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bills, bills, bills: call for contributors!
Jenna and I are recruiting more contributors for the next several months of Bills, Bills, Bills! You know the drill: we’re looking for theatre workers interested in anonymously sharing their monthly budgets and writing a seven-day diary tracking how they spend their money. We are specifically interested in diaries from:
Theatre workers over age 40
Americans living and working abroad
Americans residing in the South, Mountain West, Southwest, or Pacific Northwest
People with annual incomes over $70,000
Actors, directors, designers, playwrights, dramaturgs, and stage managers currently in a rehearsal/production process
Production managers, technical directors, props designers, scene shop/lighting/sound/costume staffers, etc.
Single people (i.e. anyone who doesn't have a partner contributing to their expenses)
An artistic director
To read our previous columns to get a sense of the style, the full archive is available here. Other relevant information:
Selected participants will receive a $50 honorarium.
All diaries will be edited for clarity and anonymity and any identifying personal details will be obscured. Contributors will have the opportunity to review their edited diary before publication.
We request that all contributors are transparent regarding their income, rent/mortgage status, student loan status, and current assets/debt.
If you’d like to be considered, please fill out this form. Selected participants will be notified and receive additional details by email.
this week in distressing financial news
In this month’s Season Planning Futures, I wrote about how theatres are currently recalculating their definitions of sustainability. Three years after the start of the industry shutdown, companies are struggling with half-empty houses, burnt-out staffs, and mounting financial crises. (A friend of mine recently said, on the state of the field's finances: "The question isn't 'Does your theatre have a deficit?' but rather 'How big is the deficit?'") This week, the next wave of post-reopening reckonings arrived:
Oregon Shakespeare Festival launched “The Show Must Go On: Save Our Season, Save OSF”, a $2.5 million emergency fundraising campaign. The company is raising money to prevent layoffs and complete the 2023 season, which “currently has a funding gap between May and July of this year.” OSF has also suspended its 2024 season planning. The board has assumed administrative responsibilities for the festival, which had been tasked to artistic director Nataki Garrett after the departure of managing director David Schmitz in January.
A current employee told Oregon Live that OSF is also grappling with extensive accounting issues:
According to an Oregon Shakespeare Festival employee who attended [the internal staff meeting], and who asked not to be named because they are not authorized to speak for the festival, the organization’s leaders said they need to correct more than 15,000 incorrect entries in its financial ledger, the result of antiquated systems that were not properly maintained. The leaders told employees they’re still trying to precisely determine cash flow numbers, bills owed and overall expenses of the organization. According to the employee, leaders also said the festival is leaving some bills unpaid to cover expenses.
Dallas Theater Center announced layoffs as a cost-cutting measure in response to sluggish post-reopening attendance. Staff members learned of the cuts on Monday, which will take effect in May.
Speaking from experience: eliminating someone’s position and then expecting them to keep working for a few weeks is a miserable situation. In a just world, a union would negotiate the details of your layoff and severance, but these are non-profits, babe. All you can hope for is a bit of humanity: pay people for as long as you can, let them quickly wrap up their work, then allow them to do whatever they want with the remaining time. (I guarantee you those employees — whether they work in development or production or marketing or artistic — have clocked more than enough unpaid hours to deserve that grace.)
I had a month’s notice before my layoff took effect, but I also had six weeks of accrued sick leave that the theatre was not legally required to pay out upon my exit — thanks DC!! — so I cashed in fifteen days and redistributed the rest to co-workers. Instead of shambling through a depressing ghost version of a job I loved, I cried a lot and watched mid-90s action movies and my soon-to-be-former-boss’s perfect children brought ice cream to my house. A much better use of my time!
My general advice to theatre workers who get laid off is to not feel sorry for the institution. Be kind in your final days/weeks, but take care of yourself and remember that you don’t owe them anything extra. (Exception to the rule: if you find yourself in a Victory Gardens situation, please publicly drag your theatre to hell.) Leave with as much money as possible — severance pay is a practically non-existent concept in this industry (unless you’re a toxic artistic director!), but ask relentlessly about your vacation time, sick leave, reimbursements, etc. and review your separation agreement and employee handbook with a fine-tooth comb to make sure the theatre is following its own policies and state laws with regards to exit compensation.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s 2023 repertory season begins April 18th with RENT and Romeo and Juliet. Tiffany Nichole Greene directs Jonathan Larson’s Pulitzer-winning musical, while artistic director Nataki Garrett directs her first Shakespeare production at OSF.
Hansol Jung’s modern verse translation of Romeo and Juliet is now playing at New Jersey’s Two River Theater. Jung and Dustin Wills co-direct the world premiere, which features an all-Asian American cast and original music by Brian Quijada.
Kander and Ebb’s The World Goes 'Round starts performances April 19th at Olney Theatre Center. The three-way co-production with ArtsCentric and Everyman Theatre of the revised musical revue is directed by Kevin S. McAllister.
Jared Mezzocchi and Sarah Gancher’s Untitled Red Hook History Project will have a workshop reading on April 19th with EnGarde Arts and The Vinyeard. The site-specific multimedia piece about deep time is inspired by the history of the Red Hook watering hole and music venue Sunny’s.
Sharyn Rothstein’s Bad Books and Zakiyyah Alexander’s How to Raise a Freeman will receive free developmental readings April 20-23 as part of Round House Theatre’s National Capital New Play Festival. Ryan Rilette directs Rothstein’s “poignant and hilarious exploration of what it truly means to care for our children”, while Alexander will present her “dark comedy about the drama of living while Black—in America.”
The world premiere of Erika Dickerson-Despenza’s shadow/land starts previews April 20th at the Public Theater. Candis C. Jones directs the “lyrical meditation on legacy, erotic fugitivity, and self-determination”, which also is the first installment of the playwright’s 10-play cycle traversing the Hurricane Katrina diaspora, “examining the ongoing effects of disaster, evacuation, displacement, and urban renewal rippling in and beyond New Orleans.”
Dustin H. Chinn’s Colonialism Is Terrible, But Phở Is Delicious is now playing through April 30th at Chance Theater in Los Angeles. The biting comedy “on cultural ownership and authorship that spans three eras in the history of Vietnamese noodle soup, from 19th century Hanoi to modern day Brooklyn” is directed by Oánh Nguyễn.
Shakespeare Theatre Company’s current production of King Lear is available to stream on demand until April 16th. Simon Godwin directs Patrick Page as “the once-revered king caught in an emotional hurricane ravaging his home, head, and heart.”
The International Online Theatre Festival runs April 17-30. The free digital festival features 39 productions from 23 countries, including five productions of Miranda Rose Hall’s A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction from around the world (including one directed by Katie Mitchell); Breach Theatre’s It’s True, It’s True, It’s True (which I tried to see at Edinburgh Fringe in 2018 but it was sold out!); Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad; and the Royal Court’s production of Pablo Manzi’s A Fight Against… (Una Lucha Contra).
Limbik Theatre’s All the Water in the World is available April 22-23 from Attenborough Arts Centre. The one-to-one performance on WhatsApp uses “live calls, messaging, and binaural wizardry” to tell the story of Giselle, who records the sounds around her to combat her loneliness and boredom.
2023-24 season announcements
The Huntington announced its 2023-24 season. The Boston theatre will present Joshua Harmon's Prayer for the French Republic (directed by Loretta Greco), James Ijames' Fat Ham (directed by Stevie Walker-Webb), David Yazbek and Itamar Moses’ musical The Band’s Visit (directed by Paul Daigneault), Lloyd Suh’s The Heart Sellers (directed by May Adrales), John Kolvenbach’s Stand Up If You’re Here Tonight, Lydia R. Diamond’s Toni Stone, and Kimberly Belflower’s John Proctor is the Villain (directed by Margot Bordelon).
Yale Rep announced its 2023-24 season. The line-up includes Sanaz Toossi’s Wish You Were Here (directed by Sivan Battat), Caryl Churchill’s Escaped Alone (directed by Liz Diamond), Lloyd Suh’s The Far Country (directed by Eric Ting), and the world premiere of Harrison David Rivers’ The Salvagers (directed by Mikael Burke).
Steppenwolf announced its 2023-24 season. The Chicago ensemble theatre will produce Martyna Majok’s Sanctuary City (directed by Steph Paul); Selina Fillinger’s POTUS, or Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive (directed by Audrey Francis); Larissa FastHorse’s The Thanksgiving Play; the world premiere of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ Purpose; Matthew Paul Olmos’ a home what howls (or the house what was ravine) (directed by Laura Alcalá Baker), and an untitled new Samuel D. Hunter play directed by Joe Mantello and starring Laurie Metcalf.
Berkeley Rep announced its 2023-24 season. The line-up includes Selina Fillinger’s POTUS, Eisa Davis’ Bulrusher (directed by Nicole A. Watson), Leslye Headland’s Cult of Love (directed by Trip Cullman), Octavio Solis’ Mother Road (directed by David Mendizábal), David Cale’s Harry Clarke, Lloyd Suh’s The Far Country (directed by Eric Ting), and the world premiere of Danny Strong, Michael Weiner, and Zoe Sarnak’s musical Galileo (directed by Michael Mayer).
the regional theatre game of thrones
Desireé Clarke is the new executive artistic director of MOXIE Theatre in San Diego. The director and actor succeeds co-founder Jennifer Eve Thorn.
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Those perfect ice cream bearing children continue to be perfect.