Actors’ Equity Association Opens Up Eligibility for Workers in Non-Equity Productions

Actors’ Equity Association, the union for theatrical performers and stage managers, has opened up its eligibility with a new membership policy titled Open Access. Moving forward, theatre workers who can demonstrate they have worked professionally as an actor or stage manager within Equity’s geographical jurisdiction can join the union, effective immediately.

Open Access also opens the door for former members of Equity to rejoin the union without having to secure a new Equity contract, as required under previous policy. Former members and former applicants for membership who choose to join Equity under this policy may also apply previously paid initiation fees toward their current application. Eligibility will extend for two years, with application and down payment of applicable fees required by May 1, 2023.

“The old system had a significant flaw: It made employers the gatekeepers of Equity membership, with almost no other pathways to joining,” said Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity Association. “The entertainment industry is disproportionately white, including and especially theatrical leadership. The union has inadvertently contributed to the systemic exclusion of BIPOC artists and others with marginalized identities by maintaining a system in which being hired to work those contracts was a prerequisite of membership. We hope that artists from all backgrounds will join us in building a union that uplifts the entire theatre community, especially those who have not felt included or welcome in the past.”

Open Access is part of AEA’s Diversity & Inclusion Retrofit, the union’s efforts to re-examine its own systems, structure, and processes through an anti-racist lens.