May 9, 2015

My artistic mission

I've been reading a lot of Seth Lepore's stuff lately, especially now that he's writing stuff for HowlRound about a sustainable life in the arts that has all kinds of synapses firing in my head. Via some posts on his blog, I came across Artists U, which is where I found Making Your Life As An Artist, an e-book I think anyone who wants a career in the arts should read. (If you can afford it, do get the physical copy.)

The whole thing was valuable, but the part that sticks out the most to me is how it has you re-imagine your mission: instead of simply calling yourself an artist or a writer, or a dry grantspeak that nobody understands, Andrew Simonet has you talk about your work in a way that gets the point across in a way that's both vibrant and easy to understand.

When someone asks me, "What do you do?" I now have a little elevator pitch that's short, sweet, and exciting. It conveys my passion for storytelling, the things that matter most to me, and the things I write about.

Regular Person: What do you do?
What I Used To Say: I'm a playwright.
What I Say Now: I’m interested in creating works of fantasy that takes the straight white male default and turns it on its head. I’m looking at how I can create a space in the fantasy genre for myself and people like me--queer Black women who love magic and elves and witches but don’t get to see ourselves in stories like that. I’ve written stories about a famous person crawling out of a television, a Black lady pirate falling in love with a Latina sorceress, a Black woman who is lured away by the Elvenking, and a white cop who shot an unarmed Black teenager and claimed that the boy was a werewolf.

That's probably not the best I can do, but it's not bad. It's quick, clear, and doesn't pretend to be something it's not.

I could do a lot worse than this.

April 22, 2015

How much would it cost to pay a cast minimum wage?

This is an exercise I've done for the Community Dish, waaaaay back when, and now that Actor's Equity has updated the 99-seat plans for LA theaters (aka, theatre for the little guys).

It's not meant to be an argument for or against imposing minimum wage rules. It's more a gauge of how our budgeting would have to change if we want to pay actors a fair wage.

So, when taking into account the $9 per hour minimum wage, how much would it take to hire actors for one of my plays? Say, Encanta.

It goes without saying that a good chunk of the price would depend heavily upon how much each actor needs to rehearse. However, for a rule of thumb, I'm going to use a guideline of 1 hour per minute of running time.

As a play, Encanta can run anywhere from 80 to 100 minutes, so let's aim for the middle at 90 minutes. There need to be 90 total hours of rehearsal. And, if we are adding tech rehearsal, that can easily get to 100 minutes. That's a nice, round number we can use without cutting it too close.

Now, Encanta has 6 named roles and 3 to however many background roles, meaning at least 9 actors. They are:

  1. Penzima
  2. Katrina
  3. Juan
  4. Rico
  5. Maria
  6. Mob Leader
  7. Mob of Haters

The scene breakdowns with estimated running times and characters are below:

  1. Scene 1.1 (10 minutes, 10 hours of rehearsal): Penzima, Juan, Rico
  2. Scene 1.2 (10 minutes, 10 hours of rehearsal): Penzima, Juan, Rico, Katrina, Maria
  3. Scene 2.1 (10 minutes, 10 hours of rehearsal): Penzima, Katrina, Maria
  4. Scene 2.2 (10 minutes, 10 hours of rehearsal): Penzima, Katrina, Juan, Rico, Maria
  5. Scene 2.3 (10 minutes, 10 hours of rehearsal): Penzima, Katrina
  6. Scene 3.1 (5 minutes, 5 hours of rehearsal): Penzima, Maria
  7. Scene 3.2 (10 minutes, 10 hours of rehearsal): Juan, Rico, Mob Leader, Penzima, Mob of Haters
  8. Scene 3.3 (10 minutes, 10 hours of rehearsal): Katrina, Penzima, Juan, Rico, Mob Leader

With those scene breakdowns, the total rehearsal time (roughly) for each part is:

  1. Penzima = 75 hours of rehearsal
  2. Katrina = 50 hours of rehearsal
  3. Juan = 50 hours of rehearsal
  4. Rico = 50 hours of rehearsal
  5. Maria = 45 hours of rehearsal
  6. Mob Leader = 20 hours of rehearsal
  7. Mob of Haters = 10 hours of rehearsal

So, with the $9 per hour minimum wage, this means that each actor should get paid at least the following just for rehearsals alone:

  • Penzima = $675
  • Katrina = $450
  • Juan = $450
  • Rico = $450
  • Maria = $405
  • Mob Leader = $180
  • Mob of Haters = $90 each (minimum 3, so $270)

For performance days, the same minimum wage applies. For 12 performances of 2 hours each (including setup and strike), this means that each actor gets $216 for being on stage, which brings the minimum pay for each actor to...

  • Penzima: $891
  • Katrina: $666 (ha!)
  • Juan: $666
  • Rico: $666
  • Maria: $621
  • Mob Leader: $396
  • Mob of Haters: $306 (minimum 3, so $918 total)

This makes a grand total of  $4,599, so rounding up to $4,600 (or $5,000 to give wiggle room) on top of all other production costs.

For a small production, that...isn't actually so bad.

January 15, 2015

Dusting off this blog

 I know, I know, I've been bad.

I've been neglecting this blog for so long.

Sorry about that.

Anyway, I come bearing news and thoughts.

First of all, I eagerly await my return to NYC. Although Queens is cheaper, I love Brooklyn, so if you know somebody with an affordable, peaceful, critter-free apartment they'd like a roommate for, let me know.

Now, onto the writing stuff.

As you know, I'm shopping around "Encanta" to just about every open submission for full-length plays of the appropriate length, genre, and content.

I did a rewrite of a ten-minute play, and I've also completed a first draft of a one-act play.

Strangely enough, I find that I like the format. Much in the same vein as I prefer short stories to novels the vast majority of the time.

Something about the one-act format gives me time to flesh out an idea while at the same time not taking forever and a day to get to the point.

But there is still something inside me that rebels at not giving people at least 90 minutes of entertainment for their $10, $15, $20, or $25 (no more than that, mkay? Money is tight).

I suppose if I were more prolific, and wrote all these short plays I have ideas for, I could easily put together a showcase of 3 or 4 such plays to give people an idea of who I am as a writer and theare maker.

Other than that, it's been good, albeit frustrating to not yet be where I wish to be.