2021 DG Year In Review: 102 Years of Advocating for Playwrights, Composers, Lyricists, and Librettists
Jan 14, 2022
Year In Review

The Dramatists Guild of America is the national, professional membership trade association of theatre writers including playwrights, composers, lyricists, and librettists. The Guild was established for the purpose of aiding dramatists in protecting both the artistic and economic integrity of their work. 

In our 2021 Year in Review, we look back upon the past year's advocacy initiatives, legislative updates, institutional partnerships, DG statements, professional development events, and innovations with The Dramatist, not to mention a groundbreaking Council election with the most inclusive slate of Board Officers in Guild history. 

These accomplishments have enabled us to be even more effective and proactive in our mission to advocate on behalf of the needs of playwrights, composers, lyricists, and librettists everywhere.

 

Advocacy


Collective Bargaining Coalition: The Dramatists Guild is a member of a coalition of creative professionals who co-filed a request with the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice for collective bargaining rights on behalf of creators of copyrighted works everywhere, including playwrights, composers, lyricists, and librettists. Any of the three legislative approaches (including the PRO Act- see below) that are proposed by the coalition would serve to empower dramatists to act collectively through their guild to establish fair terms and practices in the theatre industry. Learn more here.

The Pro Act: For far too long, freelancers - including dramatists - have been forced to choose between owning their copyright and organizing with collective bargaining power. Thanks to the PRO (Protecting the Right to Organize) Act, it may no longer be necessary to make that difficult choice.The PRO Act addresses archaic loopholes in a system stemming from the 1935 National Labor Relations Act. The Guild released a statement in support of the PRO Act, explaining how and why it would enable us to fight even more proactively on behalf of our members. Read the full statement here.

The Conversation Surrounding 10 of out 12s: Members of the theatre community have begun speaking out regarding 10 out of 12s, and sharing a related graphic on social media. There is much to discuss about this complex and nuanced issue, which impacts theatremakers throughout the industry. We therefore want to ensure that dramatists are informed and active participants in this conversation. Read our full statement here.

Model Billing Provision for Opera: We launched a Model Billing Provision for opera to ensure that both composers and librettists are properly credited in all related materials. Due to the ongoing efforts of the Guild, when playwrights have written the books for new stage musicals, they have been given authorial rights (including billing credit) equivalent to that of the composers and lyricists with whom they have collaborated. However, the equitable treatment of librettists is not yet a universal practice in the opera world. Our Business Affairs department, in coordination with our Opera Committee, wrote recommended billing language that can be inserted into a contract or added later by addendum.

New Digital Rights Agreement: When the pandemic turned the experience of live theatre into one of computer screens and Zoom login codes, the Guild forged ahead by creating a New Media committee, and releasing a Digital Rights Agreement to help writers keep working and claiming their fair share. This agreement is intended to be a model contract that will enable members to grant a non-profit producer the exclusive right to present live-streamed productions. Access the agreement here.

DG Inclusion Rider: We released a new Inclusion Rider that provides best practices to consider when endeavoring to create a more equitable, inclusive working environment for everyone. The Dramatists Guild Inclusion Rider, the first of its kind, is a tool for our members who choose to advocate for full inclusion in the hiring of personnel in productions of their plays and musicals, at theatres of any size, in any location. The Dramatists Guild Inclusion Rider is intended to facilitate a conversation between the playwright, composer, lyricist, or librettist and the producer about equitable hiring practices.

Inclusion Rider Training Webinars: In Fall 2021, we rolled out a series of webinars that help to contextualize the release of the Inclusion Rider. Webinars included How to Tell if a Theatre Company is Inclusive Enough for YouHow to Advocate for Inclusion in PersonHow to Present and Defend the Inclusion Rider, and Steps You Can Take Toward Fostering Meaningful Diversity in a Production Process. If you missed any of these webinars, you can watch them here.

The Art of Negotiating Theatre Contracts: As part of our Inclusion initiative, we also released a guide on The Art of Negotiating Theatre Contracts to help DG members learn how to better advocate for their needs when a theatre is producing their show. We recommend beginning the negotiation process with a pre-contract conversation that focuses on the sharing and aligning of values between the dramatist and the theatre. Dramatists have the right to assert their own vision when it comes to choosing the cast and creative team, especially when inclusion is a priority. In this guide, we also offer up ten helpful questions to ask oneself at the start of a negotiation, and we explain the power of "No."

The Count 3.0: The Count is a study co-founded by the Dramatists Guild and the Lillys to analyze who is getting produced across the United States. It looks at gender, race, nationality, genre, and whether the productions were of new work or revivals. This year, we released the Count 3.0, which found that women wrote 31% of the plays that were produced across the country between 2017-2020. These statistics reveal small yet significant improvements from the last two Counts, in which women wrote 29% (in 2014-2017) and only 20% (in 2011-2014) of the plays that were produced across the country. Review the online version of The Count here

Be An #Arts Hero: On the eve of the new presidential administration, more than 200 American theatre writers urged the Biden/Harris administration to support the arts, through a massive letter writing campaign. This campaign was part of Be An #ArtsHero’s Arts Workers Unite: 100 Days of Art and Activism, organized in partnership with the Guild. We encourage everyone to read the letters here.

New Official DG Newsletter - Before You Sign: Over the summer 2021, we launched a new Before You Sign newsletter to coincide with our biweekly Opportunity Digest. This monthly newsletter includes definitions of industry terms, access to articles from The Dramatist Online, pertinent information regarding upcoming legislation, and other topical news items to help keep DG members well informed about everything that dramatists need to know today. Read the very first Before You Sign newsletter here.

The Dramatists Guild Presents TALKBACK Season Three: Back in October, we premiered Season Three of our TALKBACK podcast, hosted by Christine Toy Johnson. This season explored the theme of collaboration, with a special episode dedicated to the Inclusion Rider. The season examined what it takes to collaborate effectively and inclusively in the theatre industry. Episodes explored themes such as collaborating with the disability communityamplifying the work of immigrant artistsworking with non-homogenous creative teams, and more. Learn more about the podcast here

 

Membership


Code of Conduct for Community Spaces: As programming shifted from in person to online, we became cognizant of the need for civility amongst our membership. Our virtual spaces include greater numbers of people, and add anonymity and distance to the mix, exponentially increasing the potential for disagreements to arise. We wanted to maintain a safe environment while balancing the right for everyone to express themselves freely through their work. And so, we created a code of conduct, containing clear expectations for our members regarding how to behave in digital spaces. Read it here.

Lighthouse: We are moving to a new third party reporting service called Lighthouse to enable our volunteers, staff, and membership to submit confidential reports regarding abuse, ethics, compliance, and HR violations.

Dues What You Can: No writer should have to choose between their Guild and their finances. That's why we launched a "pay-what-you-can" program that allows DG members to extend their membership for one full year, without any change to their services or benefits. We are committed to subsidizing member dues for those who need assistance throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and we will not require them to pay the difference at any point in the future. All we ask is that they retain their Guild membership. Read more here.

Broadway Consultations: The Guild recently started offering Broadway Consultations to Guild Members with upcoming First-Class productions for the very first time. At this consultation, the Executive Director of Business Affairs and a fellow writer/DG member who has been through the process of having a show on Broadway will be on hand to share their insights about the experience. During the Broadway Consultation, the member with the upcoming production can also ask any questions they may have about bringing their show to Broadway. In addition, they'll have the opportunity to learn about Broadway economics, industry standards for writers, the significance of the Approved Production Contract, how to navigate unexpected challenges along the road to Broadway, how to approach conversations regarding subrights and licensing, and more. 

New Chairs for Member Outreach Committee: The DG Member Outreach committee engages in new membership recruitment. This year, we elected new committee chairs David Auburn and Deb Laufer. We want to thank outgoing committee chairs Shaina Taub and John-Michael Lyles for their service to the Guild and to this committee.

 

Council 


History Making New Officers: In 2021, we elected a new slate of Dramatists Guild Council Officers, with Amanda Green serving as Council President. (She succeeded outgoing President Doug Wright.) Amanda is the first woman president in the Guild’s 100-year history. The new officers, on the Guild's most inclusive board yet, also include Branden Jacobs-Jenkins as Vice President, Kristoffer Diaz as Secretary, and Christine Toy Johnson as Treasurer. Read more about the new officers here.

New Council Members: In 2021, we elected two new Council members, Ty Defoe and Rona Siddiqui. The Guild is governed by a board of directors (Council) elected from its membership. These writers, in various stages of their theatrical careers, meet monthly to decide policy for the Guild. Read more about Ty and Rona here.

 

Legislative Update 


Creative Economy Revitalization Act: When U.S. Representatives introduced the bi-partisan Creative Economy Revitalization Act (CERA) in Congress, we encouraged our members to consider sharing their support for the legislation. Creative workers have been among the most severely impacted by the COVID pandemic. This bill would help revamp the creative economy through the creation of a workforce grants program for artists and writers to create publicly available art. Learn more here.

The 21st Century Federal Writers’ Project Act: This past spring, Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM) introduced The 21st Century Federal Writers’ Project Act. This proposed legislation was inspired by, and mirrors, the 1930s Federal Writers Project of the New Deal Era from the Roosevelt administration. It is not yet clear if dramatists would be eligible for participation in the grant program, but the Political Engagement Initiative committee will follow-up for more information about the scope and reach of this proposed federal relief program for writers. 

 

Statements


Statement Condemning Anti-Asian Racism: We released a statement condemning the anti-Asian racism in America. Those attacks cannot be disconnected from the particular and pernicious mix of misogyny, sexual fetishization, and racism twined into cultural narratives that have been used throughout our nation’s history to justify discrimination and violence against Asian people. Read the full statement here.

Guidance Regarding Workplace Harassment: As an organization formed to end the economic exploitation of theatrical writers, the Dramatists Guild has a heightened awareness of how all employees and independent contractors should be treated in any work environment. We wanted to remind our membership of the resources available to them, should they suffer harassment or witness the harassment of others. Read the full statement here. Read our updated Code of Conduct here.

 

Young Dramatists


Playwriting for Teens: The Dramatists Guild Institute offered our very first playwriting classes for teenagers in the Summer and Fall 2021. The two courses were designed for teens who had already discovered playwriting and wanted to further develop their skills. Led by award-winning playwright Crystal Skillman, students met weekly to read, share, and discuss dramatic writing. Both teen classes were subsidized in part with the profits from the semesters' adult classes, in order to provide low cost (or no cost) access for teenagers from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

#ENOUGH: The Dramatists Guild has helped to support and promote #ENOUGH: Plays to End Gun Violence, a theatre activism campaign that strives to spark critical conversations, and incite meaningful action in communities across the country on the issue of gun violence, through the creation of new works of theatre by teens. #ENOUGH's mission is to promote playwriting as a tool of self-expression and social change, harnessing this generation's spirit of activism, and providing a platform for America's playwrights of tomorrow to discover and develop their voices today. Learn more.

2021 Thespians Festival: The Dramatists Guild continues to support the young writers in the Thespian Festival Next Gen program by providing them with complimentary guild membership.

 

Institutional Partnerships


New Visions Fellowship: The Dramatists Guild partnered with the National Queer Theater to create the New Visions Fellowship, a yearlong fellowship for Black Trans and Gender Nonconforming (TGNC) playwrights led by mentor Roger Q. Mason (they/them). The inaugural fellowship recipients were Nick Hadikwa Mwaluko (he/they) and Ayla Xuan Chi Sullivan (they/them). The finalists were Alexander Paris (they/them), Chantal Vorobei Thieves (she/her), and Storm Thomas.

Counting Together: The Dramatists Guild is a part of Counting Together, a growing coalition of theatre artists, arts professionals, and organizations engaged in separate, long-term studies of race, gender, and disability in our field. By telling the stories of its findings, Counting Together’s stated goal is to identify and forge pathways to greater equity and inclusion. Currently made up of fifteen separate projects, Counting Together includes both individuals and groups engaged in countering systems of exclusion in the theatre. Learn more here.

 

Awards


DG Awards: The Dramatists Guild annually presents awards that highlight and celebrate authors working in the industry. All awards are overseen by the Awards Committee, chaired by Lloyd Suh. The recipients of the 2021 DG Awards were Adrienne Kennedy (Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of lifetime achievement in theatrical writings), Sharai Bohannon (DLDF Defender Award in recognition of an individual's efforts in support of free expression in the dramatic arts), William S. Yellow Robe, Jr. (DGF Flora Roberts Award in recognition of distinguished work in the theatre), Carla Ching, Kia Corthron, Aleshea Harris, Donja R. Love, and Mfoniso Udofia (Horton Foote Award in recognition of dramatists whose work seeks to plumb the ineffable nature of being human), and Mariam Bazeed and Rhiana Yazzie (Lanford Wilson Award in recognition of emerging playwrights of exceptional promise).

 

Career, Industry, and Community Development


Dear Industry Newsletter: We transformed our former Dear Theatres newsletter into Dear Industry, a bi-monthly Dramatists Guild newsletter that shares news and insights relevant to the careers of playwrights, composers, lyricists, and librettists, with the aim of sparking conversation and better industry practices. Our field incites two great visions to riot together: the genius of individual creation and the genius of collective organization—dramatists and theatres/arts organizations.

Regional Town Halls: In January 2021, we hosted six Regional Town Halls across the country. As a national advocacy organization, the only way that we can truly direct our work in the right direction is to listen to those who are living in the vast array of theatrical communities that comprise the American theatre. These town halls were an opportunity to to hear from DG members, and to discover their thoughts, ideas, and desires for the coming year. Join us for our 2022 Community Conversations

Financial Literacy: We started a monthly series of webinars on financial literacy for dramatists, led by Certified Public Accountant Elaine Grogan Luttrull of Minerva Financial Arts. Topics included filing taxes in the age of Covid, managing debt and credit scores, building a portfolio, and more.

National Teach-In for Art and Healing: Todd London and special guests led a weekend of workshops designed to help theatre professionals of all disciplines keep their artistic spirits kindled during lockdown. Workshops covered writing, solo performance, movement, song, project development, design, and creative self-care. Learn more here.

DEI Town Halls: Our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee hosted a series of six regional town halls across the country. Our goal was to create a space where we could navigate the expanding conversations around representation, access and inclusion, harm reduction, and the power of storytelling to help repair the damage that injustice and exclusion have perpetuated. Each event was led by DEI Chair Christine Toy Johnson, with special guests including Regionsl Reps, Ambassadors, and local theatre artists. Learn more about the DEI Town Halls here.

It Starts with a Word: A Dramatists Guild Pop-Up Event: We held a pop-up event, It Starts with a Word, in partnership with our friends at the Times Square Alliance. The event featured original work by Guild members, presented in the heart of Times Square. As the closures and uncertainties of the ongoing pandemic persisted, we celebrated the theatre community with an event that highlighted the role of the writer in bringing important stories to life in the public consciousness. You can view our social media posts about the event on DG Twitter, and DG Instagram.

End of Play.® 2021: End of Play. is an annual initiative created by the Dramatists Guild to incentivize the completion of new plays, scores, or songs over the course of a single month. In April 2021, more than 1,200 writers participated in this initiative. These participants attended over 130 related virtual events held across the country, including 100 play readings of work written during the End of Play. month. You can register for this year’s End of Play. initiative here.

Unsafe @ Any Age: We partnered with Honor Roll and DG Copyright Management to host Unsafe at Any Age, the first in a series of online events that explored the challenges and opportunities inherent in aging as an artist in the American theatre. Participants heard from artists and thinkers who study aging and human development, and from organizations that work on creative responses to ageism in the industry. Read more here.

Opera Craft Webinars: In August, we presented two webinars on the craft of writing opera. Librettists and composers from both theatre and opera discussed the differences in writing for each medium, and how to make the crossover from the former to the latter. Learn more about the Opera webinars here.

Writing and Producing in Spanish: We held two working group discussions led by dramatists of varying factions of the Latinx and native Spanish-speaking diaspora. Conversation topics included how the American theatre can be a cultural leader in the inclusion of artists who write and perform in the Spanish language, and submission strategies for Spanish language plays and musicals. Discover more about the webinars here and here.

Educator Appreciation Week: In October, we held our very first Educator Appreciation Week, where we celebrated the vital bond between dramatists and educators, who often work together to nurture creativity within their communities. Panels included When and How to Enter the Higher Education Section, What I’m Teaching Now, Non Traditional Educational Spaces, Students, and Structures, To MFA or Not MFA, and Creating Equitable Spaces for Students. We also held a DGI Open House, led by Tari Stratton. If you missed any of these panels, you can watch them here.

National Estate and Legacy Planning Week: Our estate planning consultancy and intellectual property management organization, DG Copyright Management, marked National Estate Planning Week (10/18-10/22) by sharing resources, including daily videos, articles, and access to live online presentations that explored the intricacies of archives, estate law, legacy, and more. View additional information about Estate Planning Week here.

DuoLogue Craft Seminars: In December, we presented two DuoLogues conversations, one between Doug Wright and Franky Gonzalez and the other between Kia Corthron and Chisa Hutchinson. DuoLogues pair one wonderful writer with another wonderful writer for free flowing discussions that are streamed on Zoom for DG membership to watch. Learn more about DuoLogues here.

National Silent Writing: To help build community, and to remind members that they are not alone in their creative pursuits, the Dramatists Guild began offering online silent writing sessions that are available for anyone across the country to attend at any time. These sessions are hosted by Regional Representatives, Ambassadors, and volunteers from across the country. Discover more here.

 

Continuing Education


The Dramatists Guild Institute: In its fifth year, the Dramatists Guild Institute continued to offer high quality writing workshops and foundational courses taught by industry leaders. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, students and faculty alike rose to the occasion, finding ways to build community and foster creativity through online learning. 

In 2021, we offered 43 classes over three semesters, nearly a third of which sold out. Over half of our classes (27) were brand new offerings. We enrolled 372 students total, including 140 returning students and 232 new students. These numbers include our first ever teen courses (see the Young Dramatists section above for reference).

The most popular new courses this past year were Writing Plays that Explore Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Religion with James Anthony Tyler, Writing to Win, Place, or Show with Lucy Wang, Musical Theatre Songwriting for the Composer/Lyricist with Mark Hollmann, Script Analysis for Dramatists with Pandora Scooter, and Turning Your 10-Minute Play into a Full-Length with Donna Hoke.

 

The Dramatist


The Dramatist Online: For the very first time in Guild history, we are now able to publish editions of the magazine both in print and online. You can view complete issues of The Dramatist or access individual articles, searching by sections such as craft, business, and more. View The Dramatist Online here.

The Dramatist Issue Archive: We revamped The Dramatist Issue Archive, enabling us to share the history of dramatists and to make Guild content more accessible. You can now search by year, and read any issue published from 2021 to 2009. We even added the very first issue of The Dramatists Guild Quarterly, published in 1964! We are continuing to add summaries and to publish online editions of each issue from 2009 through 2022. Explore the Issue Archive here.

The Opera Issue: We dedicated an entire issue of The Dramatist magazine, for the very first time, to the craft and process of writing opera. In this issue, DG Opera Committee Co-Chair Mark Campbell considers whether we are living in a new Golden Age of American Opera, while fellow DG Opera Committee Co-Chair Michael Korie shares insights and advice for dramatists who hope to cross over into writing opera. A Librettists Roundtable explores how playwrights approach writing a libretto for an opera while a Composers Roundtable reveals how composers approach setting text to music and what they look for in a librettist collaborator. Read the Opera issue here.

The Tools of the Trade Issue: The Tools of the Trade issue of The Dramatist takes a deep dive into the nerdiest aspects of the craft, from “The Great Software Debate,” where playwrights go toe-to-toe discussing their script writing software of choice, to “Old School Tools,” which begins as a talk about pens and turns into much more. Read the Tools of the Trade issue here.

The Season In Review Issue 2020-2021: This Season in Review issue of The Dramatist, which is the first in Guild history to be exclusively available online, features National Reports from Regional Representatives and Ambassadors around the world. Their articles detail dramatists' resilient determination to find inspiration and build community throughout the pandemic year. Read the Season in Review issue here.

The Radical Hospitality Issue: This edition of The Dramatist explores the concept of Radical Hospitality. Dramatists share what radical hospitality means to them, Christine Toy Johnson moderates a roundtable that examines what is required to create a welcoming environment for communities who have not always felt included in the theatre, and Jay Alan Zimmerman provides advice on Three Things people can do to make their theatrical spaces more accessible. Read the Radical Hospitality issue here.

The Environmental Issue: This edition of The Dramatist reveals how dramatists are using their craft to bring environmental issues to light. Tackling everything from climate change to global pandemics, Caridad Svich leads a roundtable discussion about writing plays that focus thematically on the environment. Read the Environmental Issue here.

The Terrence McNally Issue: This edition of The Dramatist is a special tribute issue in honor of Terrence McNally. It isn't often that an entire issue is dedicated to one person; Terrence McNally is that rare exception for many reasons, including his impressive body of work, his dedication to mentorship, his outspoken advocacy for authorial rights, and for his career-long support and service to the Guild and the Dramatists Guild Foundation. Read the Terrence McNally issue here.

 

New Guild Staff 


This year, we welcomed several new staff members to the Dramatists Guild community. We added two staff members to our Business Advice Services Team, Yuanxiao Xu and Ginnila Pérez. Meet them here. We also welcomed a new Digital Graphic Designer, Lorenzo Mohammed, and a DG Copyright Management associate, Becca Glantz. Meet Lorenzo and Becca here.

 


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