How Do Non-Equity Performers Get Seen At Equity Auditions?

Get the best tips on getting seen at Equity auditions from our experts.

By: Aug. 29, 2019
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Updated May 2024:

The age old struggle for a non-equity actor - how to get seen at an EPA (Equity Principal Audition) or ECC (Equity Chorus Call) when you aren't a union member. These auditions are the stepping stones for "breaking into" the industry, without them casting offices would never have any new individuals to introduce to directors and producers. EPAs and ECCs may be time consuming and feel thankless, but a good EPA/ECC audition could change someone's entire career trajectory and book them that equity contract. Anyone who is serious about performing in commercial theater in the city knows the importance of getting up at some godforsaken hour, trekking to Pearl Studios, and putting their name on a list (or that alternate list) that may or may not ever end up in the casting director's hands. Ask any actor/dancer you meet, they'll all tell you the same thing - one of the hardest parts of their job is getting into the audition room, the actual act of auditioning is normally the easiest part of their day. That said, here are four major tips to maximize your chances of getting seen when you're non-equity and just trying to be #booked and #blessed.

Line-Up Early

The early bird gets the worm. Sure, the phrase may be a cliché from our grandparent's generation, but it still holds true, especially when it comes to EPA/ECCs. For those who don't know, during an EPA/ECC a casting director will see members of Equity first, then Equity Membership Candidates, and finally Non-Equity performers. Non-Equity performers are seen in the order they signed up, and these sign-ups happen first thing in the morning (the equity monitor will usually put our an official list, and these actors are seen time permitting, the monitor calls names from that list.) I have a friend who works night shifts at Trader Joe's, goes home for an hour or two to get ready, and heads right down to Pearl Studios to wait online outside before the building even opens, let alone the official start time. It is a crazy existence, but sometimes a necessary one if you know there are going to be a lot of other interested Non-Equity performers hoping to be seen for an audition so they can become union actors. Which leads me into my next tip...

Acquire Audition Intel

Actors are some of the best investigators when it comes to scoping out auditions, which is great until every actor everywhere decides they just have to be seen for what is destined to be the next hit musical. In order to not waste your time getting up early only to not be seen because they aren't going to get to Non-Equity performers, ask your friends and fellow actors for the scoop! If it's a few days out from the EPA/ECC and you're overhearing a lot of chatter from Equity/EMC members that they're going to audition it's probably a good indicator that the casting director won't have time to see Non-Equity that day.

Multiple Calls For the Same Productions

This is a big one, and one I have actively seen folks not take advantage of. Each equity production has more than just one EPA/ECC, according to the super-secret casting rulebook, they have to. So, if on day one of the EPA/ECC they tell you they aren't seeing Non-Equity that day try again on day two or day three! It is crazy to me how many performers decide not to try again after being turned away that first day. One time I was observing Frozen EPAs - the first day we saw Equity and EMC members for the whole day and didn't get to Non-Equity. The second day we sat around for AN HOUR AND A HALF without a single person coming in to audition. So, take advantage of the multiple days. Just because day one of auditions may be jam packed doesn't mean day two will be.

Be Prepared

There is no worse feeling than showing up somewhere seemingly ready to perform and do your best and then realizing you don't have what you need. Please, please, PLEASE make sure you always bring your headshot and resume. It's importance cannot be stressed enough once you enter the room, but even before that your headshot/resume can have the power to get you seen or not seen. A lot of the time, at least with the company I worked with, if a casting director can't see all the Non-Equity performers that signed up they will still collect those headshots/resumes and then go through them all back at the office. If you left your headshot at home that day you would have cost yourself this last ditch opportunity to be seen. A good rule of thumb is to just have one with you at all times, that way you can be that actor in season one of Smash who tries to talk to Eileen Rand at Nick Jonas' birthday party and who definitely would have produced a headshot if Eileen had given her the chance to.

Seriously though, whether you love them for what they offer or hate them for how time consuming they can be, there is no denying how important EPA/ECCs are for all performers, but especially Non-Equity performers. There isn't a surefire way to guarantee you will be seen at every EPA/ECC, and if someone does find a secret passage inside they should keep that cheat code for themselves as to not overwhelm the system. Until that happens, I hope you can use these tips to get yourself into that coveted audition room more often. Break legs!

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