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The Working Actor

Are There EPAs Nonunion Actors Should Avoid?

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Are There EPAs Nonunion Actors Should Avoid?
DEAR MICHAEL:

I am a nonunion actor living in New York, with a degree in acting. My résumé is thin, mostly college-related and some community theater. I have just begun auditioning, and I am curious: Is it appropriate for me to attend EPAs? I know I am allowed, but will casting directors be annoyed? Should I know better than to go to certain calls, or should I audition for everything I can?

M, Tarrytown, N.Y.

DEAR M:

I can appreciate your question. You don't want to be that person who learns too late that everyone but you knows some unwritten protocol and thereby find yourself making an embarrassing faux pas. Nevertheless, I want to assure you that no such secret exists, and I want to encourage you to go for everything you're right for. I think the only thing that would annoy casting people would be if you were to come in for a role for which you're completely unsuited -- and I mean completely, like a petite 22-year-old Asian woman auditioning to play the role of a 300-pound, 90-year-old black man. Otherwise, you should leave the casting to the casting people, and just go present yourself.

"In any EPA or ECC situation," says New York casting director Michael Cassara, "we are given the choice whether or not we would like to see nonunion performers, time permitting. It is [the casting director's] decision whether or not they will be permitted to audition on that day, so if we've opted to see nonunion performers, chances are good that we will not be annoyed by their attendance. With very few exceptions, I always opt to see nonunion performers and can think of many people who are now Broadway stars whom I first encountered when they were nonunion and waited to be seen at an EPA. The space is paid for, the accompanist is hired -- it generally just makes sense for us to see anyone who would like to audition.

"The only potential 'annoyance' I can think of is when someone comes in (union or nonunion) who is truly not right for anything in the project at hand; it can then be annoying as they are taking the time away from someone who might be perfect. But I encourage you to attend EPAs for projects that might be a good fit. While it may seem like a bit of a Catch-22, it's undoubtedly one of the more tried-and-true means of bulking up that 'thin' college and community theater résumé and beginning the next chapter in your career." Nicely put, Mr. Cassara.

When we first start auditioning, we sometimes feel like everyone is watching us, evaluating our worthiness, and thinking that we're new and that we don't belong there. None of that is true. Casting people are just trying to cast their projects. That's their focus. If you're the type of performer they're seeking, you're doing them a huge favor by going in, because you're giving them another good choice for the role.

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