If you are a new member and have any questions
“The Actors’ Equity Association new-member reception is one of the great unsung rituals
The Actor has a Significant Role to Play in Society
Equity member Alejandro Rodriguez was the special guest speaker at the Spring New Member Reception.
Alejandro Rodriguez — an Equity actor since 2010 — greeted the union’s newest card carriers during the National New Member Reception on April 25, 2016.
“Seriously. Congratulations. Welcome.”
“I might get the blessing of working with some of you in a project soon,” he said. “So, you’re going to get the truth, and I am going to offer my transparent honesty.”
Speaking to members in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City, the actor unabashedly touched upon the gratifying successes, the many woes, and, of course, the artistic fulfilment that comes with a career.
A Miami, Florida, native, Rodriguez admitted that early on theater was just a hobby (as was basketball) for a while. But an English teacher noted that he emoted more than most and suggested he might have an appetite for performance. In high school, he discovered the work of playwright and artist Danny Hoch, specifically his play Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop. “All of the sudden people on stage were starting to sound like the people I grew up with in Miami,” he said. “And it dawned on me that [the actor] has a significant role to play in a society —archivist, collector of the stories and decipher, responsible for telling the community its own stories.”
After Juilliard, the actor went on to play the title role in Romeo and Juliet for The Acting Company, perform in the premiere of Ghetto Babylon at the Off-Broadway theatre 59E59 and in Jorge Ignacio Cortinas’ Bird in the Hand at Theatre for a New City as well as grace the small screen in Nurse Jackie and Dates from Hell.
Some of his successes, he noted, stemmed from community connections, the family he built for himself in New York City — schoolmates, professors and fellow union members.
“Find your people,” he advised. “Find the people that you can debrief with, that you can open the valve up and just let out the hot air.”
Before he found artistic success, there was a commercial for Olive Garden. His one line, “Mas pastas, señora?” aired during the World Cup; residuals poured in and Rodriguez paid rent for a year. The actor started going on commercial auditions and quickly found himself in a lot of “mas pastas, señora?” situations.
“The commercial made me reflect,” he said. “I had two different needs, or desires, related to this industry: I needed to feed my belly and I needed to feed my spirit. Many things can lead you away from the passion, the spirit that brought us to this industry.” But you can have both, he acknowledged, you can hold down that “muggle” job or do that commercial shoot and keep the passion that brought you to the stage in the first place.
For Rodriguez, part of his artistic fulfilment burgeoned with Artists Striving to End Poverty, or ASTEP, where he connects volunteer artists with underserved communities across the globe.
“If I had a takeaway for you, it would be to find your way back to service whenever you’re disoriented because this business will ask you to be self-centered,” he said. “I’ve found that giving of myself tempers and mitigates that.”
Rodriguez led the celebratory new member toast before Equity’s newest received a crash course on all things AEA. Members learned about the role of the union as well as expectations and responsibilities of members, such as voting, getting active and paying dues. New members learned about special union-specific discounts; invaluable resources available to them, like The Actors Fund, the Actors Federal Credit Union; working with Equity franchised agents; and information regarding the Equity/League Health Trust Fund and its importance to union members.
Click here to see photos of AEA's New Members in NYC.
Fall 2015 New Member Reception
Enjoy the “Yes”
New Members in NYC were greeted by Broadway’s Max Von Essen during the fall New Member Reception
At Equity’s NYC New Member Reception on Oct. 26, 2015, Max von Essen, Tony Award nominee for An American in Paris, told the union’s newest members to enjoy every moment of their career.
Max von Essen
credit: Stephanie Masucci
“In a business full of ‘no,’” he said, “you have to revel in the ‘yes.’ Give yourselves time to celebrate achievements in your career, no matter how big or how small — even paying your rent on time deserves acknowledgement. This is a challenging business. Celebrate yourself.”
As an economics major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Essen quickly realized that his passion wasn’t an eight-hour office job crunching numbers so he followed his instincts to pursue his artistic dream.
Members from across the country, with hometowns rooted in Kentucky, New York, London and Australia, among others, learned about Essen’s career journey and the road leading up to An American in Paris and his recent Tony nomination. While he has faced his shares of no’s Essen is aware that he has had a fortunate number of “yes” moments to rejoice in lately. For the actor, success has been, and still is, surreal. His career has taken him across the country in several regional tours and to regional theaters as well as Broadway productions such as Evita, Les Misérables and Jesus Christ Superstar. Throughout the many incarnations of An American in Paris leading up to the Palace Theatre, he was fearful of acknowledging his good luck. During the show’s workshop Essen told himself that he could accept his good fortune once the workshop was completed. Then he postponed acceptance to once the production completed its run in Paris and then, once the company moved into the Palace and then after the opening and then after the reviews. To be honest, he joked, the surreal feeling never quite goes away. In fact, he still laughs in disbelief that he’s come this far. There are even moments while on stage at the Palace that he can’t quite grasp that he is on Broadway with a Tony Award nomination to his credit.
His advice: Go to as many auditions as possible. Get noticed. Meet people. Sometimes a “no” eventually leads to a “yes.”
The event agenda included information regarding the role of Equity, the role of the professional actor, discounts available to Members, Equity auditions and an overview of Equity health insurance and retirement benefits.
Click here to see photos of AEA's New Members in NYC.
Welcoming New Members in Chicago and New York City
Whitney Bashor speaking to New Members in NYC and via hookup in Chicago.
"I knew I loved performing," said guest speaker Whitney Bashor during the New York City and Chicago New Member Reception on April 27, 2015. She had left New York, moved home to Iowa and taken a job working in a bank. "I felt called to suffer the business down to my bones, but no one was offering me a job and it felt crazy. After a day spent reviewing accounts for fraudulent activity and answering phones I asked the universe for a sign – anything." Lying on her parent" living room floor she asked the universe what she should do with her life.
The very next day, the phone rang: a director (and friend), offered her a job as an immediate replacement at the Signature Theatre in Washington, D.C. “I quit my job at the bank, packed up my two suitcases and headed to D.C.,” she said. “I’m happy to say I've been working ever since." In 2014, Bashor made her Broadway debut in Bridges of Madison County.
Offering advice to the packed houses in NYC and Chicago, the actor told new members that if she had the chance to give her younger-self advice, she would say…
Whitney Bashor in her Barrymore Award Winning performance as Clara in Philadelphia Theatre Company’s THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA.
Bashor ended with, “I got my Equity card in 2007. I remember feeling so excited. I called my Mom and told her the great news. It was the first of many joyful phone calls in my career. The career path we’ve chosen does not guarantee riches or fame, but committing to the work and being a person people want to work with will make your life rich in experience and relationships.”
The New Member Reception, done via video hook-up between NYC and Chicago, provided a welcoming Q & A forum for Equity’s newest members regarding the union’s core function: to negotiate and administer contracts. Additionally, there was a discussion about the responsibilities of membership, Equity Franchised Agents and Equity health insurance and retirement benefits.
Mucinex. Allegra. Starbucks. Three essentials Tommar Wilson uses to get through eight shows a week in The Book of Mormon — a feat he’s accomplished for four years.
Wilson, a Broadway vet and guest speaker for the NYC New Member Reception — which took place on October, 13, 2014 — explained that working closely with a cast every night sometimes leads to shared colds. But, to him, the germs are worth it. “I’ve been with The Book of Mormon since the beginning,” he said. “I love my job. It’s one of the best jobs you could ever ask for.”
With a packed house of Actors’ Equity Association’s newest members, Wilson detailed his theatrical journey, from a less than successful audition to the most important ingredient it takes to make a positive impression and network in this business: respect.
Wilson said actors never know who can help them land their next job, whether it is dressers, crew members or even the front-of-house staff. “You show respect, you get respect,” Wilson said. “Know the names of people you work with. It’s just a part of being a real person, of being human.”
He noted that while he was Dance Captain of the Broadway production of Hair he sometimes witnessed auditioning actors rudely snap their fingers or inappropriately speak to the accompanist — not realizing that person might be the show’s musical director. Or, in Wilson’s auditioning experience, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Tom Kitt.
The actor also explained how Equity saved the day during his first Equity contract. After performing in a touring production for nine months, the company abruptly went bankrupt. Tommar and his fellow cast members would have been stranded in Toronto if it weren’t for Equity’s requirement that productions be fully “bonded”. The Equity Bond is one of the Union's cornerstone provisions to protect its members. This bond ensures that if an employer defaults in their obligations to Equity, the cast will receive the minimum salary, pension and health credits guaranteed by the agreement (generally two weeks contractual salary and benefits).
“It made me quickly appreciate the power of the union,” he said.
Following Wilson’s Q&A, and the new Member toast, Calandra Hackney, Agency Business Representative spoke about Equity Franchise Agents, and Tom Miller, Director of Education & Outreach, spoke about Equity’s core functions to negotiate and administer contracts on behalf of its members. New members also learned about the Equity-League Pension Health and 401k Trust Fund and about qualifying for medical, vision and dental coverage. Lastly, Andrea Murray, director of the NYC Audition Center, spoke about Equity auditions.
The event provided the new members the opportunity to network and thanks to the NYC view through the windows of the Equity Council Room — to take selfies. Watch the Equity website for details on the next NMR to be held in Spring 2015.
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