The 2013-2014 Actors Equity Association "Theatrical Season Report: An Analysis of Employment, Earnings, Membership & Finance" lists 42,405 members of Actors Equity in good standing during the 2013-2014 season. The average weekly totals indicate that 5,629 members were working during any given week. The percentage of members employed in any given week was 13.3%. The average accumulation of weeks worked during a season was 16.7.
18 of these 42,405 members earned over $200,000. 9% earned more than $50,000. A third earned between $5,000-$15,000; another third earned less than $5,000. That means that TWO-THIRDS of AEA members are earning below $15,000 a year. $15,730 is the poverty limit for a two-person household. That leaves 2/3 of a major artistic union organization’s members with an income from their professional union that is below the poverty level.
At any given time over half of the union's members are unemployed. Obviously most union members work in a variety of fields, are self-generators, teaching artists, writers and a dozen other things. But how do we sustain this increasingly-demanding lifestyle? As artists, we take classes to improve craft constantly, but that is only one piece of the puzzle. How do we maintain the physical health we need for a rigorous schedule and for the demands placed on our voice and body? How do we continue to be assertive, articulate and positive in the face of constant rejection, disappointment and vulnerability? How do we become generators and regain the ownership over our lives and careers?
How do we become the authors of our own story?
Check-In strives to address the needs of the whole artist- the artist who is doing eight shows a week and the artist who hasn't landed a job in months. It also is a means for any individual to cultivate a healthy physical, emotional and spiritual lifestyle while enriching her creative life.
Check-In focuses a portion of every session on the body, the mind, and the spirit. Each class is broken down into the following: Vinyasa yoga, based in Iyengar practices rooted in alignment and breath which fosters a healthy nervous system and overall body; Linklater Voicework which frees the natural voice and cultivates a deeper connection to text and self; and finally, to a creative endeavor - anything from singing to writing, acting to sound and movement pieces - which challenges the individual in risk-taking, resourcefulness, and idea-generating.
A variety of other long-standing practices will facilitate the work, including: Thai bodywork, a method of healing and release for the body, Yin Yoga, a form of Yoga in which poses are held for significant periods of time to release the muscle from the bone and Restorative Yoga, a completely passive yoga practice meant to "restore" the body to its natural functioning.
The full curriculum unfolds over the course of a year, but shorter introductory workshops expose new students to a sampling of the unique collage of physical, emotional, creative, and practical work.
"Check-In" is a term popularly used in theatre classes at the top of each class. Students articulate how they feel at the start of a class - sharing these feelings, thoughts, and truths is a way of helping them leave their baggage at the door and be more present.
The whole world entices us to check out - to alienate from our selves, to be absent, to be disconnected. How do we reharness that sense of connection, of groundedness, of self, to bring our most authentic selves to a world that desperately needs it?