Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sarah Ruhl, Playwright and my new hero (or is it heroine?)

Check out what Sarah Ruhl says on American Theater's website:

What the next 25 years might bring in theatre:

Either: Our government will start more and more to imitate Scandinavia, and everyone, including artists, will have health care. There will be a new government agency for the arts, granting us months and years to finish projects, simultaneously revitalizing our theatre and our economy.

Or: The government won't imitate Scandinavia, and so, in response, the Dramatists Guild will become an incredible force for change, replacing the United Auto Workers in its pull, determination and tactical brilliance. We will do away with subsidiary rights participation, so that playwrights will only give back their own earnings to a theatre when they earn as much per year as their artistic directors; then, and only then, will writers give tax-deductible donations to the not-for-profit theatres that produce them, out of gratitude and choice (rather than giving away 40 percent of their New York income by fiat). We will convince theatres who produce our work to provide us with health care for two seasons. Playwrights and dramaturgs working at the same theatre will have health insurance; directors and managing directors will have the same health insurance.

I think a lot of people, in the theater and outside the theater world, forget that playwrights don't make much (any) money. They are not on staff, have no salary, and in fact, make much, much less than Joe the Plumber. Unlike theaters, they have no budget. They spend far too much on photocopies and printing out scripts and postage (not to mention the hours and hours of labor creating their imaginary worlds).

In general, if you are audience member watching a professional production at a major regional theater of a new play, those actors make more money then the playwright.

In fact, I'd wager that the person who sold you the ticket at the Box Office is making more money than the playwright. And they probably have health insurance. Although, they might not.

And yet, the playwright is the reason all of these people have jobs...

Is it me, or is something out of whack here...?

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