Wednesday, August 22, 2012

why i joined aea

On Monday, August 20th, I finally did what I said I would do after January 30th, 2010: I joined the actor's equity association.

Equity (or AEA) is the professional actor's union, in case you didn't know. They are the ones responsible for making the lives of actors bearable. There are a lot of people who want to be actors but not a lot of theatres or roles for actors (and even less for female actors, which is funny since there are WAY MORE female actors.... but that's a different post). When situations like this occur, it could be easy for producers to cut corners and take advantage of the actors. AEA provides fair pay, rehearsal breaks, respects the safety and time of actors as well as a ton of other stuff.

You have to earn your way in to Equity though...either by receiving an equity contract (which is hard), being a member of another acting union or working at a non-equity theatre for at least 50 weeks (one point per week is earned). Then you have to pay a lot of money and ta-da! You're a member.

I have had my points for 4 years. Since 2008. You have to join within 5 years of earning your last point or you forfeit your membership. Every time I've started a conversation with another actor they always ask if I'm equity. I have always said, "I have all my points, but I haven't joined yet." They are always, ALWAYS flabbergasted by this. "WHY NOT???" they scream (actors are dramatic).

Well, here was why:
A. I didn't have enough money to join until recently
B. I didn't feel I was "ready" to join
C. I kept thinking I would get more work as a non-equity actor

Well, here's the problem with C: I hardly ever went to any auditions. And WHY did I not go to many auditions? Because the non-equity (or OPEN) calls are insane and horrible.

On January 30th, 2010 Chris and I left our apartment at 3am to get in line to audition for the Broadway production of Hair, which was having an open call. Chris wasn't auditioning, he was just keeping me company because it was 3am on January 30th. It was freezing. The audition site was the Public Theatre... which is far away from where we live and not exactly in the best neighborhood on earth. Plus, I was going to have to sit on the street until 10am. I was still new to NYC. I had only been there for 3 months but I knew we had no choice but to get there no later than 4am. Because non-equity calls are insane and horrible.

We were 200th in line. At 4am. On January 30th. By the time the auditions started there were more than one thousand people in line.

It was the longest 6 hours of my life. It was like 20 degrees outside. And all the kids in line started singing and dancing and drawing peace signs and flowers on the sidewalk in chalk. Because obviously they're all real hippies. Because hippies still, obviously, exist in the exact same form they existed in 45 years ago. And, OF COURSE, the casting director would see their dedication and cast them immediately, from the line, at 5am, without an audition.

Whatever. I got a spot, I actually had an amazing audition under the circumstances (sitting on the street in 20 degree weather for 6 hours with no sleep are not exactly the ideal conditions for a great vocal performance) and then I went home and went to bed. I believe I heard one person was cast from that audition and it was, of course, a guy. Probably a regular guy, too, who showed up at the last minute.

But it was THAT DAY that convinced me I HAD to join equity. I have requested specific work shifts because I wanted to go to an audition... and then I didn't go. Because I always flash back to that day. I know it was an extreme circumstance. It was a Broadway show! But I've been to many non-equity auditions.... and unless they are AT a regional theatre, or they are booked by appointments, they are all insane and horrible.

I had to save my money for more than a year to raise the $400 needed to join. I still don't know if I'm "ready" to join. I realize that by joining Equity there is no chance I'll ever work at some of the theatres I've worked at ever again. Some of these theatres followed equity rules (which ALL theatres should) even for non-equity employees. However, some did not. Some of them paid me like $100 a week and made me clean bathrooms or cook food. Or both in one day. Some of them gave their equity actors a 2 hour dinner break and gave the non-equity actors a 20 minute break when they had been there the entire day and the closest food was a 10 minute drive. I am thankful for every single theatre I've ever worked at. If it wasn't an amazing experience, it taught me what was NOT an amazing experience and made me look forward to future amazing experiences. And, at the very least, I was getting to perform... and let's face it, that's the only thing I'm really good at.  (Besides writing this blog post.)

I didn't join right away because I was scared. Scared I wasn't good enough, I guess. But there's tons of people who aren't good enough and they still joined. I haven't met anyone at an non-equity audition who was my age in YEARS. People who are nearly 30 have all left the business or already joined equity because they realized non-equity auditions are insane and horrible.

When I told my parents I joined they were like, "YAY! Now you can get on that TV show that films in new york...." So. You know. I have that to look forward to. But mainly what I look forward to is auditioning for something in a civilized manner (unless it's one of those crazy Agent Access Auditions which I hear are pretty popular) and maybe, hopefully, getting another acting job someday. And the best part is that I KNOW I will never have to clean a bathroom as part of my acting job responsibilities. Because that is INSANE and HORRIBLE.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

tips for waiting in line for tickets

Oh, hi. So, the other day Chris and I performed for kids on a boat, went home, I performed in a cabret at the Duplex and then we went home, changed our clothes, and headed to Central Park to get in line for tickets for Into the Woods. We were successful: so successful that not only did we see the show, we were 8th and 9th in line and actually had a GOOD time. I started thinking of some tips for others who are thinking about heading out.

Get there as early as possible
I would say "duh" but I want you to really think about this. Is two hours of sleep in your bed better than not seeing the show? Is the show WORTH IT TO YOU to sleep on Central Park West, right next to the scalpers??? We got there at 2:30am. It was a preview performance on a Monday. The people who got there at 6am were probably too late, or very close to being too late.

Check the weather forecast
Will it rain that night? Plan accordingly. Is it supposed to rain during the performance? If it does, the show might be cancelled. You might waste your entire day for nothing.

Bring a friend
Not just for company, but for security.

Don't talk to anyone on the street
I don't see the crazy drunk people of NYC that often. Apparently they are all out from 2:30am-6am on the west side of the park, trying to engage theatre fans in crazy conversation. Don't respond AT ALL, don't even look at them. They're all drunk and crazy.

No matter how hot you think it is, wear pants, a long t-shirt, a hoodie, SOCKS and bring a blanket
There are a million mosquitoes everywhere. They will bite you. After you have sat there for a while, no matter how warm it is, you will be cold. You need the blanket, trust me. Chris is always hot.... but he was freezing that night.

Wear bug spray
I'm not kidding, man. Wear a ton of bug spray. Better yet, bring one of those OFF portable bug repellents with the little fan in it. I did, and, for comparison, I got three mosquito bites before I turned it on and ZERO after.

Bring a chair
Chris brought a camping chair, I brought a beach chaise lounge that extended all the way: it was basically a cot. Chris was comfortable but didn't sleep much.... I slept like a freaking baby. I had a small pillow that I didn't care about, my "cot" and a huge beach blanket that completely covered me from head to toe. I was unbelievably comfortable under the circumstances.

Don't bring any valuables 
Bring a book, some magazines and your phone... but I urge you not to bring an ipad or laptop. Or a lot of cash/credit cards. A small amount of cash, an ID and one credit card are all you need. Keep them close to your body when you sleep. We had no problems with shady people approaching us but not everyone is so lucky

Bring some snacks!
The food stand at the Delacorte opens at 10am but you might want something before then. We brought fiber bars, string cheese and pretzel crisps.

Do you have to pee all the time? I do. And I knew that from the time I left my house until we were escorted into the park at 6am I would not be able to go to the bathroom. Sure, you could risk going in the bushes somewhere, but, first of all, that's gross, and second, what if you got arrested? Then you couldn't see the show. Just keep going to the bathroom before you leave home. I barely made it to 6am when we got inside the park, and I was asleep most of the time.

Be nice to the tourists
Once inside the park, Chris and I basically became the Into the Woods Ticket Line Information Desk. People would come up to us every 10 minutes or so to ask what all of us were waiting for, if it was really "that good", when we got in line ("We got in line at 2:30" - us "In the morning??" - them "No, 2:30 later today." - us in our minds), how to get to Strawberry Fields, how to get to the Sheep Meadow.... everything you could imagine. Just be nice. They don't know anything.

In case you didn't know....
The line starts on the north side of 81st st and Central Park West. Only the A train is running (local) after, like, 11pm, so take that there. A little before 6am a representative from the box office will come out, review the line and then at 6am, escort everyone into the park. Do not try to pass people: they will kill you. The first 10 people get to spend the remaining 7 hours in what I considered the "priority zone": right next to the theatre, the water fountains, the concessions stand and the bathrooms. The people from 11 - 700 wind back through the woods as long as they need to. At 1pm they start handing out the tickets.... to the seniors and disabled people first. I am pretty sure the senior line has no cut off... so if like 300 senior citizens show up, they all get priority tickets. So, always, the earlier you get there, the better.

PS - the show is perfect. I had the highest expectations possible: it disappointed in no way. I cried almost the entire time. I would wait in line every night if I could.