The Young Dramatists Issue 1
Dramatist’s Bill of Rights: Future Options

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.

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4. Future Options

Let’s break this down: a producer has facilitated (and funded, at least in part) a production of your play, credited you appropriately, and respected your right to approve creative and public relationship-based depictions of the work. You all got along well, and they want to work with you again. Or, maybe they made a future option of the play as a condition of producing the FIRST production of the play. Either way, that’s GREAT! They want you, they value them, and a collaborative bond is forged. Love it. Now, you, as the owner of the intellectual property (the script), should have the ultimate right to the future of your work. Make sure you have a sunset clause (end date) to the producer’s further option, a supplemental fee if they renew that option, and an assurance that you can dissolve the relationship WITH IMPUNITY if you want. This is business, darling. And, most of all, your relationship is with that producer and that producer alone. Once they are done, they cannot assign the option to your play to someone else. It must revert to you. We can’t pass along property that’s inherited from one gatekeeper to another without reevaluation, consent, and financial accommodation. That’s not the America we fought for in the War Between the States.

Roger Q. Mason
Roger Q. Mason

(they/them) is a writer and performer who uses the lens of history to disrupt the biases that divide rather than unite us. They are a member of the Dramatists Guild of America and Ma-Yi’s Writing Lab, as well as a lead mentor of The Marsha P. Johnson Institute’s Starship Fellowship, the New Visions Fellowship, and the Shay Foundation Fellowship. Instagram: @rogerq.mason