The Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), founded in 1913, is the performing arts union representing more than 49,000 professional stage actors and stage managers in the United States. Seeking to “advance, promote and foster the art of live theatre as an essential component of society,” Equity negotiates wages and working conditions for its members, providing a wide range of benefits, including health and pension plans.
There are 3 critical ways an actor can be eligible to join the union.
1. By receiving an Equity contract
Membership is available by virtue of employment under an Equity contract. If a theater offers an non-equity actor their card, this is what that means! The application for joining Equity is only valid during the term of the contract.
2. As a member of a sister union
The four A’s, Associated Actors and Artistes of America Affiliation, include
AEA: Actors’ Equity Association
SAG-AFTRA: Screen Actors Guild- American Federation of Television and Radio Artists
AGMA: American Guild of Musical Artists
AGVA: American Guild of Variety Artists
According to Actors’ Equity, membership is available by virtue of prior membership in a performing arts sister union. Applicants of a sister union must be a member of good standing for at least one year and must have worked. Must have worked as a performer under the union’s jurisdiction on a principal or “under-five” contract or at least three days of background work.
3. Through the Equity Membership Candidate Program (EMC)
The EMC program allows actors and stage managers earn points towards eventual membership. By performing at participating Equity regional and summer stock theatres, actors can collect points toward their membership. Each week worked at a qualifying Equity theater equals one EMC point or credit. An actor needs 50 EMC points, (or 25 if you are already a member of a sister union) to join Equity.
Click here for more on how some familiar faces received their equity cards.