Celebrating 50 Years of URTA Stories

by Stage Directions
Share your URTA story on social media with the hashtag #myurtastory
Share your URTA story on social media with the hashtag #myurtastory

In 2019, URTA celebrates its 50th anniversary. Tony Hagopian, URTA Executive Director recently reflected back on the 50 years of URTA and encourages people to tell their URTA story using the hashtag #myurtastory on social media or you can e-mail your URTA story directly to them for sharing.

“The longevity alone is impressive and reason enough for us to be proud, but when one begins to reflect on the number of lives URTA has touched over those years—in so many different ways—it’s really staggering,” says Hagopian. “To me, those 50 years represent many thousands of individual URTA stories.”

Anyone who has pursued MFA theatre training in the last half century has more than likely passed through The URTAs (the URTA Auditions & Interviews) which have become an iconic part of the American theatre landscape. URTA member universities have graduated more working artists, in every discipline, than you could ever list in one place. But there are so many other ways in which URTA has been involved in our theatre lives as well.

The AEA-URTA Agreement, originally negotiated more than 30 years ago, has employed thousands of actors and stage managers, and provided students the experience of working alongside professionals, and building their path to a career. It has allowed professional faculty to serve as performer-teachers. And let’s not forget the audiences who have been able to experience works which may not have been produced (or produced on a professional level) without URTA. It’s also led the way to special agreements between URTA and other artists’ unions.

URTA’s Artist Engagement Service has touched even more people’s lives—not just actors and stage managers but directors, designers, assistants, crews, and administrative staff. In 2018, a record number of artists were employed through this service, in more than 200 productions, totaling more than $2M in artist earnings. Much of this employment would not have been possible without the unique role played by URTA.

“New initiatives, including our Career Outreach program, Undergrad Preview, and URTA Retirement Umbrella have expanded even further the number of students, instructors, and professional artists touched by URTA,” Hagopian comments.

“Personally, I have several URTA stories,” continues Hagopian. “My initiation into the theatre world came as a youngster performing in plays at PCPA in California, one of the largest producers operating under the AEA-URTA Agreement. It was an experience which shaped my life, and eventually gave me my first professional acting credit. After college, I did the URTAs and was accepted into an URTA program (Temple University), which changed my life the way in which only an MFA theatre program can. Over the course of my career I worked at URTA Partner Theatres including PlayMakers Rep at UNC Chapel Hill, and Kansas City Rep (Missouri Repertory, at the time) at UMKC. By the time I found myself working for URTA itself, I already counted many of the faculty recruiters as my colleagues, who I’d worked with at various theaters over the years.”

Nearly every day Hagopian meets someone who has their own, unique URTA story. “The Artistic Director with an MFA from an URTA school. The newly minted MFA designer, travelling to New York for the first time to participate in Design Showcase East. The instructor from a non-member school contacting us to request a seminar or workshop for their students, and the list goes on.”

What’s your URTA story? They’re starting the celebration now, and to mark this anniversary, URTA wants to hear from you. Whether you’re a faculty or alum of one of our member universities, an actor qualifying for health weeks via URTA’s AES, a recruiter at the Satellite Auditions, or an assistant designer, working on a union contract thanks to the specially developed URTA-LORT Agreement, you’ve got your own URTA story. Please share it—as short or long as you like—using the hashtag #myurtastory. Not on social media? That’s ok. Email your story to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and they’ll share it for you.

Here’s to another 50 years.

Further information from URTA: http://urta.com/