Nothing for the Group is a weekly newsletter about the American theatre, written by DC-based dramaturg and writer Lauren Halvorsen.
Every Friday, I compile a round-up of industry news, reviews, links, along with my commentary. (I’m a little salty but never mean.) I’m interested in exploring the power structures and dynamics that create and perpetuate inequity in the industry, and dissecting how institutions frame their public narratives.
In October 2021, I started offering occasional premium content for paid subscribers, including in-depth season planning analysis and forthcoming essays exploring intersections between theatre and pop culture.
The in-person and digital theatre listings are curated and not meant to be comprehensive, but I am always eager to hear about events around the country, especially projects by marginalized artists, innovative digital theatre, and work developed outside of the traditional LORT new play machinery. You can email me press releases and information here.
This newsletter doesn’t cover training programs, community theatre, or college productions, but supports your weird experimental university theater projects in its heart.
It’s become a bit of a running joke, but a friendly reminder: I’m not a journalist. I’m not trained or qualified to investigate workplace abuses or sexual harassment, but I can try to connect you with reporters and resources in your area.
Bills, Bills, Bills
In June 2022, Nothing for the Group launched Bills, Bills, Bills, a monthly series of anonymous money diaries from theatre workers curated and edited by Jenna Clark Embrey. The first installment was prominently featured in The New York Times’ coverage on pay equity and salary transparency.
January: A freelance director in NYC
February: A theatre critic turned film studio assistant in LA
March: A multi-hyphenate theater person on the mid-Atlantic coast
April: Two playwrights (Midwest and NYC)
May: An MFA candidate in dramaturgy
June: A costume shop worker in the Midwest
July: Two East Coast designers (and parents) working out of town
August: A PhD Theatre Studies student in the Midwest
September: An agent’s assistant in NYC
October: A theatre administrator in the Midwest
November: An American actor in London
December: A marketing & PR director in the eastern US
The Methodology of That’s Not a Living Wage
In July 2021, I started posting weekly job listings paired with the living wage for a 40-hour work week for one adult with no children in that area. In February 2022, I started augmenting these listings with the most recent available 990 data to contextualize a theatre’s overall finances and executive compensation.
There’s no universal framework for calculating living wages. I use the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator. The calculator is based on 2020 data, but I used my own salary history as a reference and felt it reflected my lived experience best. (I’m single with no kids or debt living in DC, and was constantly stressed about money until I was making about $47K, after which I was only mildly stressed.)
I do not deduct healthcare expenses from the EPI’s calculations. While the majority of theatres cover insurance premiums for full-time employees, not all companies cover the full cost of deductibles. There are still co-pays, out-of-pocket costs, prescription tiers, the astronomical price of giving birth — all the usual scams of the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. (Let’s be real: “dental insurance” is a misnomer; it’s a 10% discount card at best.)
I don’t have access to individual theatres’ insurance policies, so these are naturally imperfect calculations. I hope employers are thoughtful about the true value of their healthcare plans when they’re setting salaries, and I hope this encourages prospective employees to scrutinize benefits packages before accepting positions.
Some of the discrepancies may not seem egregious, but it’s important to highlight that by using wage estimates for a single, childless individual that these positions are clearly built for a specific kind of applicant, making them less accessible to working parents/caregivers, folks with significant student loan debt, etc.