What is an Equity audition?
If you’re new to the Broadway dance scene, you’ve probably heard this term before and been confused by it. Let’s break it down.
“Equity” refers to the Actors’ Equity Association (AEA). The AEA is a labor union for theater—similar to SAG-AFTRA, the union for film and television. All Broadway shows, and most Broadway tours, are Equity. That means you need to be a member of the union to work on the show.
It also means that at least once per year, every Broadway show is required to hold an Equity audition.
Unlike open calls, Equity auditions are exclusive. Many Broadway shows do not hold open calls. They only hold auditions for Equity dancers and actors. If you’re a union member, that’s great; you’re guaranteed to get seen by the casting team.
But what if you aren’t part of the union? If you’re “Non-Eq,” can you still go to an Equity audition?
Yes, you can!
However, you might be turned away without receiving the opportunity to dance.
Is it still worth it to go to an Equity call, even though you might not get seen?
Absolutely. Going to an Equity call is an excellent way to gain experience, meet people, and maybe—if you’re lucky—get cast.
With that said, here are a few things you need to know about the process:
The Unofficial List
At the end of the day, the casting team might only have the chance to see one group of Non-Equity dancers.
But if a hundred and fifty Non-Eq dancers show up and there’s only one hour left, how does the team decide which dancers to see?
Often—but not always—the rule is first come, first served. The first thirty people get to dance.
That means you can increase your chances of getting seen by being first in line. To do that, most dancers wake up early to try to get their name at the top of the “Unofficial List.”
The Unofficial List is simply a sheet of plain paper, often taped to the front door of the building. The list can be started at any time, but always by the dancer who gets there first.
So, at around 6:00am on the day of the audition, a dancer will arrive on location and post a piece of paper on the door, with his or her name as #1. Dancers who arrive after that will continue the list in number order.
The Official Non-Eq List
About one hour before the audition is scheduled to begin, the monitor arrives. Once the holding room is open, the Unofficial List moves from the door to the monitor’s table.
At this point, several things can happen.
It may be announced that Non-Equity dancers will not be seen, and everyone gets sent home. Or, the casting team might “type” the dancers and select a group to audition based on physical appearance.
Or, if you’re lucky, the Unofficial List will be transferred to an Official List.
Usually, a dancer volunteers to make the transfer and hand-copies all the names from the Unofficial list to the Official one. Everyone trusts this person to keep the names in their original order.
Sometimes, though, the monitor will call out names. If you are not standing in the room at the time your name is called, you will not be transferred to the Official list.
This process is entirely up to the monitor. Each monitor has his own way of running the audition, so it’s best to stick around until the list is transferred, just in case.
Once your name has been transferred, there’s nothing to do but wait and see if there will be time for a Non-Eq round.
It’s a great time to make friends, read a book or answer emails. Just remember to pay attention to audition announcements as the day goes by.
Obviously, auditioning is a significant time commitment. The process may seem complicated and frustrating.
But don’t worry. If you feel confused, you’re not the only one. There are lots of resources for dancers to share audition tips and seek advice.
Check out AuditionUpdate for real-time chats about current calls, Q&As, and callback boards: http://www.auditionupdate.com/
And check Playbill.com for audition listings: http://www.playbill.com/job/listing
And finally, remember to have fun!
Elizabeth Shew is a Portland, OR native and a New York-based dancer, writer, and creator. She is a graduate of The Ailey School and Fordham University and holds BFAs in Dance and English/Creative Writing. She has danced for choreographers Cindy Salgado, Jae Man Joo, Brice Mousset, Christopher Huggins and Taryn Kaschock Russell, among others. Recently, she participated in Cherice and Charissa Barton’s summer program, Axis Connect, and performed alongside the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in their annual piece *Memoria. *She is a current apprentice with BodyStories: Teresa Fellion Dance.
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