One night, in my early New York days, I got a call from a 917 number I didn’t know. As I still do, though I haven’t auditioned in months, I assumed it was Broadway calling and scurried from the hostess stand to the coat closet to return the call, on my pink Razr, naturally.
The man on the phone told me that he’d found my umbrella at the Actor’s Equity Building*. I asked if he was sure it was mine, because mine is pink. He said it was and that I should come right away to claim it. It was late, but I was so eager to please anyone involved with the theater union that I might have gone were I not stuck at work. I thanked him asked him to please leave it at the front desk.
As I hung up the phone and recovered from my disappointment that it wasn’t Bernie Telsey himself, a cold feeling washed over me; my umbrella was in my bag. Moreover, I’m not five, so none of my possessions have my contact information on them.
Acting teachers caution against putting an address on one’s resume. Casting directors constantly receive headshots and resumes. Some will end up in the trash, where a potential rapist/murderer/fake umbrella returner can use that information to find ladies whose pictures are conveniently stapled to the front. It’s unsettling.
The next day, I calmly went to the equity monitor guarding the desk and keeping the non-Equity actors out of the lounge. I explained what happened and that I wasn’t hurt or upset, but that I thought someone at Equity should know the story. He listened seriously. He took me straight in to see the president of the union.
The president of Equity is more Chris Christie than Great and Powerful Oz. As I sat in his office and calmly relayed what I’d told the monitor, he stared at his desk. When I finished, he asked me if one day I wanted to be in the union. I said I did. (I still do.) He told me I was a pretty girl and that this was New York. Things like this were going to happen. Case closed. I realized anything further I said would fall on deaf ears. I was a young girl, not to be taken seriously. The next time we spoke, I was waiting on those benches alone, wearing a low-cut dress for an audition. He made sure to comment on the dress, though he did not remember its wearer.
*The Actors Equity Association is the American union for stage actors. One can join by getting a union show. One can get a union show by getting into a union audition. At the Equity building, the front hall has narrow benches where non-Equiteers sit and wait, sometimes all day. The back part of the building has bathrooms and chairs, but you can’t go back there without a card, unless you are seen at an audition. Equity dues pay for these facilities, so that seems fair. The water fountain is available for all.