Seeking Equity Council Seat for the Eastern Region
Principal Three-Year Term
Equity since 2010
Residence: New York, NY
Contracts/Codes Worked: LORT, LOA, Transition, Showcase NYC
Born and raised in Brooklyn, I received my training at LaGuardia Arts High School in New York and the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program in Minneapolis. I lived and worked as an actor in the Twin Cities for four years after college - becoming an EMC as an apprentice at Children's Theatre Company in 2006 - and got my Equity card when I moved home as a member of The Acting Company in 2010. I currently live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with my wife Gretchen and our dachshund Gigi.
I come from a mixed household: my mother is union, and my father is management. From my mother I learned the power of collective bargaining. From my father I learned that a union is only as good as the work it produces, and how it allows its industry to thrive.
I am fiercely proud to be a member of Actors' Equity, and yet find myself increasingly dismayed by the perception of the union by its own membership. I hear that Equity is weak, uncommunicative, uncompromising, and unaware of the realities of the lives of its average members. And while I may not agree with every complaint I hear, the fact that this perception persists is reason enough for concern. If Equity isn't winning the hearts and minds of its own members, how can it possibly bargain effectively on their behalf?
As a member of the Equity Council, my goal will be to help bring the membership back to the union and to move the union towards its membership by promoting three simple central tenets:
One need look no further than the current kerfuffle over the 99-Seat Plan in Los Angeles for evidence that Equity is not communicating effectively with its members. As transparency and accountability are essential in any democratic organization, communications strategy needs to be rethought on both a macro and micro level. Some proposals:
• More comprehensive (and possibly mandatory) orientation for new members. How can we expect our newest members to appreciate the work being done on their behalf if they're not fully aware of the workings of the organization they've just joined?
• A biweekly (and hopefully informative and entertaining) podcast featuring council members and Equity staff with updates on union matters and industry goings-on around the country. Basically an Equity News that members will actually care about.
• Feature a council member on the splash page of the Equity website, so that the names, faces, hometowns, and personalities of our elected leadership become well-known, and its makeup more recognizable.
• More comprehensive and consistent outreach in advance of major policy changes. Transparently making your case over a period of time is a far better strategy than dropping a bomb on your membership, especially when confronting entrenched work models.
• Work agreements written in terms and language more accessible to lay membership. Members - especially stage managers and deputies - are the first line of defense against contract violations. If we can't understand what's been agreed to, how can we know if we're being taken advantage of?
I strongly believe that allowing Equity members to work for pennies undermines the value of our work and undercuts our bargaining power. I also believe that the producers with the voices that need to be heard the most are often those with limited resources, and who have the hardest time affording union actors. It is a delicate dance that must be done between worker protection and artistic endeavor.
As a member of the Equity Council, I will strive to be a voice of compromise. I've lived in the largest Equity market in the country, as well as in a smaller yet still-robust theater town. This has given me a unique understanding of how the union functions in both and how it should seek to understand and allow for the intricacies of all of its markets without undercutting its own bargaining power. At the end of the day, we need council members who are focused on both promoting the work that a community of actors and audiences wants, needs, and deserves, without allowing ourselves to be undermined by our own desire to make this work. This is what makes the work of performers unions particularly difficult; the product itself can be just as important as the pay. A strong council will understand this dilemma, rather than be dismissive of either side of it.
I strongly support Equity for standing tough in the face of non-union "Broadway" tours, and I applaud the efforts of the "Ask If It's Equity" campaign. However, the union does itself and its members a disservice by approaching smaller independent theater-makers with the same strength and unyieldingness as it does larger commercial producers.
We, the members of Equity, must bear some responsibility for the health and well-being of American Theater as a whole. This means having leadership at the helm of our union willing to listen to the concerns of members in every constituency; those who are actually on the ground actually making the art in their home city or town.
There are very few decisions the Councilors face that have easy Yes or No answers. Therefore, the best Councilors will be those who come to the table with a willingness to consider all sides of an argument, and engage openly and honestly and respectfully with those who might disagree. Throughout this campaign, I will endeavor to prove myself such a person, and thusly such a Councilor.
I am endlessly curious to hear from my fellow members about their thoughts on Actors' Equity Association, and how it can best serve the needs of its members. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me via email at sid [at] sidsolomon [dot] com.
(Note: Sid served as Equity Deputy on every production pictured.)