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December 4, 2003

Actors' Equity Promotes Highly Successful Student Outreach Program

Rob Roznowski

Rob Roznowski

new members

New members

Rob Roznowski, new Student Outreach and Education Coordinator, Presents Dynamic Seminar Throughout the Country: Seeks to Demystify the Union

Equity's Student Outreach and Membership Education program began in 2001, when Council set a top priority: reaching out and educating theatre students and other potential future members about Actors' Equity and the benefits of union membership. By 2003, the program had reached over 2,000 students at 50 colleges and schools, including many LORT-affiliated educational institutions such as Yale, Syracuse University, University of San Diego/Globe, ACT, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Asolo Conservatory at FSU, Boston University and Carnegie-Mellon. Besides various educational institutions, the new multi-media presentation has been presented at New Member receptions in New York and Los Angeles.

Actors' Equity's highly successful Membership Education and Student Outreach Program continues to thrive. The program, which began in 2001, has drawn rave reviews from students and teachers alike. In recent weeks, Rob Roznowski, new Outreach and Education Coordinator has visited Shenandoah University, California Institute of the Arts and Jacksonville University and is scheduling more visits in the upcoming year. "We were delighted to have found a candidate like Rob, who has a boundless passion for theatre and education, for this vital staff position," said AEA Executive Director, Alan Eisenberg.

Extraordinary Response - Best Union Outreach Program

"The response so far as been extraordinary," says Eisenberg, adding, "This is one of the best union outreach programs in the country. Young actors and stage managers are keenly interested in hearing the facts about Equity. Many of them have misperceptions that lead to a great deal of anxiety. The students greatly appreciate Equity's efforts to provide them with accurate information, both about Equity and about the business in general."

Among students comments:

"I feel this presentation has filled in the gaps that I didn't know existed. This presentation has showed me that Equity can and does give actors so much needed help, and allows us, as actors, to be heard."
"Before, as I basically knew nothing, I was intimidated. Now I understand the union as a for-the-actors organization."
"I have a higher respect for it, more knowledgeable understanding...this is a union I would join."
"It is truly a huge resource professionally and practically."
"Best 2 hours of training in the business I ever had."

Student Seminars Humanize the UNION

The Student Outreach Seminars usually last about two hours and cover a myriad of subjects concerning Equity. Through interactive exercises like contract negotiations, improvs and scene work from Waiting for Lefty, the students grasp the important benefits that union membership provides.

The seminar is divided into several topics beginning with the definition of what a union is. Rob Roznowski said "Most students have no idea what a union is, why they exist and what they provide. You must begin with the basics to really ensure that the students fully understand a union's power."

The proud and dynamic history of Equity's formation is a highlight of the presentation. The plight of our founding members and their achievements is a great springboard to introduce the governing structure of today's AEA.

The jurisdictions of the other performing arts unions (such as AFTRA and SAG) are described as well. Students are surprised by the specific kinds of work that each union covers.

The most popular section is the "How to Become a Member" portion of the seminar. Questions abound (and are answered) about the Equity Membership Candidate program. With an Equity representative to answer their questions, students are assured to get up-to-date information on a program that has had many changes. An obvious transition to fees and dues completes this chapter of the seminar.

The many benefits offered by Equity are one of the most useful topics. Students are amazed by the wealth of services that our union provides its members. They are excited by things like name protection, the VITA tax assistance program, contract negotiations, guaranteed auditions and the comprehensive work our Business Reps put into each contract," Roznowski concluded.

The last section of the seminar deals with the non-Equity touring situation and Equity's Organizing Campaign. Most of these pre-professionals are considering this as an option after graduation. Alan Eisenberg sums up Equity's position by saying, "Explaining to these students that there are plenty of places for them to get experience without taking jobs in non-Equity tours is a first step. They must understand that taking jobs in these shows is downgrading the standards of an entire industry, hurting the union that they, in most cases, will be joining. They have a moral and ethical obligation to support an organization that has been representing actors for 90 years."

By giving a fair and realistic view of the life of an Equity Actor or Stage Manager and demystifying the union, these students hopefully see Equity as a friendly port in a stormy professional life.

EQUITY WANTS YOU TO HELP SPREAD THE WORD

Equity's Outreach program must now expand to meet the demands of universities, conferences, and summer programs requesting the seminar. The expansion will be accomplished by utilizing Equity's prime resource-- our members. Through extensive training, the Outreach Coordinator will prepare selected applicants to present the established scripted seminar throughout the country. In the first phase, Equity will test the program in the Eastern Region. Members from Boston, Washington, D.C. and Florida are sought to help with this expansion. Members are paid a fee for each seminar they present. More details can be found at www.actorsequity.org.

Student Outreach Seminars can be scheduled by calling 212/869-8530 x 424 or writing to info@actorsequity.org


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