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    Posted April 11, 2011

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Denver Ambassadors

Shelly Gaza
Chair, Denver Liaison Committee

Several years ago, the Denver Liaison Committee decided to place more of its energy on promoting the use of Equity contracts with the smaller, up-and-coming theatres in our area. Not only do many of our local Members rely on smaller contracts to supplement their income, but we also hoped that with the committee's encouragement and support these small contracts might turn into larger ones in the future. Early on, we realized that establishing a personal relationship with these "promising" theatres was essential to the success of our mission. This realization led to the development of our Ambassadorship Program, which now involves twenty-six theatres and has not only expanded Equity's presence in the Colorado theatre community, but has also increased the use of Guest Artist and Special Appearance contracts in the Denver area.

The Ambassadorship program pairs each Denver Liaison Committee Member with a small hand-full of theatres, the goal being to get to know the theatres and their people on a personal level. And although we interact with a wide range of theatre companies - from those that may have little interest in using AEA contracts to those that already have a long standing relationship with Equity and have used Equity talent for many years - it is the "curious" theatre companies that we get the most excited about. That is, those companies that are interested in using Equity contracts, but may be intimidated by the idea of the Union, or, for whatever reason, have been shy about taking the plunge. In these cases, the Ambassador becomes an encouraging partner throughout the process - from getting the theatre in touch with the proper people at the Equity offices to mentoring them through auditions and the rehearsal process. The Artistic and Managing Directors of these theatres often find - not surprisingly - that the process is easier than they had imagined it would be, and that the use of Equity talent elevates their productions to that intangible "next level" that they had been striving for.

It is important to point out that the Ambassadors do not negotiate contracts, nor do they speak for the Union. But by simply being a supportive presence in what can often be an anxiety-inducing process for a young theatre, the Denver Ambassadors have been able to foster Equity contracts in our area that might otherwise not have been created. At a time when so many of us find it even harder than usual to make a living as a theatre professional, the Ambassador Program has been a particularly rewarding experience for those of us on the Denver Liaison Committee. It has been a pro-active way for us to respond to these tough economic times, and hopefully, help our Members here in the Denver area for years to come.

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