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Originally inspired by European literary salons (but nowhere near as haughty), this newsletter is part round-up, part amusement, and part conversation-starting. Each week I'll highlight a few things I've seen and read and launch a conversation around an industry topic. It's our post-show pub conversations, only digital! You're encouraged to respond to this email with any insights, feelings, gripes, or revelations. Grab a drink, imagine you’re draped on a velvet sofa, and let’s ponder about plays!
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It shouldn't be revolutionary to pay artists.

Over the last year, there has been endless talk about several major structural failings in the industry. There is a lot to be said on all sides (and don’t you worry, we’ll talk about all of it!) but today I want to focus on the less-than-revolutionary concept of actually paying artists a salary.

Theatre globally (except Germany, so jealous) has been built on freelance work, with artists only being paid when they are on a gig. Earlier this summer, Soho Rep (who are perpetually ahead of the curve) decided they were going to put their artists on salary. They wanted to do this to create more equitable opportunities, as “aging out” (which Liv O’Donoghue spoke about last week) and people “losing the love” is causing creatives to leave theatre permanently for the greener pastures of a stable income and health insurance. Sarah Benson, the co-director of Soho Rep notes in an article with Vulture that “outside theater, the idea of hiring some folks with salaries and dental plans may not seem like a big deal. But if staffing for artists were to become common practice, the theater as we know it would be upended completely.”

“This industry is so brutal” or “it's worth it because you love it” are bad excuses to not pay people for their time, creative energy, labor, or ideas. What allows the theatre to operate completely outside of structures that are commonplace in other industries? The “starving artist” trope is simply not romantic anymore. (Was it ever?)


This past week Out of Joint, a theatre company based in London, also pledged to put six artists on salary in the hopes of “creat[ing] a radical permission structure for our writers to give us their bravest, most joyous work." This brings up an interesting point. What would the work look like if artists weren’t constantly hustling for the next gig? What permission is granted by investing in artists for longer than a single show? We’ve seen this happen with theatres like The Royal Court and Signature Theatre committing to multiple plays from a single playwright’s work, but this structure does not exist for other non-writer creatives. I’m not offering many solutions here- just posing questions and placing these articles in conversation with one another. Would love to know what you all think. 

What's happening this week.

Hi, Are You Single? at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

Written and acted by Ryan J. Haddad of The Politician fame, this is his story about having cerebral palsy and entering the gay dating scene. Woolly Mammoth is notorious for pushing the envelope and showcasing the best new writing, and with Laura Savia directing, it is sure to be full of empathy and humor. Available until Feb 28. Watch it here >>
Angels in America at the National Theatre

The National Theatre has unsurprisingly been very pandemic savvy and pretty early on began releasing their NTLive broadcasts on an at-home subscription platform. They finally released my actual favorite play of all time (I know... I know... how basic.) But it is impeccable theatre, professionally shot with real audiences (gasp!) Plus Denise Gough is luminous and we definitely stan Madame Marriane Elliot. You can either subscribe to NTatHome (renews monthly) or "rent" each part separately. Each part is over 3.5 hours long so prepare your snacks and jugs of wine accordingly. Also fair warning, it hits different in a pandemic. Watch it here >> 
Dominique Morriseau speaks to Michigan Public Radio

Dominique is a playwright (and casually, a MacArthur Fellow) who is the newest executive artistic producer at Detroit Public Theatre. She talks about what this year means for Black theatre leaders and creatives. Skip to the 18 min mark for a particularly compelling answer about policing subject matter in Black plays. Heads up- the consistent and awkward pronunciation of her name by the host is very cringey. Listen here >>
Other Happenings

➤ The New York City Ballet announced their digital Spring season, featuring new work from Justin Peck and Kyle Abraham beginning February 22nd on their Youtube channel.

➤ The Raft is streaming through Schaubühne in Berlin with English subtitles from February 11th-14th. I'm pumped for this as it sounds downright bizarre. Just reading the description paragraph was thought-provoking. Watch it here >>

➤ Quick & insightful interview in NYT Magazine with Jodie Foster about how risk-averse the film industry is and how compartmentalization is advantageous. Read it here >>
Thoughts?
This week was very industry-facing, but I'm curious about all points of view. So I'm asking everyone: 
➤ What are the benefits for audiences when artists are put on salary? 
➤ What other business models might be helpful to look at?
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Olivia is a freelance director who has worked primarily in Dublin and NYC. She is preoccupied with German theatre aesthetics, creating work across geographical and cultural boundaries, and why football had a pandemic season (and oh so many outbreaks) when theatres remained closed. 
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