Den of Non-Equity

You might have noticed that of late, there hasn’t been much discussion of acting gigs here on this actors’ blog of mine. The explanation for this is fairly simple. While I’ve done a number of developmental readings so far this year, I have yet to be cast in a full production. And it’s not as if I’ve suddenly started tanking all of my auditions (although that’s always a remote possibility). Things have simply been slow. Whether it’s a result of the economic difficulties of production, or simply the realities of getting older in this business, there haven’t been as many projects to audition for.

Or so I thought.

Recently, I’ve seen laments on social media from a number of different friends of mine, all to the same effect. They are producers and directors, and they’ve been complaining that it’s been impossible for them to find actors for their projects. This would seem to me to be a freak occurrence, since we all live in a city of ten million, at least a quarter of whom seem to have headshots and resumes. But no, comment after comment on their original complaints attested to the same thing – for project after project, people were finding it impossible to round up actors. And indeed, in the developmental readings I’ve done this year, there have been all manner of last-minute difficulties in finalizing the casts. How on earth is this possible? Actors are plentiful, and always looking for work – why has finding them become so difficult all of a sudden? And why the heck didn’t my friends ask me?

To be fair, the friends of whom I’m speaking have been producing their work non-union, so they couldn’t ask me even if they wanted to. And as a union performer, my search for work mostly centers around the casting notices with Actors’ Equity, with a few additional notices emailed to me from Actors’ Access from time to time. I don’t check Backstage nearly as often as I did when I was first starting out, and couldn’t begin to tell you what might be found on other, newer websites. So it’s entirely possible that there’s more roles out there for non-union performers than there are qualified actors to cast them (which isn’t a bad thing for the performers).

Now, my friends haven’t just been complaining about being able to find actors. It seems that the performers have been flaking out on them once they’ve been cast. And again, it’s hard for me speculate on what’s going on, since this is the exact opposite of my own experience. Does a world where you can find performance opportunities just by surfing the web produce a weakened work ethic (he said while shaking his fist at the kids on his lawn)? Or is this simply a function of a smaller talent pool, or at least one that’s stretched too thin? And are there really so many non-union shows, flying under my radar, that the talent pool of New York City could be stretched that thin?

None of this directly affects me – again, as an Equity performer, I couldn’t be cast in any of this even if I wanted to be. But the non-Equity world is the incubator for the future generation of talent. Any difficulties faced by that world are going to result in difficulties for the larger professional community somewhere down the line. And it’s worrisome to think that there not only are problems with it, but that I could be so blissfully unaware of those problems.

As if I don’t have anything else to worry about.

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