Loosening the rules and criteria surrounding eligibility for membership, The Actor’s Equity Association has changed its membership programme to allow freer entry of theatrical actors and stage managers into the Association.
Titled ‘Open Access’ the waive of previous regulations now allows any actor or stage manager, who can prove that they have indeed been professionally employed within theatres under the Association’s jurisdiction, to become a member for an eligibility period of two years effective immediately.
Working towards the goal of becoming a more equitable organization, these changes prove to be a turnaround from the past methods of gaining a membership to the Association. In the past, the only avenues available for membership for any theatre worker was employment by an Equity employer, gaining membership through a sibling union or earning points via the Equity Membership Candidate Programme.
Kate Shindle, the president of the Actor’s Equity Association stated that;
“The old system had a significant flaw: It made employers the gatekeepers of Equity membership, with almost no other pathways to joining. 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.”
Moreover, the eligibility restrictions for international and stage managers have been loosened as well, along with the possibility of former members rejoining the Association without having to renew their contracts.
Re-examining its own system, workings and methods of conducting affairs into the future, the Actor’s Equity Association’s new legislation is the first step towards diversifying and promoting total equality within the Association.