Equity and Non-Equity Tours Explained

Characters on stage behind a red theatre curtain

In the world of US theatre, productions are often categorised into two main types: equity and non-equity productions and tours.

This classification is crucial for performers, creators, and the audience alike, as it impacts everything from the rights of actors to the quality and reach of the productions.

Let’s delve into what distinguishes equity shows from non-equity ones and the implications of these differences.

What Are Equity Shows?

Whether its a play, concert or musical, Equity shows are produced under the rules and guidelines of the Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), the union that represents actors and stage managers in the United States.

Equity, established in 1913, aims to ensure fair treatment, wages, and working conditions for its members.

Shows that are produced under an Equity contract must adhere to strict guidelines regarding rehearsal times, performances, salaries, and benefits for the actors and stage managers involved.

One of the key benefits for performers working in equity shows is the provision of health insurance, pension, and other benefits, which are often not available to performers in non-equity productions.

Equity shows also tend to have higher production values and budgets, attracting well-known and more experienced talent both on and off the stage.

What Are Non-Equity tours?

Non-equity shows, on the other hand, are not bound by the rules and regulations of the Actors’ Equity Association. These productions do not provide the same level of benefits or protections to their performers as equity shows do.

Non-equity actors are often early in their careers, seeking experience and exposure.

While these shows can offer valuable opportunities for emerging talent, they also come with risks, such as lower pay, longer hours, and less job security.

Choosing Between Equity and Non-Equity

For actors and stage managers, the decision to join the Actors’ Equity Association and pursue work in equity shows is significant.

It can open doors to higher-profile jobs and better working conditions – but may also limit the number of available opportunities, especially in regions with fewer equity theatres.

Audience members, too, may notice differences between equity and non-equity tours. Equity shows will often feature seasoned professionals and have higher production budgets – but also higher ticket prices to compensate.

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About the author: Rachel Wise

UK based freelancer journalist Rachel contributes regularly to Stageberry with features and interviews from the hottest new shows and stage stars.


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