Industry Pro Newsletter: UK Extends Tax Relief, Room Won't Come to Broadway

Cara Joy David Explores the Struggle of Mid-Career Playwrights

By: Mar. 20, 2023

While the UK grapples with unruly audiences (not an issue unique to the West End by any means), one critic makes the case that the way we are discussing unruly audiences doesn't have the best interest of the art form in mind - that it gives it a sense of snobbishness that doesn't invite more audiences in to enjoy a show. Also in the UK, some of the tax relief given to the sector during the pandemic has been extended, and Cara Joy David explores the challenges faced by mid-career playwrights.

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Industry Trends

Mid-Career Playwrights Struggle to Get Support in Youth-Focused Industry by Cara Joy David

Theater is often focused on the young. One would think this is only true on the stage--actors and appearance receive the bulk of attention. But behind-the-scenes it is that way too. With a few exceptions for established writers like Tom Stoppard, emerging writers are given way more attention than older ones.

"There is this system where exciting writers come out of writing programs and everyone wants to grab those writers and they are drowning in grants and commissions, but it is still not quite a living wage, so someone gets them a job in a [television] writer's room," said Theresa Rebeck. "Then, when they start writing plays again, or if you have playwrights who never stopped trying to build a body of work, there is no support for them."

This has been a problem for decades, but there simply hasn't been enough done to fix it. There are some applicable grants, but not many. One positive has come from New York's Signature Theatre. Signature currently has three residencies, two of which focus on mid-career playwrights. The Spotlight Residency, formerly known as Residency 1, which was the founding residency of the theater, starting in 1991 with Romulus Linney, is for more established playwrights. The Premiere Residency, previously known as Residency 5, guarantees each writer three productions of new plays over the course of a five-year residency. It launched in 2012 and is more geared to mid-career playwrights that are somewhat established but not household names. Current Premiere Residency writers include Samuel D. Hunter, Dave Malloy, Dominique Morisseau and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins.

"There are many opportunities for genuinely emerging writers," Paige Evans, Artistic Director of Signature Theatre, said. "Mid-career gets less sexy. They've been at it for a while--whether it is ten years or four plays or however you define mid-career. They've been working practicing their craft and their art for a number of years and they haven't hit a level of being really familiar more broadly and there's less funding and there are fewer production opportunities. So it's really important to support them."

Signature can't do it all however. Evans discussed losing playwrights to teaching or television as one of the unfortunate consequences of the community's failure to support mid-career playwrights. Women have perhaps suffered more mightily from this failure, as, as detailed in BroadwayWorld's prior series, establishing themselves at a young age was more difficult for them. The same is true for people of color.

But it's possible things will get better. Artistic Directors tell me they are paying more attention to having a diversity of ages in their season. Caridad Svich, a mid-career playwright herself, and the brand new Artistic Director of New Play Development at the Lucille Lortel, said it is one of the things she is looking out for. And we are soon to have a wider launch of a theater company dedicated to older playwrights, The Tent. Headed by Tim Sanford (former Artistic Director of Playwrights Horizons) and Aimee Hayes (former Producing Artistic Director at Southern Rep Theatre), The Tent's mission is nurture, support and produce the new works of older American Playwrights and cross-disciplinary theater makers. Playwrights involved include Kirsten Childs, Nilo Cruz, Eduardo Machado, Marsha Norman, Jose Rivera, Sarah Schulman and Doug Wright.

This support will do nothing but help the industry.

"If you look at Shakespeare's early plays, they are Shakespeare, but they are not that good," Rebeck laughed. "By the middle of his career he was writing KING LEAR, which is a masterpiece. My early stuff was mostly promise. Now I'm making promises I can keep."

Broadway/New York

Industry Pro Newsletter: UK Extends Tax Relief, Room Won't Come to Broadway

Lead Producer Withdraws, Room Suspended Indefinitely

The previously announced Broadway production of ROOM has been postponed indefinitely. Previews were supposed to start in a few weeks. A press release gave the reason: "Due to a shortfall in capitalization and following the withdrawal of a Lead Producer,". The show was initially slated to premiere at the James Earl Jones Theatre on Monday, April 17, 2023, with previews starting on April 3, 2023. Click here to read more...


Rebecca Bradshaw Named Artistic Director of Gloucester Stage

Following a nationwide search, the Gloucester Stage Board of Directors has announced Rebecca Bradshaw's appointment as the Company's new artistic director. Rebecca will collaborate with managing director Christopher Griffith and the GSC Board and staff to achieve common objectives that will strengthen the theater's dedication to presenting socially relevant and intellectually stimulating works through potent, uplifting, intriguing, and inspiring productions and performances. Click here to read more...


UK Extends Tax Relief for Creative Sector

The Chancellor's decision to keep rates of theatre and orchestra tax relief at their existing levels has been "unequivocally welcomed" by some elements of the sector, while others have called for a "complete reset of arts policy". In order to support the industry despite the effects of the pandemic and the cost-of-living issue, Jeremy Hunt indicated during the presentation of his budget that the higher rates of 45% and 50%, respectively, will be extended for an additional two years starting in April. Click here to read more...

Arifa Akbar for The Guardian: Unruly Audience Conversation Veers Towards Elitism

Writing for The Guardian, Arifa Akbar reminds readers to be cautious in conversations over unruly audiences - that theatre takes place in a collective space, and people need room to be themselves in these situations, and that recent debates have started to have tones of "class snobbery and cultural elitism that the industry is trying so hard to shake off." Click here to read more...

Missed our last few newsletters?

March 13, 2023 - Jujamcyn Ruling in Covid Suit, Easter Bonnet Competition Returns

Dance news, lawsuits, and J.J. Abrams is coming to the stage all featured in this week's newsletter, along with a surprisingly strong report on the state of the creative economy in California. If California is any indication, there is reason for hope even as the bounceback is slower in other parts of the country as we re-emerge from the pandemic. Click here to read more...

March 6, 2023 - Cherry Lane Acquired, Weissberg Commissions Announced

A few interesting items this week that continue to highlight the different ways that theatre and other forms of entertainment are intertwined - first, in Massachusetts a proposal for live production tax credits - a scheme commonplace with many states to woo the film industry, but not overly common in the world of theatre. The Massachusetts program is designed after those seen in New York state and Rhode Island. Also, A24 is entering the live theatre realm - the revered production and distribution company has acquired the Cherry Lane Theater. We've long seen media companies make their way toward Broadway, but A24 entering the off-Broadway space comes after Audible successfully did so a few seasons ago. Click here to read more...

February 27, 2023 - Antisemitic Protests at Parade, New AEA Report on EDI

The growing threat of antisemitism in our culture spilled onto Broadway last week as a group of neo-Nazi's protested outside preview performances of Parade. Cara Joy David dives into that, not only looking at the protests themselves, but how it fits into the wider cultural conversation and what each of us should be doing in our day to day lives to further combat this alarming growth of antisemitism. Beyond that, some good news from governmental budgeting processes - as Wisconsin's governor has proposed an increase in arts funding, and the Scottish government reversed their planned cuts to arts funding. At this critical cultural juncture, seeing those in positions of power recognize the importance of the arts is an important step to protecting the industry as a whole. Click here to read more...

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