Are EPAs Worth My Time?
This question pops up in my coaching sessions time and again.
So here’s my take…
For those not familiar: an EPA [Equity Principal Audition] is an audition open to Actors Equity members, providing the opportunity for an Equity (union) actor to be seen by a regional theater, Off-Broadway or Broadway production. Equity Membership Candidates (EMC) may also participate if time permits. Non-union actors may or may not be seen depending on time or management.
I have had success in these auditions and I have heard crickets chirp.
In the past I too waited all day as an EMC member, and as a non-union actor was sometimes turned away after a four-hour bus trip. I have also found joy when receiving a callback for a national tour or booking a regional production via this route. My hope is that the following guidelines may help you in making the choice “to go” or “not to go”.
If you’re unrepresented…
This may be the only opportunity you have to audition for an Equity company or production. It is likely that agent appointments take precedence and may have more decision makers in the room (compared to some EPA rooms where one casting assistant is in the room fulfilling the requirement or sifting through headshots). However, if you are unrepresented, the EPA could be your only opportunity to be seen. So in this case, I say GO FOR IT—go to the EPA!
If you are PERFECT for the role/show…
Let me give you an example. I have performed in a couple regional productions of AVENUE Q and would LOVE to be seen for the ongoing production at New World Stages. If I am unable to schedule an audition appointment through an agent, I will hit the EPA. What have I got to lose?
If there is a dream role or show for which your skills are a perfect match, you owe it to that production team to go in there and show your your best work. I say GO FOR IT!
If you are nurturing a specific relationship with someone in the room (casting director, producer, composer, etc)…
Do you know one of the decision makers in the room? The EPA would be a great way to say “hi” and give them an update of what you are up. GO FOR IT!
If the audition is outside of NYC or LA…
If you live or work in a market outside of NYC or LA, the EPA may be worth your time. Some regional theaters do not even hold auditions in NY or LA so their local EPA is the only audition available—chances will likely be in your favor. On the other hand, a company may only be holding local EPAs as a contract requirement, and may be fully cast, have a resident company or hire exclusively from NY & LA.
Do your research. Ask around. Check the breakdown for specific roles available. It may not be worth your time to drive from DC to VT for a local EPA, if they are only seeking understudies—or it might… For me, it would have to be a dream role and/or a director, producer, etc. who I am in relationship with in in order for my travel (time & money) to be worth it.
As with all auditions, the audition is only a piece in the puzzle. It is up to you to be prepared, follow-up and nurture relationships with the decision-makers in the room, and at the end of the day LET IT GO.
For more on nurturing relationships, check out this previous post.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your experience with EPAs below.
Through the years, I have found myself at times feeling like I have needed to defend my chosen career path, the choice I have made to be a professional actor, a freelance artist…
Unfortunately, the career path of an artist is not quite supported or encouraged here in the United States (at least not when compared to the paths of doctors or lawyers), but I am always thrilled when I see my artistic training translating to application in non-artistic work with “real-life” folks.
I recently was involved in planning an event for a non-profit organization and was lauded for my efforts in the planning phase through execution and follow-up. To me, my efforts seemed common-sense and obvious. But they weren’t. As an actor, I have been honing my communication skills for years, so they were obvious to me.
What follows are my takeaways from both my artistic and event-planning processes:
1. Connect with audience before the event
So back when I was auditioning for national theater conferences as a college student (for summer stock or year-round work), I would research the list of participating theaters and casting companies I might meet at a particular conference. I highlighted the key companies I thought would be a fit, and sent them a postcard with my headshot introducing myself and asking them to look out for me on the specific day and time of my audition. This little drop of communication proved to be fruitful time and time again-job after job.
I encouraged the organization I was working with this past month to be creative with our audience outreach. We used a multi-pronged approach which included a combination of MailChimp invites, postcards, personal phone calls and personal e-mails. Our RSVP list was three times larger than past events of this size!
2.) Engaging with audience during event
The event is showtime. Whether it be an audition or performance, it is what I have been trained for and it is “the thing” I live for, the story I desire to tell that day or evening. I breathe in the same air as my audience, pursue the action, deal with the obstacles and stay grounded in the truth of the moment.
While I have been preparing for weeks before debuting a new performance or audition piece, the same should be true for any other kind of event. Preparation is key.
Small hiccups did occur the evening of the event, and I realized that sometimes during the speaking portion I found myself wondering why this person didn’t say something “this way”, or “include that”. Simply- we hadn’t practiced-- at the risk of micro-managing, I tried to let some things go. I took for granted how many times I have been onstage in the spotlight. What I thought was common sense, is not, it is a honed skill. I am always meeting new people and coming from a place of service-- essentially asking “how can I help you?” in each and every audition room I enter. I need to come across as approachable and likeable, and with practice I have learned to stand in an honest, grounded place.
3.) Following up post-event
Post audition or performance, I follow up with either the employer or potential employer (or audience member). A genuine thank-you is important, including a specific personal connection. If there is an “ask” (“I’d love to be considered for ‘xyz’, if you think I’d be a fit”) now is the time to go for it. I also add the contact to a list of people to periodically update.
As far as the organization I was working with, I pointed them to a ton of resources and blog posts that already laid out templates for what is to be included in a great follow-up! They may or not receive instant response from their audience, but I know that if they practice consistency following these steps, their audience will grow and engage in a meaningful and intimate way, with regularity.
Let me know what you think.
Please post questions or thoughts below.
And if you will, please share!
Living a Dream Career
It was 2014.
I was a newlywed allowing myself to binge watch television for the first time in my life.
My new husband, Justin, had encouraged me to put the energy I really needed into my acting dream--- see how far I could reach. I had been working professionally as an actor for years and had managed to whittle down my job juggling to just a handful of teaching jobs between acting gigs. My acting career was in an okay place. That year I had joined Actors Equity (the professional union for stage actors), a checkpoint I had working towards for years.
Though to be honest, I wasn’t quite satisfied.
Every year or so my good friend (and fellow Virgo) Aaron and I would share our “list” of desired professional and personal outcomes for the year ahead or next several months. I observed the list morphing over time, but nothing was accomplished quickly. Afterall, it had taken SEVERAL YEARS to cross off “join Equity”.
That September I marked my birthday with a time of reflection. I took part in a “Live Your Best Life Now” 5-day challenge, and envisioned what my five year plan looked like.
Where was I and where did I want to be?
Who did I want to be?
What kind of stories did I want to tell?
And how did I want to serve others?
Soon after the challenge,
I began working with a strategy coach.
I learned how to goal-set, how to put deadlines in place and nurture relationships. Over the next several months I worked with a variety of accountability partners who were also in the entertainment industry. We shared our goals and deadlines, lended support and shared our progress on small action items during our regular checkins.
I quickly learned that the reason I rarely checked off the big items on my list, such as “become a voiceover artist”, “take new headshots”, or “be on TV” was because they were huge goals-- made up of dozens of action items.
I had not been in the habit of charting out and checking off a ton of action items on my dream goals. For years I had looked at each goal as a giant mountain to climb and found it easier to use my energy working on various other jobs for other people -- ultimately not quite satisfying or lifting me up my own mountains.
With the help of my accountability partner, Craig, an LA-based television composer, we quickly determined that I was giving away a ton of creative work to my fellow creative friends and colleagues for FREE. I took the time to go through my calendar and tally the hours each week I was spending on work that did not support my ultimate dreams and goals and was frankly shocked-- some weeks were as much as 40 hours. “Imagine putting that same amount of time and effort into your own creative work and aspirations?” Craig asked.
I began having difficult conversations with friends and colleagues saying “no” to work that I had previously said “yes” to - turning inward and putting the energy back into my acting career. *Of course I still share ideas with friends and love to brainstorm, but it is not a full-time job, and I am more clear with myself how I spend my time. Furthermore, I do love this work-- it’s why I’m here as a coach!
That fall I created my first voiceover demo, researched how to book VO work and in January 2015 made my first phone calls to casting directors. And boy did I BOOK!
I recorded a commercial right away, then a series of four audiobooks…
A couple months later I had an amazing headshot session with my DREAM PHOTOGRAPHER….
I booked my FIRST SPEAKING ROLE FOR TV!
And so it went…
This month, within two years of my first reach-out I celebrate narrating my 30th audiobook!
Of course there is a ton of work ahead that I cannot wait to book, stories I look forward to tell, but in the meantime I AM living my Dream Career. Remember that quote “If you shoot for the moon, you’ll land among the stars”? That’s where I am, shooting for the moon, and I hope you are in pursuit of the same, whatever that looks like to you.
Through goal-setting, accountability and nurturing relationships I continue to move toward my biggest acting dreams.
And I’ve learned alot. Hence the creation of this blog.
As I learn industry lessons I believe there’s value in sharing with others in pursuit of similar goals and dreams. I am thankful for the many mentors, teachers, colleagues and accountability partners who have helped me along the way, and would LOVE to SUPPORT YOU!
In the months and years ahead you can look forward to step-by-step action plans, inspiring interviews and good old-fashioned advice here on this blog.
If you ever want more support, schedule a private session with me!
We can take a look at your current career, brainstorm your juiciest dream career, and work smarter (not harder) to create a plan that connects the two.
Please leave a comment below about where you are in pursuit of your dreams. I’d love to know. I’d also love to answer any questions you might have.
the global actor