Actors’ Equity has expanded its strike against developmental work to include actors working to gain membership in Equity.
The strike, which began Monday, originally barred any Equity member from accepting work produced by a member of the Broadway League under a developmental lab contract, workshop agreement, staged reading contract and staged reading guidelines. On Thursday, Equity broadened the strike to include Equity membership candidates, or EMCs, meaning those actors and stage managers who are gaining credits toward full membership — a move that many of those candidates did not fully support.
Equity Membership Candidates who accept developmental work with the Broadway League will lose their eligibility to join Equity permanently, Equity said. The decision came after a vote from Equity’s National Council.
“When we launched our public fight for a replacement for the Lab Agreement, we focused on bringing Equity members together. Now we are expanding that campaign by taking it to more than 13,000 Equity Membership Candidates across the country,” said Brandon Lorenz, national communications director for Actors’ Equity Association, in a press release.
While several Equity candidates who spoke with Broadway News said they support Equity’s fight for better wages and profit-sharing, many were conflicted about their inclusion in the strike.
“We don’t get full-union protection, but we get full-union punishment,” one Equity candidate said.
That is, the Equity candidates receive some audition benefits, with the opportunity to cut the non-union line at Equity principal auditions, but do not receive health insurance and other protections that come with being an Equity member.
With Equity members barred from accepting roles in developmental production, some EMCs had also seen the news of the strike as an opportunity to be seen more for developmental auditions and to potentially book more jobs.
Therefore, when the candidates learned of their participation in the strike via email Thursday morning, it came as a shock to some.
However, even with some lingering doubts, others saw the inclusion of EMC in the Equity strike as an encouraging sign of recognition from the union.
Under the EMC program, actors and stage managers must first gain employment at an Equity theater that participates in the EMC program and then complete at least 25 weeks of work at participating theaters. The actor or stage manager can then join Equity or choose to enter into phase two of the program, gaining up to another 25 weeks of credit as a non-Equity actor.
Equity itself includes 51,000 professional actors and stage managers. Per the strike guidelines, now all Equity members and EMCs are banned from accepting roles in new developmental works produced by League members — though they can still audition for roles.
Australia’s union for actors has also barred Australian actors from participating in developmental work produced by the League in Australia.