Saturday, September 23, 2006

money

I just read an article by Doug Rand in The Dramatist, a publication put out by the Dramatist Guild. i guess my dues have not expired quite yet. Anyway, the gist of the article is that in 1966 the royalties a high school or college or community group paid to produce a published play was about 50 dollars. Today, it's still the same amount. Or it could be as high as 60 or 75 but the point is that it should be more like 300 if we take inflation into account.

As someone who has a play being published who is just beginning to see a little bit of money from this playwriting thing, this is very upsetting to me. i mean I knew it was near impossible to make a living as a playwright but to have it spelled out so plainly (by the founder of Playscripts) is disheartening to say the least.

Basically it's telling me that the royalties i receive should be almost 6 times what they are. i don't know what that would do to an equity contract not to mention where these theatre companies would get this money. A lot of them expect you to work for free anyway. but Christ, after the summer i had, if i had been paid 300 dollars per performance, for my full lengths, I would have made 12,000 dollars. You know what I could do with 12,000 dollars? quit my job to start so i could write for real (for four months or so perhaps and just pray I dont need the health insurance) Christ. I will never make a living at this. time to write that screenplay.

4 comments:

Malachy Walsh said...

It's a bummer, isn't it? But you're a pretty fantasitc writer, so it'll work out. Faith, man, faith. (Except of course in money from playwriting.)

Freeman said...

You can't actually be...surprised by this? Can you? Don't they teach you anything at that school of yours?

I say this with love.

Mark said...

First, I completely agree that compensation for playwrights is of the highest important. The playwright has always been the highest paid person on all of the full-length productions we've done, usually by a considerable margin. I think that's true for most smaller theaters.

But there's less money for the arts now than there was in the Great Society days of 1966. Playwrights aren't the only ones hurting - we all are. There's no way Packawallop or Sanctuary would have been able to produce your plays if they were required to pay $300 a show. I'm all for the playwright getting paid well, but where is the money going to come from? And I wouldn't feel about a show where the playwright gets $4800 and the actors get Metrocards. We'd all like to be doing better financially, but the economics are against us.

There's a problem here, but it's not with producers getting rich off cheap playwright labor. It's with people who own theaters in Manhattan charging exorbitant rents because they can. And about the city not stepping in to regulate or subsidize those spaces. And about NY critics who won't cover theater unless it takes place between 4th and 57th streets in Manhattan--where real estate is the most expensive.

Adam said...

thanks, gentlemen. it is a real problem, Mark. That's true. Is it the lack of NEA funding or the fight for an audience who can't afford any more than 15 dollars. Is it because TV is free and is getting better (especially HBO). and I'm sure what you're saying about space prices is a huge factor.

Matt this isn't a surprise, but the actual numbers are kind of disheartening. Also I was told I was going to be rich and famous

Thanks Malachy. Hope your reading went well.