Regional theaters in the United States are professional theater companies that produce their own seasons. The term regional theatre is most often used to refer to professional theatres that are outside New York City, but the term is sometimes used to refer to theatres that are members of the League of Resident Theatres (LORT). LORT theatres are non-profit organizations and agree to use special contracts made in agreement with the Actors' Equity Association, the professional organization and labor union for actors working in the United States.
LORT represents more than 80 not-for-profit theaters nationwide. Equity's special contract with LORT is one of Equity's most important agreements. It generates more than 8200 individual employment contracts each year, more than any other contract including Broadway and the Road. According to the Union's annual study of membership and employment trends, statistics show the LORT contract generated 55,270 workweeks in the 2003-2004 season.
Regional theatres often produce new plays and recent revivals from Broadway, Off-Broadway, and London's West End. Seasons are often rounded out with selections from classic dramas, popular comedies, and musicals. While most LORT theatres focus on producing "straight plays", it is not uncommon for a regional theatre's season to include one or two musicals.
Many regional theatres operate two stages: a main stage for shows requiring larger sets or cast, and a second stage (often a studio theatre or black box theater) for more experimental or avante-garde productions. Regional theatres rely on donations from patrons and businesses, season ticket subscriptions, and grants from organizations, in addition to ticket sales. Some have criticized regional theatres for being conservative in their selection of shows as theatre staff must consider the demographics of their subscribers and donors. Due to audience feedback, artistic staff, and a theatre's history, each theatre may develop its own reputation both in its city and nationally.
Some regional theatres make a commitment to developing new works and premiering new plays. Theatres that develop new work, like La Jolla Playhouse and Manhattan Theatre Club, often work to move their productions to professional venues in New York. Educational outreach programs and cooperative programs with nearby university theatre programs are also common programs found at regional theatres.
In recognition of the importance of regional theatres in America, the American Theatre Wing gives a Regional Theatre Tony Award to one regional theatre each year during the Tony Awards.
LORT, which represents more than 80 not-for-profit theaters nationwide including Lincoln Center, the Ahmanson, Long Wharf and the Guthrie, is one of Equity's most important bargaining agreements. It generates more than 8200 individual employment contracts each year, more than any other contract including Broadway and the Road. According to the Union's annual study of membership and employment trends, statistics show the LORT contract generated 55,270 workweeks in the 2003-2004 season.
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LORT theatres employ Equity members for most of the bigger roles. However, most LORT theatres also employ non-Equity actors for roles.
How can you join EQUITY? There are several ways to join. You can be signed to an Equity contract by a producer, you can join by virtue of prior membership in one of Equity's sister unions (the 4As), or you can earn eligibility by completing the Equity Membership Candidate program.
How do you get a chance to be signed to an Equity contract if you are not an Equity member? You can attend a non-Equity audition, and perhaps be offered an Equity role - which gives you the opportunity to join. Or you can attend an Equity auditon (EPA - Equity Principal Audition.)
Simply go to an EPA audition. Make sure you arrive 1 hour before the audition time. Add your name to the non-Equity sign-up list. Start a list if there isn't one started yet. Let the audition monitor know you are there.
The monitor will let you know if non-Equity people might be seen or not. If the audition seems like it will be quite busy, you might be told no or you might be told to come back later in the day.
Make sure you take your professional headshot and resume' with you. Even if the casting director is not seeing non-Union people that day, they will usually take your picture and resume'.
Do not attend an EPA unless you are skilled, experienced and ready to compete against seasoned, professional actors.
See the Equity website for more details:
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