“Here we are, and there is was… that Basin Street Station, The Delta Express!!! Stand back and watch the people come to Storyville!!”
Now that Storyville is done, and I finally have a free day to sit down and write a little bit, I can just say in reflection of the Storyville experience – I really am extremely lucky to have such supportive friends and family. It is always an absolute pleasure to see familiar faces in the audience and after the show. Someone asked me one time if I’m the kind of actor who doesn’t want to know when someone is in the audience to see me, and I responded, “absolutely not.” I make it a challenge to see if I can make that particular show something uniquely special for whoever is there to see it. So that when people compare stories to different shows they’ve seen, they find that they aren’t sharing any redundancy. As per the cast, creative team, and York Theatre tech personnel – what an amazing little core we set up in our short time together. It was a very rocky ride to opening night (we didn’t get nearly as much rehearsal in as we wanted, and thusly were forced to make additions, subtractions, and adjustments during preview week, pretty much on the fly), but every one stayed focused despite shaky composures and netted a great New York Times review, which is never an easy accomplishment. Every week the show got more and more vibrant, and as Jim (our producer) would always say to donors who asked what the future of the show will be, “your donation of a mere 6 million dollars will find this show on a Broadway stage.”… While that is a distant future in a land of money sprouting from oak trees, the only rumor I’m happy to spread is that word got to the Mayor of New Orleans that our show was inspiring and he called our producer personally to discuss the possibilities of a New Orleans show. What those discussions yield is for time to tell… For me, it’s back to auditions and “che sará, sará.”
I always like to share information for any of my friends and family who want to know more about the intricacies of the entertainment industry. So today, let’s talk Union v. Non-union.
It was a complete blessing that I was able to take my Equity Card with my Storyville contract. That means that I am now an official proud member of the theatre actor’s union, Actor’s Equity (I’m also in the film/television union, SAG-AFTRA). The importance of that feat yields the same benefits that any other blue collar union worker receives – set pay scaling, union rules on labor hours and dangerous work environment, retirement plans, health plans, union discounts on goods and services, etc… Therefor, the schedule we ran for In The Heights, a non-union tour, where there were three straight months of one nighter shows, is a thing of the past; you would be compensated GREATLY for the constant traveling, as per union regulation. Now… while these are all great things, there are two limitations that have to be accounted for. 1 – being in the union does not guarantee that you’ll make more direct money than you would on a non-union contract and 2 – while the union jobs yield you all the comforts and benefits, they are harder to actually book because of the increase in the talent level of your competition. That’s not to say every one in the union is more talented than other non union actors, merely that the general talent of the total pool is greater; like being upgraded from the Caspian Sea to the Atlantic Ocean – both bodies of salt water, but the ocean has triple the salinity.
Back to point number 1 – being in the union does not guarantee that you’ll make more money than a non-union contract… So bare basics, pay grades are based on theatre size and theatre income. A non-profit 90 seat union theatre is going to have a completely different scale from a 400 seat theatre that nets millions a year in profits. Thusly, I can tell you that I actually made less money in my off-Broadway NYC debut than I did while on my non-union tour. To add to that, let’s compare Million Dollar Quartet to Book of Mormon. Both broadway shows that have union tours, but since Book of Mormon is one of the top grossing musicals, their production tour contract pay scale minimum is something like 1,500/ per week. Whereas, Million Dollar Quartet, a smaller scale show that nets less profit, their pay scale minimum might be like 700/week – only $150 more than what I made with In The Heights. But then of course, you work towards health benefits and retirement plans on those union contracts, which makes up the gap betweenunion and non-union contract. At the same time, though, I can make 1,000 / per week, easily, at my day job as a server if I work a 40 hr week and still yield the same benefits and retirement if I exercise the plans available at work. This is why I have nothing but respect for actors that end up giving it all up for the security of their day jobs. It is no slight to them as people, and as their friends and relatives, we should never look at it as such. There is NO EASY WAY to be a professional actor, you have the exact same odds of being on Broadway that a college football athlete has of making a 53 man roster in the NFL; and even when you make it as an actor, unless you’re on a top tier contract, you’re probably making as much or less than you would at an every day service job. It is for this reason that I reiterate as often as possible how lucky I am to have such supportive friends and family because that is the ONLY way you survive as an actor. If you’re one of a lucky few, you’ll make 20 million on a movie, but for the majority it’s a daily grind of love and sacrifice…. Back to 40hrs a week at the restaurant and fitting in my auditions, some how, some way!