Actor's Theatre of Charlotte is the first theater in the city in almost eight years that will pay its actors a professional fee. The theater company has signed a contract with the actors' union called Actors' Equity Association. The move is good news for other local theater companies.
Actor's Theatre has long wanted to be what's called an equity theatre. The theater's executive director Dan Shoemaker says this year the company finally has enough money in the budget to do that.
"It ensures our audience that they're enjoying the work of a highly-skilled professional who has undergone years of training in their craft," says Shoemaker.
As an equity theater, most of its cast must be members of Actors' Equity and the theater must pay them at least $285 a week no matter how small the role. The going rate was $200 a week.
Actor's Theater made the decision to become an equity theater over the summer. "God of Carnage" is the company's first production under the new contract. The label equity made a difference when it came time for auditions.
"It was a little easier, actually, because the actors were aware that we were connected with equity," says Shoemaker.
"Any time you increase the professional quality of the work that's being done in Charlotte and any time you can provide professional level working opportunities for artists, that's good for all of us," says Elise Wilkinson, the executive director of Charlotte Shakespeare.
Her company like several other local ones is pleased that Charlotte will finally have an equity theater after going many years without one.
"It means there'll be more artists in the pool for us to cast from. It means there will be greater interest and respect for Charlotte as a theater community," says Wilkinson.
Bruce LaRowe, the executive director of Children's Theatre of Charlotte, agrees. It's not so much about competition, but building a talented workforce.
"When there are more theater companies that are hiring professional, whether equity or not, and depending on whatever the rate, that means there's an opportunity to build a year round body of work for actors and so you'll have more actors living in your community," says LaRowe.