My Equity Card Story

I was living in Washington, D.C. and had just quit my day-job so that I could work on my acting career on a full time basis. D.C. is such a wonderful market for professional actors who aren't really interested in moving or living in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago. (So much so, that I wonder why I left!). There is a ton of Industrial (Corporate and Government) work (read: training films); professional Equity theaters abound and many movies and lots of television is also filmed in the area, of course. I was actually making a living as a professional actor. Maybe not one who would ever become famous (unless being a big fish in a "small pond" counts), but making a living; which is a pretty cool achievement for an Actor.

One fine day, whilst perusing the weekly auditions in our local Backstage - East edition (or was it the Washington Post--no matter); I came across a local notice for the casting of Understudy roles for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (in conjunction with the Kennedy Center and the Eisenhower Theater; they were producing one of my now very favorite plays; The Magic Fire). I prepared my monologue; went in (did what I thought was a pretty darn good audition) and voila! The ever-smart and wonderful Producer David Dreyfoos (now Associate Producer/Director of Production at Westport Country Playhouse) hired me.

I was understudying two of the Female roles and I couldn't have been happier. I made every rehearsal, memorized the entire play and was ready and it's a good thing; for one afternoon while sitting in the back of the house next to Producer David, (I was always at the show during the entire run), our Maddalena Guarneri character (portrayed most brilliantly by the ever amazing Eileen DeSandre), suddenly passed out on stage at the beginning of Act Two due to a bad food poisoning bug. Dreyfoos, who was sitting next to me; looked at me for a hot second and said, "Let's go!"….

And within 20 minutes, I was on stage, in full costume/wig and make-up portraying a 90+ year old Grandmother. I had one acquaintance in the house I found out later…I had to call my Husband, after the fact. But no matter…the accolades were heartening, I'd been on "the Boards" and was now in theater terms considered a “Professional Actor".

The best part: as I went to take my place just before the curtain rose; both the Stage Manager and Producer Dreyfoos told me I could take my script on with me. They both said it twice….I said, in no uncertain terms "I don't need it" and they trusted me with that and I went on. That very kind Stage Manager said after the curtain came down that day "Zoe; that was the best Understudy performance I've seen in 20 years…."

And if that doesn't tell you why I'm an Actor; nothing will and that is how I got my Equity Card.