The Young Dramatists Issue 1
Dramatist’s Bill of Rights: Author’s Contract

Playwrights, composers, lyricists, and librettists often struggle professionally in theatres due to the wide-ranging demands and expectations imposed on them by their producers (and other collaborators). It is essential, therefore, that dramatists know their rights, which the Dramatists Guild established in 1926 and has defended ever since.

To protect their unique vision, which has always been the strength of the theatre, dramatists need to understand this fundamental principle: you own and control your work. To ensure this ownership and control, the Guild recommends that any production involving a dramatist incorporate a written agreement in which both the producer and the writer acknowledge certain key industry standards. Collectively, we call these ten basic points the Dramatist’s Bill of Rights.

Multicolored graphic with pink text

10. Author’s Contract

When negotiating a rather large commission agreement with a commercial producer this year, my agent and I (with the Guild’s guidance) were able to achieve language in the contract that stipulated “terms consistent with the Dramatists Guild’s Dramatist’s Bill of Rights.” The fact that this is included in my contract gives me so much confidence because I know how important points 1-9 are (!), along with the provision that we would require “the certification of a Dramatists Guild Approved Production Contract for Musical Plays in order for the Play to be presented in a first class production in the United States or Canada (including, without limitation, if a West End production moves to a first class production in the United States or Canada).” Knowing that I will be spending the next few years working on this piece, I am grateful to feel appropriately protected with this language in place.

Christine Toy Johnson
Christine Toy Johnson

is a Tony and Obie award-honored writer, actor, and advocate for inclusion. Treasurer of the DG, chair of the Guild’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Access Committee, host of the Guild’s podcast TalkBack on the Broadway Podcast Network. More at