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TBA Online: News & Features: September 2017

The Business of Show Biz: The Best Paying Nonunion Jobs

Tuesday, September 5, 2017   (1 Comments)
Posted by: TBA Staff
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by Velina Brown

Q: I’ve been weighing the pros and cons of whether to pursue joining Actor’s Equity Association [and] I need more information. What are the best paying jobs for nonunion actors and how does the pay compare to union jobs?

Actor and career consultant Velina Brown.

A: As a long-time AEA actor, I’m not as in touch with the current nonunion scene. So, I’ve asked around for you. What follows is not meant to be a comprehensive list but will give you an idea of what’s out there.  

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Let’s begin with the minimum salaries for the union contracts most commonly used in the Bay Area. They are the BAT, Guest Artist, TYA, LORT, and the Production Contracts—which are used for Broadway productions, bus and truck companies, and National tours such as the shows you see at the SHN Golden Gate Theatre and the Curran Theatre.



Bay Area Theatre (BAT) contract was specifically designed for the Bay Area and has five tiers plus an intro tier. The numbers represent minimum weekly salaries and are determined by the number of seats in the house and the budget of the theatre company. 

Intro        $233

Tier 1      $286

Tier 2      $387

Tier 3      $474

Tier 4      $580

Tier 5      $659

Guest Artist Contract is for companies that don’t have an ongoing union contract but want to hire a union actor:

Tier I       $324

Tier II      $433

Tier III     $552

Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) covers productions of plays created and performed for children. There are two forms of contract: the weekly contract and the per-performance contract.

Weekly    $489

Per performance

Tier I       $102

Tier II      $79

League of Resident Theaters (LORT) is the standard contract for regional theaters across the country. There are five tiers plus a tier for experimental productions.

A                      $963

B+                    $909

B                      $836

C                      $776

D                      $618

Experimental   $494

Production Contract covers Broadway, National, and International tours. Its minimum salary is $1861 per week.

Note that the above figures are the minimum salaries that have been agreed upon through collective bargaining between employers and the union. Individuals can negotiate for compensation above the minimum.

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The information for nonunion salaries is not as handily available because, unlike union salaries, their minimums are not public knowledge.

Beach Blanket Babylon has long been rumored to be perhaps the best-paying nonunion company in the Bay Area. When asked what the minimum pay is, the new BBB general manager, Darren Doutt replied, “Unfortunately, because of confidentiality terms, we are not able to provide that type of data.” The latest BBB audition notice states they offer, “a competitive salary and benefits package.” Since BBB offered no concrete numbers, it’s not clear whether they truly are the best paying nonunion company in the Bay Area but maybe…

Kaiser Permanente Educational Tours is the only other company I’m aware of that offers actors a salary and benefits package. Kaiser’s latest audition notice is more forthcoming, saying: “Pays: $961/wk. Mileage reimbursement, travel expenses, and full benefits (medical/dental/401k) provided.” Nice, considering LORT A minimum is just $2 a week more for what are generally much shorter contracts than Kaiser offers.

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Next are union companies that pay nonunion and union actors the same salary:

The San Francisco Mime Troupe operates under an LOA, or letter of agreement, contract and the motto: “the same pay for the same work.”

The Aurora Theatre actor Phoebe Moyer reminds us that, “Barbara Oliver when she founded the Aurora insisted that non-AEA actors would be paid the same as AEA actors.” Artistic associate/literary manager Josh Costello assures that this is still the case. BAT contract.

Stanford Repertory Theater, according to actor Courtney Walsh, “often pays the same net rate to union and nonunion. Great working conditions and production values too. And sometimes the shows travel abroad.” Guest Artist contract.

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Companies that don’t pay the same for union and non union actors but still have competitive pay:

Berkeley Repertory Theatre director of casting/artistic associate Amy Potozkin says, “We pay non-AEA actors who are hired in shows $800 per week. Unless they are put on AEA contract then it's a bit more.” However, Potozkin continues,  “Non-AEA understudies are volunteers, paid a stipend to learn the role and then they receive a per performance fee.” LORT

Shotgun Players artistic director, Patrick Dooley, shared, “We’ve been paying $2,500 to $3000 for 11 to 12 weeks for non-AEA [actors] We also pay into workers comp and payroll tax. We're on the BAT Tier 2 right now.”

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And finally, here’s a nonunion company striving to pay similar to a lower-tier BAT contract:

We Players managing director Lauren Hewitt explained,“We model AEA in that we negotiate weekly stipends. However there are no employee benefits. We negotiate Independent Contractors Agreements. We do cover all actors, crew, and designers with workers comp.  Typical stipends range from $200 - $300 a week.” 

This is not an exhaustive list but one guided by the leads gathered from my Facebook community when I posed your question. I hope this snap shot of the current situation is helpful. Readers with more information on the best paying nonunion acting jobs please share in the comments below.  

Velina Brown is an actor and career consultant. Send her your questions at


David Gluck says...
Posted Thursday, September 7, 2017
The Speakeasy pays non-AEA performers $220 to $375 per week for three performances and one rehearsal. Our contracts are 4-6 months guaranteed. Audition information is at