Lisa Bertrand Brathwaite
We are thrilled to announce our partnership with Volunteer Theatre Actors' Association. A charitable organization, that was founded to advocate for the needs of non-equity, volunteer, and low-wage theatre actors; and to support the community theaters they perform in. Like their page on Facebook! check out their website and the great services and discounts they offer and read the interview below with the Founder Lisa Bertrand Brathwaite!
Q & A with Lisa Bertrand Brathwaite
BB: Tell us about your background as an actor..
LBB: I started in theater as a young child – taking every tap, dance, acting class I could. Broadway showcases, weekly agent meetings, castings, small appearances on shows, commercials, background work- you name it, I did it.
BB: What made you change your career path and end up starting anew in the acting realm and how did that inspire your website?
LBB: After high school I started to focus on academics, particularly law and human rights. After graduating from law school I worked in international human rights and education but something was always missing. My left brain was satisfied but my right brain yearned for more so I got back into acting mainly at the community theater level. As a non-equity/community theater actor I noticed that we were all working so hard for no pay or virtually no pay and it dawned on me that non-equity actors should have the same or similar protections, benefits, and perks as Equity actors and thus Volunteer Theatre Actors Association was born. We have been very fortunate to have gained the respect of many organizations deeply involved with Equity and non-Equity actors such as Theatre Development Fund (TDF) and Broadway Dance Center. In addition to working with non-equity actors, we also support community theaters.
BB: Tell us more about what Volunteer Theatre Actor's association aims to do
LBB: Specifically, we provide guidelines for non-equity theaters and actors to follow to ensure that non-equity productions meet minimum standards of care, safety, and respect. We also provide free and discounted access to continuing education, discounts on services, and on products for members to alleviate the costs of preparing for auditions, etc. We help our theater partners by publicizing events, providing mini-grants, and assisting them with production needs. For example we were able to locate a company willing to donate a 17 x 40 backdrop to one of our theater partners! A $500 savings for the theater! Acts like that make us feel good. We also helped a high school student who wanted to start his own theater company. As we like to say, “until there is Equity there is the VTAA.”
BB: how can people become a member
LBB: Joining is easy! It’s only a one time tax deductible donation of $9 to join. We keep membership costs low so that everyone can afford to join. The $9 goes to cover the costs of producing and mailing individual membership cards. Actors and theater staff should simply visit www.volunteertheatre.org and sign-up on the Support us page of the site. We may ask for information such as your bio/resume to ensure that those signing up are indeed actors or theater staff members.
BB: Do you have advice for those moving out of a more professional acting career into a more "volunteer" one in community theatre
LBB: Yes, your expertise is definitely needed on stage and behind-the-scenes. That said, we have some amazing talent on the community theater level so expect your experience to be just as rewarding and challenging. A little patience with the production process goes a long way.
BB: any advice for non-equity actors making a living as an actor
LBB: Know your worth even if your paycheck does not reflect your level of talent, dedication, and commitment.
BB: Any other words of wisdom or things you want to impart.
LBB: All actors and theater staff members are welcome. We have members as far away as England!