9 Things to Know Before Your First EPA

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Photo Source: Jeremy Daniel

Equity Principal Auditions are an important part of life for many actors across the country. Required of any production with a negotiated Equity contract, these all-day, open(ish) calls give unrepresented actors time with creative teams and create more chances for work. While we love the extra opportunities, EPAs can be intimidating for those just starting out. Feeling nervous about your first EPA? Here are nine things you need to know before entering that room.

Bring your ID.
Equity members and Equity Membership Candidates (EMCs) need to bring their paid-up cards in order to sign up for Equity calls. If you are not yet in the union, there’s still a chance you might be seen; future members can often sign up on a separate list (creative team permitting), and are seen on a first-come-first-served basis once the equity members are done. Nonunion actors should come also come prepared with an ID, and expect a longer wait time at most auditions.

Go to the right call.
Do you know the difference between an EPA and an ECC? If not, read up before attending your first call to determine which audition is really right for you. Generally, the EPA is seeking leading (principal) roles in plays and musicals, while the ECC (Equity Chorus Call) is seeking ensemble members for larger-scale musicals, and separates singers from dancers in two separate calls.

Know what you’re auditioning for.
While many actors see EPAs as a way to “get on the radar” of certain casting teams, you need to know what you’re auditioning for before spending a day in the Actors’ Equity center. Backstage and AEA offer breakdowns for all EPA calls, and it’s important to read those character descriptions before attending a call. Don’t see a role your right for in that regional theater’s winter play? Best to sit this one out and wait for an audition that you can nail.

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Know your 20.
Actors’ Equity assigns six actors to every 20-minute time slot, with any remaining time at the end of the block given to Equity Alternates, EMCs, and (often) nonunion performers. Actors are grouped in those 20-minute intervals and lined up according to sign-up order when they’ve reached their assigned time. If you’re lucky enough to have that secure time slot, you must be present, ready, and prepared when your name is called.

Know when you’d like to audition.
If you attend an EPA as a union member, you’ll be presented with the chance to choose your own time slot. If the time you’d like is not available (but other appointments are), you may sign up on “Alternate List B” to stand by for an earlier spot. If you arrive after all of the appointments have been booked, the monitor will place you on “Alternate List A,” and will call off names one by one at the end of each 20-minute group.

Be early.
When it comes to EPAs, the earlier the better. The AEA audition monitor arrives one hour before a call’s start time and signs up actors by order of arrival. During New York’s prime audition season, actors may line up several hours before that monitor arrives (even before the building has opened), meaning that all time slots are filled by very early morning. If it’s a hot project with numerous roles, expect a heavy turnout and arrange your schedule accordingly. Additionally, if you do receive a slot, you must check in at least 10 minutes early. If an actor is not present when the AEA monitor reads off his name, he will sacrifice his audition time to an alternate, EMC, or nonunion actor on standby.

Be patient and have plenty of time.
With their (often) large crowds and uncertain timing, EPAs can feel like a pretty big chore. It’s important to remain calm, polite, and friendly, and to remember why you’re there; the love of performing can always squash a frustrating commute or a long day spent waiting. That said, attending an EPA can often take several hours and should be thought of as an all-day activity. Set the time aside in advance (if possible) and it will be easier to brush off those hours spent in the waiting room.

Find great material.
EPA breakdowns usually request a two-minute monologue, a 32-bar song, or some combination of shorter song and/or monologue. The rules state that actors get at least one minute per audition, so you’ll have at minimum 60 seconds to show off what you do best. This is your chance to prove yourself to a new creative team and remind casting fans of your chops. Spend real time looking for a variety of material that suits your type, and bring it to the EPA well practiced and polished.

Keep a journal.
Once you start attending EPAs on the reg, you’ll start seeing familiar faces on the other side of the table. Equity posts the ITR (in the room) personnel, so you can easily see who was present at your audition. Take notes on this information from week to week, along with what you wore, what you performed, and how it was received by the casting team. In no time at all, you will have a who’s who of local theater casting directors and other important contacts.

Check out Backstage’s theater audition listings!