EMC program. I'm glad they upped the registration from $100 to $200 so people think a little bit more about it. You get 1 week for every qualified week you work (not all Equity theatres offer it - check the list at http://www.actorsequity.org/docs/emc/emc_theatres.pdf). With the new system, you're eligible for Equity after just 25 weeks. For an ASM, that's generally somewhere between 4-7 shows. If you're working a 9-month season at a LORT theatre, that's one season, likely. After 50 weeks (usually there's a grace period to finish whatever show you're on, but check), you CANNOT work at an Equity theatre again without being on an Equity contract. You can continue to do non-union work for up to 5 years, but not another chance to shadow an Equity SM. These days, I might suggest that people do at least a show or two before joining the EMC program, and get more experience. But that's simply my opinion, and likely others will disagree.

Take a good look at Maggie's questions and also where you stand financially and what you can logistically do in your given circumstance, to help make your decision.

Best of luck,
Erin
« Last Edit: Feb 28, 2018, 10:04 pm by smejs »

JJ Hersh

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Re: Prospects of working toward equity at age 23
« Reply #3 on: Sep 07, 2018, 02:22 pm »
Thanks all for your guidance! I just wanted to post an update for anyone who is interested.`After a lot of thought I decided to leave the theater company I'd been working for and applied for several fellowships. I ended up getting a stage management fellowship at Arena Stage. I moved across the country to Washington DC for the opportunity and have been here for about a month. The job is incredibly challenging in the best way possible, and I'm learning a lot, including working towards an understanding of whether equity is the right career course for me. Things are looking up, and y'all's advice really helped.

ladynoirr

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Re: Prospects of working toward equity at age 23
« Reply #4 on: Sep 14, 2018, 09:38 pm »
Congratulations on your fellowship! I started to apply for that one but I decided to apply for Steppenwolf instead, so that's where I'll be this season. ;)

This topic sparked my interest because I'm also interested in going the Equity route. I'm just unsure of what method I want to take in getting there. With my experience and I how I've been seeing my career go thus far, I think I could get my card pretty quickly either way. I'm just not sure WHEN I wanna to it. I still wanna go to school and I wanna get experience in tours and opera. It's just finding a timeline in which to do it, that is the problem.

Another issue I'm running into is finding non-eq sm positions that actually pay a living way. (Which is why I'm running towards a union.) I can't imagine working a show for 2 months with 4 shows a week and only getting $350 for the full run. So, if anyone has advice on how to figure that out, please let me know! (That may also belong in a different thread, I haven't searched it.)

JJ Hersh

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Re: Prospects of working toward equity at age 23
« Reply #5 on: Sep 16, 2018, 02:34 pm »
Thanks!

Finding paid nonequity work is definitely rough.

A few routes I know of:
-State manage at an amusement park. The expectations and responsibilities are pretty different, but the pay is good and I found it very enjoyable during the time that I did it, plus it means dependable income. That being said, a lot of that work is seasonal, so you'd still need other gigs to fill the gaps during off-season.
-Even if you're not equity, there are still work options for non-equity stage manager as a PA in equity houses. Usually the pay is pretty good and you can get a fair amount of responsibility.
-Cruides are usually non-equity since they are on international waters. Pay is good, and often housing and food are included, so you can save up a lot of money. Same goes for teaching theater in summer camps, which can often include elements of state management.

Trying to do a day job while stage managing for little to no pay is definitely rough. I think you're making the right call steering clear of that route.

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