An actor/producer showed up with questions aimed primarily for guest dramaturg Alexis Williams, who works at Bret Adams, Ltd and ably fielded queries about writer contracts, royalties, and commissions.
I was delighted to talk with a producer working on a relatively small scale, and still so committed to paying his writers fairly, treating them well, and planning in advance how to do so. And I was glad to see that people are coming in order to meet the superb guest dramaturgs who have been donating their time.
Most of Alexis’s answers were specific to the questions being asked, although for anyone with questions about writer contracts, the Dramatists Guild is a good place to start (http://www.dramatistsguild.com/businessaffairs/). Or, reaching out to a staff member at a theater company that regularly produces new work.
One more widely relevant point that came up: in response to the producer’s questions about any general things to keep in mind as he is bringing a new work to the stage, we talked about keeping writers involved in all aspects of the production, even those over which their contracts don’t dictate approval.
Playwright/creator approval of cast, director, creative team is standard. But involving the writers/creators in other discussions can help build a trusting collaboration between them and producers. For example, it’s beneficial for all involved to invite the generative artists into marketing conversations at specific points. Aside from any great ideas that might arise about how to sell their work to the public, it’s an additional way to establish trust, open communication, and unity in the way the production is built/viewed/discussed. Good intentions aside, when these conversations don’t occur, surprises can disrupt the creators’ real work of just making the play and sharing it with an audience. I’ve heard about everything from unfortunate plot spoilers in the marketing language, to public access being granted to artistic rehearsal/process without artist awareness.
One of the best books I've ever read about collaboration, and about good communication in general, is Making Plays: The Writer-Director Relationship in the Theater Today by Richard Nelson and David Jones. It’s out of print, but if you can track down a used copy or one at a library, I’d highly recommend it. It speaks a lot to the vulnerability of the process, and how to navigate collaboration by finding ways to stay in great communication and aware of the many distinct but interlocked roles in the process.
Philadelphia didn’t have any open office hours this week.
Baltimore’s open office hours facilitator Catherine María Rodríguez opened a show this week, so her blogging time has been limited. But you can follow her live-tweeting of this past week’s session, along with the full Twitter conversation at http://sfy.co/rgxG.