Writers Will Benefit From Roundabout Decision to Alter Subsidiary Rights Practice

News   Writers Will Benefit From Roundabout Decision to Alter Subsidiary Rights Practice
Roundabout Theatre Company announced on March 23 that it will begin a new subsidiary rights practice for living playwrights whose work is seen at the not-for-profit's Off-Broadway home at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre.

The Roundabout will be "voluntarily foregoing its subsidiary rights participation for its regular runs at the Laura Pels Theatre, that began with Theresa Rebeck's The Understudy, and at the Black Box Theatre, regardless of the length of the run."

In announcing this new policy, artistic director Todd Haimes stated, "I've always intended for the Steinberg Center primarily to be our home for new plays. I want that home to reflect the needs of the artists, and, for playwrights, we've concluded that this means foregoing our customary participation in subsidiary rights Off-Broadway. Making this change is just one part of how I see us continuing our commitment to new work and, most importantly, to living writers."

The Roundabout statement explains, "Subsidiary rights represent a playwright's earnings from other exploitations of a play after its initial production, whether from subsequent productions, film sale, or other audio-visual reproduction.

"Many theatres and producers earn a percentage participation in authors' subsidiary rights in consideration of the theatre's contributions to the value of the play.

"Over the past few years we've been speaking to playwrights about this issue, and it became clear that something needed to change. In talking to the artists, we realized that the question really came down to them wanting to feel a sense of ownership over their work, which I absolutely understand. So, beginning with Theresa Rebeck's The Understudy [last fall], we will now only participate in the subsidiary rights for a play at the Laura Pels Theatre if it extends beyond its initial engagement. If a show runs more than 18 weeks there, the subsidiary rights are open for negotiation. And regardless of how long a play runs at the Black Box, all net proceeds will go to the playwright. "We recognized our commitment to support new work and living writers meant we should forego subsidiary rights Off-Broadway."

Rebeck said in a March 23 statement, "I loved doing The Understudy at The Roundabout — everybody is seriously professional over there and very nice, too — and now I love them even more. With this announcement, they have leapt to the front of the line in the movement to support the new American play. How do we keep playwrights writing for the theatre? Let them earn a living! We need our subrights; sometimes it's that income which allows you to write your next play."

Robyn Goodman (artistic consultant to the Roundabout) curates the Roundabout Underground initiative that continues to be a creative breeding ground for nurturing new talent including Stephen Karam (Speech & Debate), Steven Levenson (The Language of Trees) and Adam Gwon (Ordinary Days). The 62-seat Black Box Theatre, below the Laura Pels Theatre in the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre, "allows Roundabout to take artistic risks that are better suited for a more intimate space."

Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie is currently playing at the Laura Pels.

Visit roundabouttheatre.org.

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