Michael Wiles joined the Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) in 2000, after he had moved to San Francisco to be an actor in 1999. He earned a BFA from the Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle in 1997. After Wiles began working full-time as an actor in Shakespearian plays and eventually musicals, Wiles joined the AEA because he wanted to be a part of an organization that had been protecting the art of live theater. The AEA represents the rights of working actors and other performance professionals in the United States, negotiating contracts and fighting to better career opportunities and wages for all performance professionals in the country.
The AEA was founded in 1913 when actors had to fight each other for parts, faced discrimination, exorbitant work expenses, and even abuse by some directors and theater owners. 112 actors were the first members of the AEA. They met in the Pabst Grand Circle Hotel in New York City on May 26th, and the battle for actors’ rights and interests began. By 1915, the AEA’s numbers had grown prodigiously, and the organization started publishing its own newsletter to inform its many members across the performance industry in a rapidly widening area and help rally support for its many causes. Michael Wiles knew he could rely on this organization to represent his professional interests in an industry that has long been noted for its unforgiving nature.
Today, the AEA continues to represent its members’ interests, now on a national scale. With over 50,000 members across the United States, the AEA has the clout to affect wages and actors’ rights legislation in many places. Michael Wiles and other performance professionals like him have come to rely on the AEA for protection and connections that make all the difference in an acting or directing career.