Sunday, August 14, 2016

Free to Fringe and Proud Of It

On August 11, 2016, The Dramatist Guild (an 80+ year old organization that advances the interests of authors writing for the stage) sent out a warning to its membership via its e-Newsletter about FringeNYC contracts between authors whose works are being presented in the festival and FringeNYC.  Not only does The DG site the contracts which state that authors must pay FringeNYC subsidiary rights as problematic, they point out other sub-standard terms (such as fees that authors must pay, and ticket sales split) to its membership. Kevin R. Free, TFTT's Producing Artistic Director, and author of  Night of the Living N-Word, which is receiving its world premiere in this year's FringeNYC, wrote a response to the DG which was posted on Facebook. We are reposting Kevin's letter in The Fires This Times.

Dear Dramatists Guild:

Kevin R. Free
I am so proud to be opening my play #‎NIGHTOFTHELIVINGNWORD‬ in FringeNYC - The New York International Fringe Festival . If I miraculously make $20,000 on it and then have to give them 2% after that, I will still be proud (because helloooo $20,000!!). I am proud that this is my 3rd play that I've premiered in FringeNYC. It's costing money, but not as much as it would cost to rent a space and produce it on my own, which is what I am doing with Eevin Hartsough and MyCarl Productions. I'm proud of the team we've assembled: Nicole Watson (director); cast members Tanisha Thompson, Romeo Lacandola, Aaron Parker Fouhey, Stanley Wayne Mathis; and crew Clara Antonia Reyes, Todd Brian Backus, Isaiah Tanenbaum, Clarissa Marie, Tracey Lee, Josh Coakley and Bridget Brennan. Seriously, these people are better than most people I've ever known, and we aren't paying them what they are worth. I am proud of my play, which is hilarious, socially relevant, and has so many n-words in it that it may never be produced by a mainstream theater.

I am an adult - a professional artist. I signed that contract with FringeNYC knowing its terms, and knowing that if *I* didn't produce this play, it would never see the light of day. I make theater. I create community while making theater. I am not concerned anymore about being famous. Or rich (not from making theater, anyway). I want to make socially relevant entertainment that reflects the diversity of the world around me, and pushes entertainment-seekers to THINK. And if my production company is ever lucky enough to receive city funding to work with the youth of NYC, most of whom are of color - like MTC or Roundabout - you better believe that those youth will be able to attend a MyCarl Productions show and see themselves represented onstage.

I'm pissed off about a couple of FringeNYC things: no tickets sold at the door; no storage space at my venue for my amazingly-designed set dressing. But I ain't mad about all the great people I will meet; the collaborations that I will solidify; the fun we are having making this play; or the community of passionate volunteers who make this festival happen, and our fearless, loving, passionate leader Elena K. Holy, who has supported me and my artistry for 20 years.

So, Dramatists Guild, while I hope to seek your advice if any of my interestingly-titled plays are produced by a major (or minor) theater, I also hope never to feel ashamed again because I haven't been privileged enough to have the rights you claim have been stripped of me by FringeNYC. I know you were trying to help, but all you did was make me more worried that my peers wouldn't attend the show.

Perhaps now you can try to work with Indie Theater Makers and FringeNYC to create a mutually beneficial contract...? Or...?

I'm going to bed now...

For info about Night of the Living N-Word, click here.