Actors' Equity Association Celebrates 100 Years on 5/26

By: May. 23, 2013
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Actors' Equity Association ("AEA" or "Equity"), the labor union representing more than 49,000 professional stage actors and stage managers in the US, will commemorate its 100th anniversary on Sunday, May 26. Founded in 1913 by 112 actors, AEA is the oldest performing arts union. For the last century, AEA has stood for excellence and diversity in the American theater, and for fairness, dignity and respect for its members.

AEA President Nick Wyman said, "On this defining centenary anniversary, we thank our founding Brothers and Sisters who fought tirelessly for fair wages and safe working conditions for our members. We have triumphed and together, we have brought dignity, respect and professionalism to our trade. We have made the Equity card a badge of honor and career achievement. The union has demonstrated its willingness to serve as arts advocate, fight social injustices such as racial segregation and marriage equality, and lead with great compassion and heart, particularly with the formation of Equity Fights AIDS. We have created a legacy not only for ourselves, but for new generations of members."

AEA's journey to organized labor began in the early 1900s when actors and stage managers weathered broken contracts, lack of pay and unendurable working conditions. Highlights of AEA's milestones and groundbreaking moments in the US labor movement include:

1913 - May 26th (founded) - 112 courageous actors banded together in New York City to improve deplorable work environments and protect wages in the American theater. The New Group chose a name that encompassed what they were fighting for: Actors' Equity.

1919 - When producers and managers refused to recognize the fledging union, Actors' Equity calls a national strike that lasted 30 days, closed 37 productions, prevented 16 openings and cost producers $3
million. On September 6, managers sign a five-year contract and formally recognized Equity. Membership swelled from 2700 to 14,000 actors and stage managers.

1947 - Equity banned its members from performing at the segregated National Theatre in Washington DC until it reverses its discriminatory audience policy five years later.

1950 - Equity vociferously objected to blacklisting and denounces the "Red Scare" that was ruining the careers of many notable actors, playwrights and directors.

1960 - Equity called a strike against Broadway producers for refusing to negotiate with the union for a pension plan. 13 days later, the "Broadway Blackout" is ended and a pension plan is achieved that served as a blueprint for the entire theatrical industry.

1965 - Equity successfully advocated for funding for the arts and was instrumental in the creation of the National Endowment for the Arts; in 1966, Equity creates a LORT (League of Resident Theatres) Contract, which expands professional regional theatre across the country.

1982 - Equity creates the "Save the Theatres" campaign to stop the razing of historic Broadway theatres. By 1988, 28 Broadway theatres were given landmark status and thus preserved for future generations of theatre-goers.

1985 - Equity launches "Equity Fights AIDS" and raises $1 million dollars to fight the AIDS epidemic, which was decimating the theatrical community. Seven years later, Equity Fights AIDS merges with Broadway Cares, forming one of the nation's leading AIDS fundraising organizations.

2001 - In response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Equity performers tour the country in "New York Loves America, The Broadway Tour," promoting the art of live theatre as way to bring the country together.

2012 - Equity receives a special Tony Award in honor of its contribution to the American theatre.

2013 - Equity receives an historic national charter from the AFL-CIO, marking a formal association with the national federation of American unions.

Actors' Equity Association ("AEA" or "Equity"), founded in 1913, represents more than 49,000 professional stage actors and stage managers in the United States. Equity seeks to advance, promote and foster the art of live theatre as an essential component of our society. Equity negotiates wages and working conditions, providing a wide range of benefits, including health and pension plans. AEA is a member of the AFL-CIO and is affiliated with FIA, an international organization of performing arts unions.

Equity is governed by its own members through an elected Council representing principal actors, chorus actors and stage managers living in three regions: Eastern, Central and Western. Members-at-large participate in Equity's governance through a system of regional boards and committees. Equity has four regional offices (NYC, Los Angeles, Chicago, Orlando) and 24 designated area liaison cities with over 100 members each. For more information visit,