The problem of sexual harassment and abuse isn’t a new one, but the theatre industry’s willingness to confront it is; the Dramatists Guild hopes to engage this new public will in an effort to address workplace abuse fairly and effectively.
It is important to note the limits of the Dramatists Guild’s authority. Because dramatists are not “employees,” standard EEOC protections for employees are not available to us. Also, unlike unions, the Guild is a voluntary trade association and has not been given license by its membership to investigate or police its constituents regarding any such claims, either as an institution or on behalf of its members.
However, recent allegations against playwrights, as well as earlier allegations by playwrights against other theatre professionals, require an effective response from the Guild. Toward that end, the Guild requested the establishment of a sub-committee by the Coalition of Broadway Unions and Guilds (COBUG) to look at constructive ways to deal with the issue on an industry-wide basis. COBUG has agreed to do so. Meanwhile, the Guild has been working on revisions to its own bylaws to amend membership requirements to allow enforcement of workplace safety guidelines, while providing services, resources, and guidance to its members around this question.
The Dramatists Guild is aware that some playwrights accused of harassment may face consequences with fewer productions of their work in the public sphere. Producers and artistic directors are entitled to reject works by writers whose personal lives they regard as suspect, or who’ve engaged in (or have been alleged to engage in) unethical, immoral, or illegal behavior. They can even reject plays by those who’ve espoused unpopular political views. That said, it is not for publishers, agents, or the Guild itself to engage in, call for, or support the withdrawal of those works from the marketplace. We will do all we can to foster a safe environment for those who work in the theatre industry without supporting acts of prior restraint and the silencing of artists, however controversial they may be. Such arguments should be part of a larger public dialogue and not preemptively decided through acts of censorship.
If you witness or experience sexual harassment, Guild members can contact the Actors Fund for counsel.
The Dramatists Guild and the Dramatists Legal Defense Fund Object to Brandeis University’s Decision to Cancel Weller Play
The Dramatists Guild of America and The Dramatists Legal Defense Fund object in the strongest possible terms to the decision by Brandeis University to buckle to student pressure by cancelling its scheduled production of Michael Weller’s play, Buyer Beware, due to objections over its content. By capitulating, the University has compromised core principles of academic freedom and abdicated its educational responsibility to offer students a wide range of viewpoints regardless of how controversial they may be.
Playwright Michael Weller’s new work was scheduled to run at Brandeis in November. In the play, Weller considers what would happen if a white student performed a Lenny Bruce-style comedy routine (including racially offensive slurs quoted from Bruce’s performances) on the Brandeis campus today. The play is a critique of recent events where college students have demanded the silencing of controversial or unpopular points of view. In an ironic twist, Brandeis’ students have reacted to the planned production of Buyer Beware just as the play suggested they might. And so the university has cancelled the production.
By taking this action, Brandeis has not only failed to meet its obligations to its students and alumni (including Weller himself), but to the legacy of Lenny Bruce as well, whose archives were entrusted to the school in 2014. Bruce’s career served as a landmark in the advancement of free speech in this country and the University’s cancellation of the play is a violation of that trust.
Instead of presenting the production, Brandeis has claimed that it will offer a course in the spring “devoted to the challenging issues Michael’s work evokes.” They have offered no guarantees that the play will be presented in conjunction with the course, but as an educational institution, Brandeis should both present challenging works as well as enable students to discuss the issues they raise.
It is now claimed by some at Brandeis that the school was considering a spring production of the play, but Mr. Weller has received no such offer, and has heard only indirectly about the possibility of doing it at “a 60-seat black box theatre in Watertown that has some lights, and a budget for one or two professional actors.” Under those circumstances, Mr. Weller will no longer allow the play to be presented at the University and is seeking a production elsewhere. In the meantime, Brandeis’ Theater Arts department has yet to utter a single word directly to the playwright to explain their actions or justify their subsequent silence.
To be clear, no school has an obligation to produce a play. But neither does anyone have a constitutional right to go through life unoffended. To the contrary, it is a university’s duty to expose its students to a range of views that challenge and discomfort them. It is in considering alternate viewpoints that students are encouraged to grow, intellectually and emotionally. So we urge the Theater Arts department to present a clear explanation for their actions in opposition to this basic principle of higher education and to present guidelines, to Mr. Weller and to all other playwrights, as to what viewpoints are permitted to be expressed in a dramatic work produced at Brandeis University.
Church Objects To Festival’s LGBTQ Content; DG Helps Find New Venue
The International Human Rights Art Festival, presented in conjunction with the Culture Project, was scheduled to premiere new work at Saint Mary’s Church on the Lower East Side of Manhattan on October 15, 2017. About 72 hours before the event, the festival was dropped by the venue due to the LGBTQ content of two of its works.
A spokesman for Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Saint Mary’s Church told Festival producer and Guild member Tom Block, “We cannot have this kind of work in the Catholic Church,” specifically referring to Accidental Trans Anthems by trans artist Maybe Burke, and Thank You for Coming Out, founded and run by Dubbs Weinblatt, that uses improvisational theatre to specifically address “coming out” stories among this community.
Rather than censoring the two pieces and continuing with the festival at Saint Mary’s Church, Block pulled the entire event telling the New York Times, “We are a human rights arts festival. We are not going to abandon people.”
“We were informed of the banning on Thursday, October 12 at 9:30 pm, by Father O’Conner, pastor of St. Mary the Grand Catholic Church,” Block told The Dramatist.
“I immediately began outreach to a wide cross-section of artists and administrators. The next morning, I received an email from Ralph Sevush of the Dramatists Guild expressing his horror at the unfolding events, and his assurance that the Dramatists Guild was ‘looking into other venue availabilities for the event right now.’ By Friday, October 13 at 3:20 pm, Tina Fallon of the Dramatists Guild emailed me to confirm that she had been able to find another space, our ultimate host, Father John Denaro and St. Ann and the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.”
“I was deeply heartened by the outpouring of support in such a short time not only from the Dramatists Guild, but also from Mayor De Blasio’s office (who tweeted: ‘New Yorkers take pride in protecting everyone’s right to live and love freely. IHRAF is right at home in our city’), Ellie Covan of Dixon Place, Kathleen Turner, Allan Buchman of the Culture Project, Sam Morris PR and the numerous media outlets who seemed as horrified as us by this turn of events. The support was very important to all of our performers, as we grappled with the logistics and emotions of having our program banned for reasons that seemed to us to be positively medieval.”
“It was very important for us to know that New York’s political, art and media community stood with us at this difficult time.”
Egerton Foundation New Play Awards Announces Second Round Recipients
Theatre Communications Group (TCG) has announced the second round of recipients for its 2017 Egerton Foundation New Play Awards. Winners include Chasing Mem’ries: A Different Kind of Musical book by Josh Ravetch, lyrics by Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman, music by Bill Cantos and Mary Falcone, Dave Grusin, Marvin Hamlisch, Michel Legrand, and Johnny Mandel; SUMMER: The Donna Summer Musical book by Colman Domingo, Robert Cary, and Des McAnuff; American Mariachi by José Cruz Gonzalez; The Way the Mountain Moved by Idris Goodwin; Ibsen in Chicago by David Grimm; Admissions by Joshua Harmon; Describe the Night by Rajiv Joseph; The Beast in the Jungle music by John Kander, book by David Thompson; Doing It by Boo Killebrew; Magellanica by E. M. Lewis; The Trials of Sam Houston by Aaron Loeb; The Portuguese Kid by John Patrick Shanley; Sex and Other Disturbances by Marisa Smith; Snow Child book by John Strand, music by Bob Banghart and Georgia Stitt, lyrics by Georgia Stitt; Bread by Regina Taylor; Transfers by Lucy Thurber; Fall by Bernard Weinraub; Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee; and Great Leap by Lauren Yee.
The Monologue Project Launches Online Platform
he Monologue Project launches its online platform in early 2018, hosted by the Bishop Arts Theatre Center website. Artistic Director, Guild Council Member, and DG Regional Rep, Teresa Coleman Wash, following the success of her one-act play festival “Down for The Count,” continues to create space for the voices of Women of the African Diaspora by hosting this incredible resource.
After successful kick-off events in Pittsburgh, PA (May 2017) and Dallas, TX (November 2017), the organizers of The Monologue Project are delighted to offer Women of the African Diaspora a free, online resource for audition-length monologues. Siovhan Christensen—actor, director and member of the Advisory Committee for the project—sums up the benefits to actors:
The characters in these monologues are some of the best I’ve seen written for Women of the African Diaspora. There is so much to work with, and I am so grateful to these playwrights for offering these characters to be brought to life. I’ve been looking for them throughout my artistic journey.
Gab Cody, DG Regional Rep and organizer of the Pittsburgh event, comments, “We believe hearing voices that have not been heard, and providing greater opportunity for Women of the African Diaspora, will be of benefit to all.” The Monologue Project aims to increase the number of audition-length monologues available to Women of the African Diaspora. She adds, “We acknowledge those women who have already contributed to this canon and who have paved the way for other writers and actors.”
This project is possible because writers across the nation responded to the call for new work.
Participating Monologue Project Writers (in alphabetical order): Mando Alvarado, Chrystal Bates, France-Luce Benson, N’Jameh Camara, Zina Camblin, Kia Corthron, Gethsemane Herron-Coward, LeKeithia Dalcoe, William R. Duell, Kim El, Alesia Etinoff, Amy Evans, Rob Florence, Imani Harrington, Dave Harris, Yona Harvey, Chisa Hutchinson, Levi Jelks, Christine Toy Johnson, Jewell McPherson, Dominique Morisseau, Ife Olujobi, Maxie Rockymore, Bianca Sams, Daniel Talbott, Cori Thomas, Pamela Turner, Mfoniso Udofia, Bria Walker, Keith Wallace, Amy Gijsbers van Wijk, Pia Wilson, and Charlayne Woodard.
DG Announces New Director of Community Engagement, Jenna Crisphonte
The Dramatists Guild of America is proud to announce that it has hired Jenna Chrisphonte as its first Director of Community Engagement. This is a new position which was created in response to the membership’s desire for a means to respond as a constituency to the altered political and social environment following the 2016 election. Jenna will be working with Guild members across the country to identify both national and local priority issues, coordinate collective actions and political responses, and build a long-term, playwright-led movement to protect Guild members and the free society in which theatre makers and their audiences can flourish.
Guild Vice President Lisa Kron, who also chairs the Guild’s Political Engagement Committee, says, “The Guild is beyond thrilled to have Jenna Chrisphonte on board. She brings to this new position an extraordinarily perfect combination of skills and experience: She has experience developing national political analysis through her work for the Canadian Consulate, she has navigated the thicket of local politics working for Manhattan Community Board 4, she’s done issue organizing with the Alliance for Quality Education and union organizing with the Graduate Student Employees Union, and because of her legal education, she is well positioned to analyze dense legislation and identify issues of concern for our members. Among the skills she brings to the outreach component of her job is fluency in French, Haitian Creole, and Spanish. On top of all that and best of all, Jenna is herself a working playwright, and brings her own playwright’s perspective to the job.”
Jenna has worked for Global Affairs Canada, the French Ministry of National Education, and for the State and City of New York. Jenna received her Bachelor’s and Juris Doctor from SUNY Buffalo. She is the author of the forthcoming Talc: A Haitian Zombie Story. Jenna is also working on a dramatic trilogy— Property: The Rule in Shelly’s Case, Rule Against Perpetuities, and Adverse Possession.
Biographical Drama Wins Top Prize In Brown Foundation Competition
The board of the Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation is pleased to announce the winners of the foundation’s 2017 playwriting competition. First prize went to James Robert-Moore, of London, UK, for Posterboy (based on the autobiography Out in the Army); second prizes to DG member Raquel Almazan of New York, NY for La Paloma Prisoner, and Ben Noble, of Northcote, Victoria, AUS, for Member. Honorable Mentions went to three DG members C. Quintana, Jack Rushen, and Mark Saltzman.
Sadly, the 2017 contest marks the end of the Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation’s playwriting competition, which was launched in 1996 as a literary competition awarding prizes to LGBT-themed, historically inspired plays, novels, and short fiction. We congratulate all the winners and thank the many writers who have participated over the past 21 years. The foundation’s production-grant program, which over the past year has provided financial support to 30 theatre companies and other not-for-profit producing organizations, will continue in 2018. Consult aabbfoundation.org for details.
No contract is “one size fits all!”
Because the Guild tracks national and worldwide trends, we are able to provide certain model contracts that reflect up-to-date industry standards. We encourage our members to use these models to educate themselves and use as a guide when entering into productions or collaborations.
Most of our contracts are available upon request as PDF files. The first-class Approved Production Contract for Plays and Approved Production Contract for Musicals (APC) must be purchased and are available in a printed booklet.
Only current members of the Guild may view or request sample contracts.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to order copies of our sample contracts in PDF form. Please note that due to the large amount of requests we receive, it may take up to 48 hours for your request to be processed.
Members can preview the contracts here.
Free Speech Groups Support Lincoln Center’s Decision to Host “To the End of the Land” Despite Calls to Cancel the Play
As organizations committed to free speech and an open public sphere, we fully support the decision of New York City’s Lincoln Center to proceed with its plans to host To the End of the Land, a production of Israel’s Ha’Bima National Theatre and the Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv, in spite of calls for the play’s cancellation.
Those calling for the cancellation are not opposed to the content of the play but to its sponsorship by the Israeli government as a “strategy of employing arts and culture to divert attention” from the state’s policies towards Palestine. While they have the right to protest the production—a right that we have defended—cultural boycott campaigns like this one are a blunt instrument that exacts a high price: sacrificing the free exchange of ideas about the most important issues of our times.
To the End of the Land is about the tragic entanglement between private lives, war, and history in Israel between 1967 and 2000. David Grossman, on whose celebrated novel the play is based, is an outspoken critic of the Israeli government and a prominent peace activist. In his 2010 review of the novel, Colm Tóibín wrote: “To say this is an antiwar book is to put it too mildly. ...There is a novelist’s notice taken of the sheer complexity not only of the characters but of the legacy of pain and conflict written into the gnarled and beautiful landscape... This is one of those few novels that feel as though they have made a difference to the world.”
Art relating to the Middle East is often controversial, whether because its politically sensitive content raises accusations of anti-Semitism—as was the case with the 2014 Metropolitan Opera production of John Adams’ Death of Klinghoffer—or because of the belief that any work receiving a repressive government’s support serves to create a national “brand” that promotes the country’s image.
The discussion spurred by controversy over the politically motivated state sponsorship of art is welcome, and the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement has done much to generate such discussion and to raise awareness about human rights abuses. It is unlikely that the cancellation of the play would contribute further to such awareness, while it is certain to deprive audiences of a deeper understanding of the human side of a tragic socio-political conflict.
Cultural institutions have a responsibility to maintain an open and lively cultural sphere by presenting a wide variety of perspectives even in the face of controversy and protest. Were institutions like Lincoln Center to yield to calls for cancellation coming from the BDS movement or elsewhere, any ensuing conversation would be much impoverished and further polarized. Therefore, we strongly support Lincoln Center in maintaining its integrity of purpose and its independence from political pressure.
National Coalition Against Censorship
Dramatists Legal Defense Fund