Theatre Bay Area Chatterbox

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

OF: 4

Economics of playwriting:
A study of professional playwriting at top of field.
Financially, playwriting is a losing proposition. The economics of playwriting are impossible. 62% earn under $40K. Playwrights make half or more of their living through day jobs, non-theatre related stuff.
[Again, most all of this is in book.]
3% of income comes from royalties, which is at the heart of how we pay playwrights. Playwrights lose money on production. Average playwright in study is 35-45 years old (they aren't youthful bohemians).
Commissions: A mixed bag. Getting money is good, but some playwrights feel theatres give commissions so they "don't have to produce you". Plays take 6 months to 2 years to write, so commissions don't buy much time. Playwrights prefer commitment over commission. Grants are a better deal--they are usually "free money". They account of 13% of playwright's income, and are larger than commissions.

Gender: Income of those at same career stage is the same, the average career stage as self-described for men is higher than women, so men average more income. Things that indicate career growth are things that women aren't getting.

Race: Size of response was too small. Playwrights report getting same number of productions, get same average income, and they don't self-identify as in a lower career stage. So this seems to all look good. But response rate to study is so low that these numbers are skewed. [This is really outlined in the book; I suggest referring to the book.] There's a lack of diversity in the theatres themselves. "Theatres are often unaware of their own racism"--a playwright

Other: There is a career track for playwrights and it runs through 7 MFA programs. Playwrights from these schools have better access to field. It's time to retire the term "emerging playwright". Mid-career is crisis time for playwrights. They leave the field, or work on TV, in a time when they could be writing their best work. Some playwrights TV writing as lucrative, artistically fulfilling and powerful. Plays are rarely produced by theatres that develop them.



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