Talk about bubbling up from the blogosphere...
Here's an issue I first noted here back in March: the increasing rebellions by playwrights against theatres (like The Roundabout) who take more than their usual share of "subsidiary rights" to future productions of plays they premiere. Thanks to intrepid theatre critic/reporter Joy Goodwin, it's in today's Times.
Craig Lucas brought visibility to the issue at the time by withdrawing his play from the Roundabout and crossing the street to Playwrights Horizons--thus increasing his own share of subsidiaries from 60% at the former company to 90% at the latter.
When you think about it, you gotta ask: what percentage of plays premiered at NYC nonprofits really do go on to have prolific future lives. Not too many, unfortunately. Which probably increases the pressure to milk the most out of those that do. Which of course takes more out of the income of the single playwright for whom such success is even rarer.
No case brings the consequences of this factor home more than Lynn Nottage's. As Goodwin notes, Nottage's "Intimate Apparel" (as you may have noticed) seems to be done everywhere these days. Wow, what a windfall for her you'd think, right? Well, remember who "preemed" it:
Was it worth it in the long run, though, for the exposure the Roundabout provided?
[Nottage] was thrilled when the Roundabout produced her play “Intimate Apparel” to acclaim and awards in 2004; it became the most produced new play in the country for a few years.
“I thought that given the play’s popularity, I’d be able to live off it for a year or two,” Ms. Nottage said. But by the time the play reached New York, she had relinquished all but “about 30 percent” of her own royalties. At the time, she had to take other work to make ends meet.
Ms. Nottage said that she believed that the Roundabout’s production “brought people into the theater to see the play.” Yet to her a high-caliber New York premiere is only one part of the equation. “I got exposure, but a lot of plays get that same exposure, and they haven’t made the same journey that ‘Intimate Apparel’ has,” she said. “At the end of the day, it has to have something to do with the piece itself.”
Something to do with the play? Where'd ya get that idea!