Updated July 29, 2014
Inside Look: The Equity Deputy
Why I Became a Deputy and What it Takes
Over the past 30 years as an AEA Member, I have volunteered to be the deputy in almost every production that I have worked on.
Why would I perform such a selfless act over and over?
Well, I am going to break open the dark and secretive world of the Equity Deputy and share our innermost secrets, like the handshake and private club; there’s the car service, bagels, clean bathroom at stage level that no one — not even IATSE — has access to. There are those who will be angered by my revealing such trade secrets (like a magician revealing the inner workings of a trick), but I think the world needs to know.
Honestly, nothing endears you to a company on the first day of rehearsal more than volunteering to be the deputy. You are, generally, instantly beloved and considered to be kind, generous and unselfish. People seem to spontaneously cheer you and stage management will love you.
Now, down to brass tacks: To me, the most important thing about being a deputy, other than knowledge of the workings of the particular contract for the show you are in, is the ability to listen. A good deputy is a diplomat, a therapist and a priest all rolled into one. You have to be able to hear a grievance without judgment and take the appropriate steps without betraying the source of that grievance.
You also have to be unafraid of confrontation, or what may be perceived as confrontation. If you are not good at being direct and you’re uncomfortable taking the lead in a situation, then being a deputy is not for you.
I am a deputy because I feel that I can be of service to my company. I am a deputy because I am confident that I can handle any situation with tact, grace and civility. I am a deputy because I am not afraid to take on a challenge. And, of course, for the clean bathroom.
What Being a Deputy Means to Me
As a former orphan and ward of the State of Ohio, heart and loyalty run deep for me when it comes to the idea of family, and as such, I strive to be a resolute member of our AEA family. I have worked at and auditioned for several regional theatre houses across the country, and have been able to congress with amazing and talented family members and producers in all regions that AEA represents. As an AEA ensemble member, it’s vital to me that I volunteer to take the lead and be an Equity Deputy.
I became aware of the deputy role in my first AEA (I was an EMC) run at The Cleveland
Play House in The Infinite Regress of Human Vanity. Being green to AEA, the then managing director at CPH met with me, where he explained many things, including the role of a deputy. I particularly remember the AEA members of that show leaving to elect the deputy, and I thought “one day me?”
An AEA deputy is an honor that all proud members should volunteer for at various times in their journey after being cast in a production. The deputy is a crucial person to ensure the link between the cast and AEA national staff, who are fighting in the ensemble’s corner. The deputy is the liaison who is making sure that contract requirements and the cast’s general safety is being upheld and honored while in rehearsal, running a show or on the road. Like any good deputy, I see myself doing this role almost as a foot soldier on the front lines, fiercely upholding the AEA banner, battling to keep my ensemble’s armor looking shiny and dent free.
No matter what role you choose to take or volunteer to take as a proud AEA member, take on one or several roles. Always be that soldier whose voice resonates in the AEA family with the same amount of excellence and quality of character that got you to be a proud member in the first place. Even as a deputy, make sure you show up on time well studied and prepared; attend annual membership meetings in your region; get involved with committees and Council; learn the rules and regulations and be able to articulate them to upcoming members who are waiting in the wings themselves.
Let your AEA quality of character shine to the audience, casting directors, producers and future members you encounter and stay active and involved in our AEA family.
Why I Volunteer
“Hey all, first day of school, you know the drill. Who wants to -”
“Jared,” from everyone, simultaneously.
Five. I have been a deputy five times at The 5th Avenue Theatre and once at the Village Theatre. I wear that badge of honor with pride. Literally — there’s a badge.
I’m woe to admit that, initially, I became a deputy for selfish reasons. It wasn’t about the absolute power, the coveted weekly correspondence to Equity, the free highlighter or the other perks that go along with the job; it was about getting to see the Village Theatre Agreement with Equity. One of Seattle’s theatrical best-kept secrets was the theatre’s contract and corresponding side letters.
As a lowly newb to Seattle, I was joining the company of Iron Curtain, and let me tell you, it was a crash course in all things Equity. Media payments, live appearances, rehearsal time overage rates and everything that goes along with a new work – including when a piece has to be frozen — it felt insane. The company manager at the time was incredibly patient with my questions (and there were many) describing the ins and outs of the Equity rules, which made my first show at The 5th Avenue a lot easier.
During Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella at the 5th, I had the great pleasure of making fast friends with everyone down at the L.A.offices, conversing with them just about every day (RE: pyrotechnics, passerelles and ponies). Let me explain: During the Act I finale, a pile of ponies would gallop and passé across the stage under a drop outfitted with pyrotechnic sparks, whilst dancing on a two-foot wide passerelle in skin-tight velour pony costumes, topped-off with giant foam pony heads. It was unreal and beautiful. It involved many conversations with the team at the 5th and Equity. I learned a great deal about the way our union and this business works from those conversations.
I’d be lying if I said that being a deputy was a fun, breezy situation. It’s rough at some points, and it can be overwhelming as hell. You’re continually put in the position of going to bat for fellow actors and making sure everyone is on the same page regarding certain procedures. And honestly, I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. When you deputy a show, you become a veritable walking contract, and aside from being the biggest nerd in the room, you become someone people can approach and trust to talk matters over with. That’s truly what’s important to me, and why I continue to volunteer to be a deputy.
Do the deputy thing. It’s worth the time.