I'd love to create a consortium of a dozen small theatres (100-150 seats) in 12 different cities. Each of these theatres would commit to producing 12 new full-length plays over the course of a year, each by a different playwright. One writer from each city. Each month, the plays would rotate to the next theatre.
The plays would be cast and directed using local actors. The casts and production elements would be minimal. Ideally, there might be a single team who designs all the productions, and the set and other design elements could be shipped from theatre to theatre. Marketing and design elements could be used in multiple productions (cutting costs again).
Another plus is that it would be easier to raise larger corporate sponsorships for a such a large, concerted effort.
This plan would have some powerful benefits for the 12 playwrights, in that they would receive royalties their play for an entire year. So let's say 60 seats sold, 4 nights a week, 48 weeks, $1/seat (5% of $20 tickets). That's $11,520. Not a living wage for an entire year, but a start. (Higher ticket prices would yield more $ for the writers, but I'm not a fan of super high ticket prices.) In addition, they (if they chose) could see 12 different professional productions of their plays, which would be immensely helpful in the development of the scripts into material that would be of interest to other theatres around the country. They're also exposed to audiences in a dozen different cities--very strong potential.
Cost savings for theatres on marketing, sets, design, might be significant.
There are numerous reasons why this is likely to stay a fantasy. Some of them:
- How could you get 12 producers/artistic directors to agree on 12 different plays to produce? (Though really, you just have to say, each producer picks one play she loves, and everyone has to just agree to produce the whole set, even if the other eleven aren't all equally appealing.)
- Even with the cost savings, the economics of professional productions at small theatres is almost impossible (though I like productions at small theatres much more than big spaces. I don't believe that large theatres make much sense any more. A blog about this some other day.)
- Big systems tend to break down. What happens when one of the theatres goes belly up? Or one of the shows proves itself to be a big bomb?
- The production demands and cast sizes of the plays would have to be fairly limited, if the goal is to make sure everyone gets paid a living wage.