Trouble in the Inbox

As I mentioned last week, I was forced to stay home and not attend an audition earlier this month. I didn’t do so lightly; it was for a production I was looking forward to, and that would have been the rare theatrical project that fits with the rest of my schedule these days. But mere hours before my scheduled time, I was hit with a brutal case of food poisoning – and since I had commitments later that day which I could not get out of, and since I would have barely been able to stand and speak in the audition room, I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and pulled the covers over my head for the next few hours. And the thing of it is, this was an EPA – a required call. I wasn’t insulting the casting director by not attending – they’d never know. I’d signed up online a week in advance through Actors’ Equity; I simply wouldn’t arrive at the Actors’ Equity office that day, and my headshot wouldn’t be among the vast stack the casting personnel would receive from the monitor. No harm, no foul, and I’d have a few extra hours of recuperation.

And yet.

This past week, I received the email from Actors’ Equity. Nothing personal; it’s a formality if you miss an EPA slot which you signed up for in advance. It told me that I’d missed the audition, a fact of which I was keenly aware. And it told me that if I were to miss two more EPAs this year, my ability to sign up for advance auditions on the Equity website would be suspended for a period of six months.

Again, this is just the standard procedure. And it’s less draconian than it used to be; when the online sign-up system was first implemented, you only received one warning before being prohibited from using the system. But it’s still infuriating that, like any automatic system, it’s one-size-fits-all. It doesn’t distinguish between somebody blowing off an audition on a whim – inconveniencing the rest of the membership in the process, since they could have signed up for that time slot themselves – and people hit by a sudden illness in the week since the online sign-up took place. Or were hit by an epic traffic delay (in case you don’t know, our subway system is over a century old and nobody wants to pay for its upkeep). Or had some other genuine emergency come up, for which being penalized is just adding insult to injury.

Is there a solution? Could a method of unselecting a selected audition time be added to the online system, without breaking it? (Or, y’know, making it more broken than it already is.) Is it possible to create some sort of hotline we can call in the event of an emergency? Could such a thing possibly be staffed? It’s possible there isn’t a fix; this is an imperfect system built by imperfect people to service the needs of actors, as imperfect a group as can be imagined.

I don’t know. But I had hoped that doctor’s notes were something I’d have no further need of once I’d left the public school system.

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