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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Showcase Code Modifications!

Some changes have been made to the Showcase Code! You can read about them here.

Movement on this front is good, encouraging, and welcome. Still, the extended weeks for rehearsal, with no change in hours, seems odd. I don't see how that will really change much for producers and actors who are working under tough time constraints anyhow. In fact, as Tim Errickson notes in the article, it will likely just be an extra budget item without a concurrent raise in the basic code's ticket cap.

The increase in budget, though (up to $35,000, exclusive of AEA stipends) does seem to accept the premise that "showcase code" productions aren't the sort of operations that the Code was meant to regulate, i.e. limited runs that actors would self-produce in order to get industry attention. If that message is getting through, more reform is definitely possible.

On the Seasonal Code front, there has been an increase in top ticket price (up to $25 from $20) and now companies can spread there 20 to 24 performances out over six weeks, up from five. This will help companies on the press front, and maybe gather audiences more effectively. With an extra week and a higher ticket price, that's a very positive development.

I'd love to hear readers' thoughts about this. This has been something I've written about often in this space. I'm extremely encouraged to see changes being made. I also don't see the changes here that could truly help New York's small theaters in a fundamental way. It's, as they say, a step in the right direction. Baby steps, perhaps.

Either way, this can't be seen as anything but good news.

UPDATE: I'd like to add that what it all comes down to, in the long run, is that we need more performances. That's the bottom line. Everything else is playing on the fringes of the actual issue. Obviously, all of the above is good. It'll help in small ways. But most of the main problems with the Code remain, even with these positive alterations.

UPDATE: Definitely read the excellent commentary here. Some of the comments seem frustrated and I can see why. Still, I think Nick Micozzi notes that there are some rather substantive roadblocks to true change. Reasonableness and patience are a virtue here. AEA seems to have some rather hard to turn wheels. The fact that they are acknowledging changing circumstances is a large concession to OOB.


Brian said...

I feel similarly - this is a positive, if small, step. For me, I'm happiest about the extra rehearsal week in the basic code. Orange Hanky's next show is "Pandora", and we'd really like to do a workshop of it with actors before we begin actual rehearsals; which the showcase code, of course, forbids. So the extra week, while not allowing any extra rehearsal hours, does at least allow the playwright an extra week of time with the actors to work on rewrites.
The budget increase is good, although I didn't know how were going to raise $20,000 in this economy in the first place.

RLewis said...

Of course the changes are good, but I still think that the Showcase Code should be used for what it was meant (as you rightly mention). I'm really hoping for a seperate Code for all the theaters that have been producing for years and/or decades, but don't have their own space: The Funded Non-Resident, Non-Seasonal Theater Code.

Freeman said...

RLewis -

I think you're right on that. Do you think incrementally the Code could transform into that? Or, is it better to leave the Code alone, and argue for something entirely new?

RLewis said...

MF, I believe that there should always be a bottom rung for those just starting out or for actors who want to give producing a try; so, I think the Showcase Code should stick with the basic minimum requirements.

But from there to a Contract is a huge leap, so I think there needs to be something in between that is more horizontally, rather then upwardly, mobile (no one is going up in this recession).

I'm hoping for a 5-borough Code that acknowledges the huge growth of professional theater in our communities throughout the City that is neither trying to move "up" to midtown or be a real estate junky.

This would include hundreds of companies that are poor, but not broke; can pay the union more, just not a living wage; and are more into serving their local communities than the gods of Broadway.