Lots of theatre folk are talking about this book, a meaty study on just what is going on with playwrights today. Written by a team headed by New Dramatists chief Todd London and published by Theatre Development Fund (TDF) it's called: Outrageous Fortune: The Life and Times of the New American Play.
Its thesis? "The relationship between playwrights and theaters is essentially broken."
That's the way TDF head Victoria Bailey bluntly put it to the Times, at least. A theme familiar to blog readers everywhere, but now it's in print!
I haven't gotten around to reading it myself yet, but hope to soon. Meanwhile, if you have, you might want to participate in the veritable reading group Isaac has formed at Parabasis to hash out every detail of the thing, chapter by chapter.
Meanwhile, more highlights from the Times summary:
Playwrights say artistic directors are obsessed with selling tickets in spite of their nonprofit missions and with pleasing board members by favoring world premieres or playwrights who are already admired by critics.“We heard from artistic directors who admitted that they’re all going after the same 10 playwrights to produce their work, which is largely about getting prestige in their field,” said Todd London.Maybe that helps explain this phenomenon.
According to the study, the average playwright earns $25,000 to $39,000 annually, with about 62 percent of playwrights making less than $40,000 and nearly a third pulling in less than $25,000.Hm. Don't those numbers seem optimistically high?
David Adjimi is chosen as a probably good example of a representative "successful" early-career playwright:
David Adjmi, an award-winning playwright whose drama “Stunning” was produced Off Broadway last summer by Lincoln Center Theater’s program for emerging writers, said he earned as much as $40,000 from his plays in some years and as little as $5,000 in others. Mr. Adjmi said he had never had health insurance and lived with his mother in Midwood, Brooklyn, for a time in his early 30s to save money. “I was unable to write plays for two and a half years because I was temping to pay my rent, and money that I did make from playwriting went to fill a bunch of cavities that I’d let build up,” Mr. Adjmi said.But then Oskar Eustis chimes in with some really disheartening "realism":
he said, playwrights need to understand that theaters have serious business concerns that limit their ability to favor playwrights over audiences. “There is always room for artistic risk taking and experimental theater, but if we’re going to have a theater that matters, we have to make theater that people want to see,” Mr. Eustis said. “If as a field we resent that criterion, we’ll doom the field to oblivion.”But if The freakin' Public can't afford to "favor playwrights over audiences" then who can??? Too big to fail, I guess.
Christ, can't someone at least get into the business of just putting on whatever they believe in without caring if anyone likes it? Anyone???