Showing posts from January 20, 2008

Back Monday

I am off to Los Angeles to meet with some theatre people who are trying an experiment connected to what we have been discussing. I will describe this when I get back Monday.

Until then, for all of you who are finding yourselves thinking about theatre from a new perspective. remember that there will be people who will seek to prevent you from taking your journey. They will say what you are thinking about is foolish, or that things can never change, or that things have been the same since the beginning, or that what you desire is not worth having. In the typical hero's journey, these are called Threshold Guardians, and they exist to make sure that you want to take your journey badly enough to overcome them. Keep thinking, and keep dreaming.

See you Monday.

Actors Equity

I am doing a little research at Actors Equity this afternoon. In reading through this year's report, I came across this:

Chart 13 graphically depicts the growth in earnings over the past ten years. As you can see, there was an obvious lull in earnings growth between 1999 and 2002, brought about in part by both industry events and the economic impact of the 9-11 attack, but save for those three years, there has been steady and sometimes considerable growth from year to year, and over these ten years, earnings have increased by an impressive 34.5%.
The figures for the 1997-98 season were about $236,300,ooo; the figures for 2007 were $317, 824,000. Increase the first number by 34.5% and you get the second number. And everybody feels good, right? Of course, if you plug the numbers into the Inflation Calculator, a little bit different story emerges. That $236M figure from 1997 represents $294M in today's economy. Suddenly, the "impressive" 34.5% increase is a wee bit less i…

On Money and Choice

So what am I getting at in the previous post about one portion of the cost of living index (housing and utilities) for various cities? Obviously, there are ways around the rent crunch: live with someone else and split costs -- a roommate, a spouse, a significant other; live in housing that is less expensive than average; reduce expenses in other parts of your budget, such as auto expenses; live in a less expensive area outside of the city and commute. So there are ways to reduce the effects of high housing costs.

That said, it just is more expensive to survive in some cities over others. Nothing earth-shaking about that idea, I'll admit. Except when you start thinking in terms not of survival, but artistic options. For instance, if you live in Los Angeles, where 64% of the average net salary goes for housing, even if you split the rent with someone else you are still paying 32% of your take-home pay each month for housing -- and that's if you make the average salary. If the co…

Cost of Living Number Crunching

I have spent a few hours crunching some numbers concerning cost of living in a variety of cities in the US. My focus was specifically on housing costs as a percentage of income. In response to a guy named Michael who was wondering what percentage of his paycheck he should budget for housing. responded:

It's generally accepted that 30 to 35% is about right for housing expenses. That would include rent, plus utilities, any maintenance and decorating.Some would argue that Michael could spend up to 40% for housing. The trouble with that is Michael has a limited amount of money. His paycheck needs to cover housing, automobile (or transportation), food, insurance, entertainment, clothing, medical/dental, miscellaneous and debt repayment. So an increase in housing expense means a decrease somewhere else.Michael didn't share what his income is. So we'll have to keep this somewhat general. But, we'll still be able to illustrate the point.The three biggest ex…

Question: Personal Income

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the "average wage per job" in the "New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island" area in 2006 was $60,544. Chicago was $48,420. San Francisco: $61, 031. Boston: $59,095. I'm curious about how representative those figures are for those of you who are working day jobs to support your theatre career. I don't want to know how much you make, but if you would tell me (and feel free to use the Anonymous comment option for this):

1. What city you are in.
2. Whether you are making: Way Less, Somewhat Less, About That Much, a Little More, or a Lot More.

Again, I'm trying to crunch some numbers, so I appreciate your assistance.

Exile! Exile!!!

So I'm reading the latest American Theatre (January 2008) -- you know, American Theatre the magazine published by the Theatre Communications Group, whose mission is to "strengthen, nurture and promote the professional not-for-profit American theatre" through its "400 theatre members in 47 states." The TCG, who is devoted to representing the regional theatre movement. That TCG. And I'm reading the cover article by Carol Rocamora called "Albee Sizes Up the Dark Vast," about Albee's 80th birthday and all the productions that are scheduled to open. Rocamora, whose bio says she "translated Chekhov's complete dramatic works," precedes her interview of Albee with a thumbnail of his career. She writes:

Albee earned his second Pulitzer for Seascape in 1975, but after the critical failure of The Lady from Dubuque in 1980, he descended into what [Mel] Gussow called (with considerable understatement) a "down period" t…

Cf. MFA Discussion

Interesting to read this in light of our discussion of MFA programs. Reboot!

Just Curious...

I'm just curious: just how is it that this business model is seen as something that theatre people should aspire to? How is it deserving of defense? How is it that our reaction isn't outrage and a demand that something change? I read this and I shake my head. Time to reboot.


In the spring 1999, four guys on the margins of the internet business community posted 95 theses to their blog (just in case you thought George Hunka invented that particular idea). It was called the ClueTrain Manifesto, and it called on American business to get with the internet program and recognize that the internet wasn't just a smaller version of TV (i.e., a medium for delivering one-way messages), but something based on conversation, discourse, give-and-take. Some mainstream business leaders huffed and puffed about the brash and dismissive style of the authors, but many of those tuned into change, such as Tom Peters and Peter Drummond, hailed the authors as providing a map for the 21st century business. Seth Godin, author of The Dip, Purple Cow, and Small is the New Big, wrote, "If you don't think you need this book to better understand your market, that's your second mistake." [I'm still trying to figure out the first mistake...maybe I missed something…

Denver Center new plays: Great, But Come On!

Mirror Up to Nature points us to an article in the Denver Post about the Denver Theatre Center's decision to commit to the production of three new American plays, a decision which I applaud enthusiastically and wholeheartedly.


I could really use some explanation about why such a commitment -- a commitment to three plays, mind you, not something like a whole season -- is being portrayed as so financially risky as to be characterized as"knee-wobbling." Yes, knee-wobbling. The article makes it sound like the production of new plays is some heroic undertaking, as if doing new plays wasn't the norm until regional theatres got so wussy about it. The article explains
That risk — both financial and artistic — is the main reason more companies don't, or can't, follow the DCTC's lead. The artistic risk is three-fold: No matter the writer, just paying for a script to be written doesn't mean it will be worthy of being staged one day. So, many get written …