The Playgoer: O'Neill Crisis II: False Alarm

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

O'Neill Crisis II: False Alarm

Yes, the fracas of Juilliard v O'Neill peaked and fizzled over the weekend. No point in commenting much further if indeed the O'Neill Playwrights Center will not start taking a percentage of all its plays future productions.

I must say what struck me first about the consequences of a play development organization insisting up front on a percentage of future royalties was--how might that affect the choice of plays in the first place? Might such an organization find themselves with less incentive to workshop a more rarified work addressed to a smaller elite audience, and thus with smaller future financial prospects? After all, if the point of such a proposal was to raise funds for the organization, then at some point the need for fundraising could become paramount, no?

Christopher Durang and Marsha Norman's initial protest email rightly raised the spectre of this being bigger than just the O'Neill:

This is part of a disturbing trend in "development" organizations, where playwrights are increasingly expected to pay for their productions, in spite of the fact that those organizations raise money and get grants claiming that they exist to help playwrights. More and more, it's looking like those organizations exist to support themselves, not their writers. In this regard, beware of any contest that charges you more than $15 to apply, because that's about what readers are being paid these days.
Here here.

Then again, does anyone out there know how much you have to pay Juillard to apply there?

Of course, the spectacle of the gatekeepers of the elite Juilliard program accusing another elite program of holding back the struggling young playwright might strike some as a tad ironic. One could even say the main victory here was in ensuring that the chosen Juilliard few will now be free to dominate the O'Neill once again. Perhaps some playwrights might have welcomed the boycott and leveling of the playing field. After all, the Durang/Norman email did frankly begin with "Dear Juilliard Mafia..."

But that would be the cynical view, of course...

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