I recently worked with four Tony-nominated actors and an up-and-coming director at a great regional theater, and I was one of only three actors not pre-cast. I got this job from an EPA (Equity Principal Audition).
EPAs are often misunderstood. I know actors who go to them religiously, and I know actors who never go. I’ve heard all the arguments for and against. The reasons NOT to go are plentiful, but remember, getting a role is rarely in our control. I’m not here to tell you that going to an EPA will get you one, but it won’t hurt. Sure sometimes, it feels pointless. Your headshot gets tossed. You stink that day. The person in the room is sleeping or tweeting. But showing up is half the battle. A good friend of mine once said, “The only thing worse than going to EPAs is NOT going to EPAs." Let me explain why he is right.
Below are the most often used excuses NOT to go to EPAs and then a different way of looking at them.
1. They're not casting! Let's face it. Most times, they aren’t. But, "most" does not mean "all." In my case, they were. Regardless, do you think the casting director’s only purpose of attending an already cast EPA is to tune out? These people make a living knowing and learning about us, just as much as we have to know them. They actually have to work harder because there’s more of us than them! So go. Go often. And be as good as you can. Casting director X might not be casting you for this show, but she might be calling you in for the next one.
2. It's just some assistant. True. Often it is. If excuse number one is accurate, why not? What purpose does the head of casting have to sit through a session where his skills aren’t needed? So they send the assistant. But guess what? That assistant could be the head of casting someday. Maybe not tomorrow. Maybe not in two years. Maybe never. But my money says that assistant, like us, is working to be more than an assistant. These people are the ones you want to know and that you want to know you. I recently had a casting director say, “Tim, where do I know you from?” to which I responded, “I’m not sure.” But I knew exactly. It was an EPA on a cold March day four years earlier for an already cast Broadway show.
3. I hate monologues. You’re an actor. Get over it. Period.
4. I'm not Equity so I'll never be seen. Guess who else wasn’t Equity? I still went to about 150 EPAs, and was probably seen at about 40-50. Sure I got turned away a lot. Let me introduce you to our little friend named “rejection.” Now, is 25-33 percent a good rate? For some things, no and for others yes. But in a business where things can happen in a one in a million shot, it’s better than sleeping in for two hours.
5. Insert whatever other reason here. Nope, still not good enough. Your agent won’t get you seen. Your survival job is less important. Sorry you’re tired. Wake up. Get on the subway and go!
I had another friend compare EPAs to a piggy bank. Drop in a little change each day, and when you finally crack it open, it’s added up to a lot. The long-term benefits of EPAs are greater than the short term. You build relationships with casting directors, work out audition material, and meet fellow actors. Plus isn’t it great to have an audition on days where nothing else is happening? Ask yourself when the day is over, "Will I be mad at myself for going or for NOT going to that EPA?" I think you know the answer already.