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Edwin Booth founded the "Players" in 1888 which held meetings at the "Players." The "Players" was an actors' club in Gramercy Park. The second organisation, Actors' Society of America, was formed in 1895 and was led by Louis Aldrich. Actors' Society of America was dissolved by vote of members in 1912.
An actor may also apply for membership if he is a member of any of the sister unions in the performing arts. These unions are the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA), and Screen Actors Guild (SAG).
The third way one gets his equity card is through the "Equity Membership Candidate Program" (EMC). In this program, actors are allowed to work in Equity productions as credit towards eventual membership. An actor is eligible for membership once he completes fifty weeks of work at theatres that are a part of the EMC program.
Once a member, the actor is required to pay "yearly dues" of $118 plus "working dues" which are 2.25% of the gross earnings through an equity contract.
The first major benefit to having an Equity card, as an actor, is that many professional auditions are Equity-only calls. Non Equity members (future members) are allowed to attend as guests. These future members sign up on a separate list and wait to be seen. Depending upon the casting director, and the amount of Equity actors that attend the call, the future member may or may not be seen. Equity members are allowed to attend these Equity-only calls without these restrictions.
Once an individual is a member of Actor's Equity, he may not rehearse or perform in a non-equity production without written permission from Equity. the exception to this rule involves children under the age of 14. Children under the age of 14 may temporarily withdraw membership in order to perform in a non-equity production such as a school play.