Professional Theatre Writer Q&A
a photograph of a hand holding a DG membership card and passing it to another person's hand

When should I join the Dramatists Guild?

Joining any union or guild is a financial commitment. You should join as early as possible in your career. Don’t wait until you have a contract or feel accomplished enough to join. We have ways to help if the annual fee becomes an issue.

Why should I join the Dramatists Guild if I have an agent?

Our wealth of knowledge is extensive from over 100 years of advocating for dramatists. We work with your agent (if needed) to ensure you negotiate the best deal possible and your rights as a dramatist are respected. DG is also a safe space for you to ask questions—any question as it relates to your career. It is only to your advantage to join.

I’m not successful enough to join the Guild.

Stop it right there. Whose definition of success are you adhering to? Why are you allowing others to define what success looks like for you? The untold story of the dramatist in America is there are a myriad of ways to build a life in the theatre as a dramatist; you will find yours. You join the Guild not only for community but to take advantage of all the professional development tools we provide. Take yourself seriously and join the Dramatists Guild!

I don’t know my rights as a dramatist.

Playwrights, composers, lyricists, and librettists often struggle professionally in theatres throughout the country and even on Broadway due to the wide-ranging demands and expectations imposed on them by their producers (and other collaborators), which are presented as standard terms. It is essential, therefore, that dramatists know their rights, known as the Dramatists’ Bill of Rights, which the Dramatists Guild established in 1926 and has defended ever since. 

I don’t understand anything about copyright.

Please take a moment to review our Copyright 101 page. It will provide a helpful and clear understanding of what copyright means to a dramatist.

Does the Guild offer model contracts?

Yes. Because the Guild tracks national and worldwide trends, we are able to provide 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 to download 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. Please note that members must pay additional dues (i.e., “assessments”) based on their royalties earned from productions presented under the APC. For more about assessments, please visit the Broadway information page.

I need someone to review my contract.

You’re just in luck. Our Career Help Desk (formerly known as the Business Affairs Help Desk or BA Help Desk) provides a portal to submit your unsigned contract for review. We only review unsigned theatre contracts—not film, tv, or book contracts. And we provide you with business advice, not legal.

The Guild only reviews Broadway contracts, correct?

No. We can review any unsigned theatre contract for a playwright, composer, lyricist, or librettist. LORT, Amateur, College or University, High School, Theatre for Young Audiences, Community Theatre, Licensing, and so on. If someone is asking you to sign a theatre contract, we can review it.

My show is optioned for Broadway. What do I do?

The Dramatists Guild can provide you with a Broadway Consultation with Ralph Sevush, our Executive Director of Business Affairs, alongside a seasoned writer previously produced on Broadway.

During the Broadway Consultation, you’ll get to ask any questions about bringing your show to Broadway. You’ll also have the opportunity to learn about the following aspects of the process:

• Broadway economics and how writers like you fit into its financial model.

• How to navigate unexpected challenges, such as disagreements between collaborators on the creative team and/or what happens when a show closes early.

• How to approach conversations regarding subsidiary rights and the licensing of your show.

• As laid out in the Approved Production Contract, industry standards for writers and how these standards prevent the exploitation of writers.

I was asked to sign a deal memo for a new show. What should I do?

Contact us immediately before you sign. Don’t wait.

RelatedTerms of Success: A Look at the Basic Terms of a Production AgreementContracts 101: Collaborations, Subsidiary Rights, Part One