Drama Club Elections

February 7, 2024

The world of American theater is highly diverse. Broadway shows often take the spotlight, but there are thousands of community theaters and drama clubs across the United States, and each local club has its own rules and membership requirements. 

At the national level, there are large unions, such as the Actors Equity Association (AEA), Stage Directors and Choreography Society (SDC), and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). These organizations elect their governance by holding entertainment union voting during annual elections. There is also the American Association of Community Theater (AACT)–while not a union, the AACT greatly influences how community theaters nationwide operate. 

AEA’s Role in American Theater and Governance

The AEA is the largest union for theater and live production professionals in the US. It boasts a membership of more than 50,000 members nationally. The AEA represents major theater productions both on and off Broadway, along with major touring productions. It is well-known by anyone in the business, and is a force to be reckoned with. 

However, theatergoers often have no idea that the play they are watching is being performed by union-contracted actors. Behind the scenes, the AEA negotiates contracts for wages, health and safety conditions, rehearsal schedules, and many key aspects of theater production. This helps ensure that actors receive fair pay and can support themselves while at home and on tour. 

The governance of the AEA is much like other manufacturing union leadership roles and unions covering the entertainment industry, such as the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA). Elections are held both nationally and regionally for roles such as president, secretary, treasurer, and other board members. 

During elections, members may vote for a candidate or campaign for a position themselves. These elections guarantee a fair and democratic governance model free from outside interference.

SDC and IATSE, Voices Behind the Curtain

Anyone not acting on stage is often covered by these two unions. Roles such as director, choreographer, set director, and prop and lighting managers all count themselves as members. The reason for the distinction between these unions is because of their differing priorities and potential conflicts of interest. 

Directors often work the most, due to their management of both actors and the behind-the-scenes crews. Similarly, the backstage workers often have differing schedules from those of the actors. Despite their overlaps, having separate unions ensures equal representation for everyone involved. 

Like the AEA, both the SDC and IATSE hold national and regional elections regularly. Their governance structure is also similar, with a board of directors overseeing the administration of the union and advocating on behalf of its members. The board sets rules that are comparable to musician’s union rules and those of other entertainment unions.

AACT, Organizing the Unpaid

Community theater organizations often operate locally and simply for the love of the art, rather than for monetary gain. Still, there is a need for an organization to help distribute materials, advocate, and set standards for how community theaters operate. The AACT is a national non-profit organization. More than 7,000 community theaters across America count themselves as members of the AACT. 

The AACT holds several national events annually, such as AACTFest, an annual gathering of community theater groups where groups can perform. It also organizes festivals supporting new plays written by up-and-coming playwrights. 

The governance structure of the AACT resembles that of other non-profit organizations. Just like unions though, elections are held regularly for board seats at both the national and regional levels. 

Moving Association Elections Online

Increasingly, unions and organizations are seeking online solutions for their voting needs. Platforms such as ElectionBuddy offer secure and easy-to-use online portals that handle every aspect of voting, from candidate selection to announcing results. With the simplicity of online elections becoming a regular feature of association elections, members across the country have more access than ever to the democratic process!

Join 11,984+ organizations like yours that use ElectionBuddy to build more easy online elections

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