Emily C. Rolston
Residence: Mt. Vernon, NY
Contracts Worked: SPT, TYA, LOA-LORT, LORT (non-rep), NEAT, Cabaret, Off-Broadway, Mini, Guest Artist, NYC Showcase
“How many jobs do you have right now?”
That’s the question most often asked of me. Last winter, for a month, my answer was five. Three of them were shows – one under contract, and two codes. This winter? Three jobs. It’s even worse when I’m working out of town: I’ve traveled home on my days off (or early mornings on one-performance days) from four different states to work at my supplementary jobs when Equity contracts weren’t cutting it. Although I’ve earned a reputation for keeping a crazy schedule, I don’t actually love working myself to the bone – our contracts simply don’t pay enough to do otherwise. Our industry can be feast or famine, so I do my best to balance the lean times, using my stage management scheduling skills to tetris together my living.
Unfortunately, I am not an anomaly in our association. Members of a labor union working under a union contract shouldn’t need five simultaneous jobs to make ends meet, at any contract level.
Stage managers and actors need councilors who are ready and willing to stand up for our working members’ bottom lines. We need to grant fewer concessions, achieve higher salaries, and add more required contracts in our ratio agreements. We need Equity ASMs on every contract, and no, Actor/ASMs are not adequate – actors have a full-time job already, and so should assistant stage managers. We deserve people on council who don’t accept “that’s what we’ve always allowed” as a reason for our substandard working conditions to continue. I will use the same indefatigable energy that keeps me working through five jobs to bring that voice to council.
I was born in the Bronx, and raised in Mt Vernon, NY, where I still live when not traveling on contracts.
I’m a member of AEA’s Stage Managers, Developing Theater, and Off-Broadway committees. I am an observer to the TYA, LORT, Member Ed, Off-Off-Broadway, Cabaret, Guest Artist and Deputy committees.
I got my AEA Card in January of 2013, at the White Plains Performing Arts Center as an ASM on The Color Purple. I had previously worked with them as PSM for their educational production of The Laramie Project and PSM for their non-union production of The Who’s Tommy.
Unlike a lot of of my FWOC candidate colleagues, I don’t have any kids. I’m a doting aunt, and I’ve often made ends meet by babysitting, and that is plenty for me.
Equity is important to me for a lot of reasons, but what I’ve always appreciated first and foremost is the access to benefits. Knowing there would be a way to get health insurance as a freelancer pre-healthcare market made it possible for me to pursue stage management professionally. I have a chronic illness, which I was diagnosed with in college and which is managed easily – when I’m insured. Having come of age right as Obamacare was first being discussed, the threat of not having health insurance after finishing school was very, very real to me – I was considering doing something else if I couldn’t figure out how to get coverage. I got a slight reprieve with the extension for adult kids to 26 (the laws changing this went into effect when I was in college), but I knew I needed a plan if I wanted a career in our industry. I set a goal to join the union by the time I was 25, so I could qualify for health coverage in time to get dropped from my parents’ plan when I turned 26, and I was able to meet that goal. I’ve maintained consistent coverage since, though some years have been a scramble to get that last week. This journey has made it so I know the ins and outs of our system very well. While our system isn’t perfect, it’s what allows me to keep doing this job.
I also am not so far removed from my non-eq ASM days that I’ve forgotten the ways that our rules about working hours and conditions truly impact us – I appreciate them the most during tech.
Fun facts about me: I’ve been to 24/30 MLB stadiums, visited 42/50 states (worked in 7, toured to 28), and worked on 12 of Shakespeare’s debatable number of plays at least once.
Each plank in the #FairWageOnCouncil platform has a page of its own where you can read about it in greater detail. Just click on the text of the planks your are interested in learning more about.