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From the President

To Join or Not to Join? My Rejoinder
By Nick Wyman

February 26, 2015

AEA President Nick Wyman

President Nick Wyman
photo credit:

At our January Eastern Membership Meeting, a member asked what to say to young non-members who are trying to figure out whether they should join Actors’ Equity Association as soon as possible or wait a while or just keep working non-Equity. In response, a couple members gave heart-warming testimonials on the value of AEA. We have no official AEA party line, but let me weigh in with my personal response.

Surprisingly, your president does not adjure every young actor to grab his or her Equity card at the first opportunity. My advice is to wait until you’re ready: get your training, get experience. Develop those chops, build that résumé.  Then, when you are ready to compete with the very best, go for it — and “go for it full out,” as Director/Choreographer Jerry Mitchell says. And don’t hesitate overlong before jumping in:  The lookism and physical demands of the business can make one’s 20’s some of his or her most employable years.

Another argument for sooner rather than later is that a union card offers the opportunity, through Equity Principal Auditions and Equity Chorus Calls, to be seen for desirable jobs.  A young University of Michigan grad told me how grateful she was that after a stint at the St. Louis MUNY, she had taken the opportunity to get her Equity card. Because of EPA’s and ECC’s, she was getting in on auditions for Broadway, touring and LORT jobs for which her classmates, who hadn’t had or hadn't availed themselves of the same opportunity, were unable to be seen.

I have heard of people making the argument that they plan to stay non-Equity because, if they “go Equity,” they will never work or they will work much less. This line of reasoning is fear-based, and anybody who thinks that way is unlikely to make a career of the theatre. And I very strongly feel that anyone who wants to make a career of the theatre HAS to be Equity. Why would one not want the opportunity to work at the very highest level of the business? Why would one not want the protection and support of bargained-for working conditions? Why would one not want a defined benefit pension?

And for those who claim they don’t need a union because their non-Equity job pays them good money, I say that a non-Equity job that pays good money is an Equity job in waiting. We are committed to organizing, to creating more work opportunities for the members, and we will move aggressively to bring any theatrical employer with the ability to pay decent salaries into the Equity fold.

Perhaps most importantly, union is solidarity. Our union is 50,000 people supporting one another in a very difficult business; 50,000 people committed to creating the best opportunities for one another to make a life in the theatre.  Why on earth would an actor or stage manager wish to give his or her energy and talents to an enterprise that vitiated, undermined or militated against the success and efforts of their fellow workers? Theatre is Family. Union is Family. Why would one hurt one’s family members?

So what I say to young people considering whether or when to go Equity is this: If you are determined to have a career in the theatre, you NEED to be Equity. First get your training and get some experience, but do it as quickly as you can; and as soon as you feel ready to compete with the pros, do whatever you can to GET THAT CARD! I will be proud to sign it.

Contact President Nick Wyman at


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Thank You

Long-time Councillor Nick Wyman is elected the President of Actors' Equity Association

Back to Presidents Page

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