Business Affairs

Michael R. Jackson (Nominee)

As a musical theatre writer who has managed to (barely) support himself through a series of grants, commissions, and awards for the last two years, I have faced nearly every challenge one can run into as a freelancer (rent instability, tax trouble, health insurance hurdles, etc.). In facing those challenges, it has become clear to me that theatre writers are a class of artists who are uniquely vulnerable to the blowing winds of the theatre industry. Though we have the benefit of owning our own copyright, without unionization, we have little ability to collectively bargain or make demands and are not thought of as working people. As a result, our payments are delayed with little transparency on when we will be paid, which only creates more uncertainty in our lives, all while we are still often expected to be in process on work. Because theatres are producing our work, a scarcity mentality makes us feel that we should just be quietly grateful for whatever opportunity is given to us. I find this model to be inadequate and in need of intervention. There is no reason a list of best practices could not be drafted to govern how writers are treated by the theatres producing their work. There is no reason a writer should not be able to look at a calendar and know when they are to be paid. There is no reason a writer should feel more insecure with their name in a season announcement than when it is not. Writers should also be in constant conversation with each other about these issues. I recently co-hosted a small group of theatre writers at the Dramatists Guild discussing the granular details of how we do (or don’t) make a living through writing and the challenges we face. Doing this promoted a sense of solidarity that felt extremely powerful and only made me want to get more involved with the Guild. I would like to be a voice on the Guild Council that speaks to the needs of writers as a collective working class, tries to address the unique inequities we face, and sees if the Guild might be able to help seal some of the cracks many of us regularly fall into as we attempt to make our way through the business of theatre writing.

BIO: Michael R. Jackson holds a BFA playwriting and a MFA Musical Theatre Writing from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts. He wrote book, music, and lyrics for the musicals White Girl In Danger and A Strange Loop (which will receive its world premiere at Playwrights Horizons Theatre in May of 2019). He has received a 2017 Jonathan Larson Grant, a 2017 Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Award, a 2017 ASCAP Foundation Harold Adamson Award, a 2016/2017 Dramatists Guild fellowship, and was the 2017 Williamstown Theatre Festival Playwright-In-Residence. He has commissions from Grove Entertainment & Barbara Whitman Productions and LCT3.