Author Topic: What is the difference between working under Equity and not?  (Read 3441 times)

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I am kind of new to SMing and I hear people talking about how you have to have enough experience before joining Equity and how you will give up the "perks" of a non-Equity theatre. I have also heard that if you don't have enough experience when you join, then you won't be able to is that? I just want to know what all this means. Please clue me in.



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What is the difference between working under Equity and not?
« Reply #1 on: Jan 19, 2006, 10:35 pm »
Wow. That's kind of a larger question than I think you realize. First, I'd offer this. It sounds like you're definitely not yet at the point to worry about considering joining AEA. Get another year or two under your belt and I guarantee A LOT of your questions will be answered.

In the meantime, I'd say there are goods and bads to both joining and not joining the union- it depends on your point of view. It is true that it's probably foolhardy to join the union with little to no experience. Because while you may be able to get that first job, it's very unlikely that other producers will want to hire you if there's almost nothing on your resume. So yeah, I'd say wait, work on as many shows as you can, (you can be a non-union ASM on most Equity productions and get lots of experience that way!) and see where that takes you.

Good luck!
-Kris Diehl, AEA SM

"Somewhere in the city there's a stage manager waiting,
standing in the shadows with a clipboard in hand..."


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What is the difference between working under Equity and not?
« Reply #2 on: Jan 20, 2006, 12:10 am »
thanks for your advice!


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What is the difference between working under Equity and not?
« Reply #3 on: Jan 20, 2006, 04:12 pm »
Basically, once you join Equity you cannot (with a few exceptions) work under any contract that is non-Equity.  While having your Equity card opens some new doors (regional theatres, Broadway, etc.), it definitely closes some.  That is why most people advise getting plenty of ASM and SM experience before you get your card - you're competing against people who've been stage managing for decades and have worked with the big producers, directors, etc.

As far as the "perks" of a non-Equity theatre... I don't really know what they would be.  In Equity, you have an opportunity for overtime, you have certain rules that specifically state what you CANNOT be forced to do (payroll, ordering food for the cast, etc.), and if you work often enough you get health benefits.  I don't know of non-Eq theatres that pay particularly higher than an Equity theatre of the same scale...  Maybe someone else knows what the perks of non-Eq theatre might be...


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What is the difference between working under Equity and not?
« Reply #4 on: Mar 20, 2006, 12:18 pm »
I've liked the relaxed attitudes of the non-equity theatres I've work for.  If there are issues, things have been talked out and dealt with without having to resort to miles of contract rules and regulations.  I know that I've been lucky - the things that I've been asked to do have not fallen into any category that I've not been willing to do.  I have worked at an Equity theatre once - which BTW denied the Equity SM overtime when working 70+ hours in a week, and was supported by Equity in doing so -.  I know that there are dozens of folks with bad non-eq histories for my good non-eq history.

I just have a hard time with all the nit-picky rules.  I've seen really simple situations turned into complex contract negotiations.  Right now I'm at a theatre which is taking a $150 dispute on a union (IATSE) bill and turning it into a multiple hundreds of dollars 'your lawyer needs to talk to our lawyer' because both sides have their own 'interpretation' of what the contract says/means.

Its definitely a situtation where you need to work around the enviroment to see if it's one that's going to suite your personality.  There's nothing wrong with union environments - but they are very, very structured and controled.  For the kinds of shows that are typically union (Broadway, huge musicals, large-scale tours, etc.) that kind of draconian control is needed.  What you need to think about is what kind of shows are you interested in?  I'm a very hands-on kind of person, and enjoy helping out whereever there is a need.  I spent years working on small-scale children's theatre because I liked the fact that if the set broke, I fixed it, if a costume tore - I sewed it.  To me the challenge of stretching my abilities in whatever direction was needed is what I enjoy, and I like the hands-on do-it-myself.   At a union theatre, there's going to be much more sitting-behind-a-desk, don't touch anything yourself, lots of rules and regulations that control every part of your day (which, when you live in that environment, do become second nature - that's part of what working in an equity environment before becoming equity gives you, that second sense of when its break time, overtime, etc.)

I could go on and on, I was never able to figure out if I wanted to try going equity full time, and took that hesitation to mean that I shouldn't pursue that path.  I'm lucky - I have a SM job now that has good health care, retirement benefits, comp vacation time that I earn when I work over 40hrs in a week.  Those are few and far between when you're not equity.



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