Thursday, January 19, 2017

Blood on the Snow will return to the Old State House

The announcement was made official today:  Blood on the Snow will return to the Old State House in Boston, for the WHOLE SUMMER.  Yep, that's right, a 12-week run, opening June 1st. We sold out the entire run last year and the audience response was tremendous to this immersive show set on the day after the Boston Massacre. In the room where it happened. (an important meeting that might have determined the fate of America, not the massacre) Most of the original cast (who are amazing) are returning for the run. The folks at the Old State House/Bostonian society are amazing to work with. Should be a great summer.  Here's a very cool trailer they came up with for the show.  Tickets aren't on sale yet, but if you're interested, get on the mailing list to find out when (I think it's going to sell very quickly again).

The success of this show has been very interesting, in a town where performing space is at a premium.  As is funding.  This show was able to use a resource where Boston is incredibly rich (historical sites) and partner with an unusual partner for theater (National Park Service), so play a show for audience that were not necessarily the typical theatre audience.  (I'll write more about all this soon.)  The model for what we're doing can continue to expand across Boston and in other cities.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Writing by the Numbers, 2016

Here is the annual round up of my writing stats. Taking the time to write these posts gives me a chance to catch my breath, reflect, and set some goals for the next year.  Plus, I love it when other writers share posts like these--it's hard to know what one might achieve, even if you're not a  superstar. Concrete numbers are hard to come by for playwrights about productions and income.

2016 was an extremely challenging year for me and my family. My mother-in-law spent a couple months in hospital and hospice before passing away in July. Laurel was a hugely important part of my family's lives and we miss her dearly.

As you might expect, losing someone that close, and dealing with hospitals and funerals and travel necessarily had an impact on my work, as well as my personal life. During that time, I was also trying to balance my involvement with productions and readings of four different full-length plays, plus a commission for an historical feature-length screenplay. And also renovating our 1890s Victorian house. A good chunk of the middle of 2016 is a blur to me. I was extremely fortunate to work with theater artists who were incredibly supportive and compassionate during a difficult time. I can't thank them enough.

Despite the challenges of the year, I got some new stuff written. I spent more time in rehearsal than ever before. And I picked up some film work, which boosted my income a lot. I also did a bit more teaching, including a two-day stint at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, talking about marketing and tracking and planning with MFA students. Oh, and I finished transforming the attic of our house into a new master suite and learned a lot of skills along the way.

Here are my stats for 2016:

Number of Productions/Readings:  40  (In 2014, I had 49) 
(These were of 28 different scripts.)
Number of Performances:  106(This includes published plays.  In 2015 my work had 151 performances.)
  • 2 productions and 2 readings of full-length plays.   
    • Blood on the Snow was a site-specific play commissioned by the Bostonian Society/Old State House Museum. It took us more than two years to raise the money and put the production together, but it was one of my most satisfying artistic experiences ever, with a tremendously talented team. Plus we sold out the run before we even opened. It will return in summer 2017, for an extended run.
Daniel Berger Jones and Dale Place in Blood on the Snow, photo by Nile Hawver / Nile Scott Shots
    • Blinders was given a terrific production by the Flat Earth Theatre in Boston, and the timing of the production plus presidential election couldn't have been more prescient (or creepy). Loved working with these folks.
Matt Arnold, Craig Ciampa, and Justus Perry in Blinders. Photo by Jake Scaltreto.
    • Drift received a two-week workshop over the summer from the Huntington Theatre Company. I couldn't have asked for a better development experience, or a more talented and supportive set of collaborators.

  • My work was read or produced in 4 countries:  US, Canada, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, and these 16 states: MA, FL, NJ, CO, RI, KY, MT, NY, CA, FL, VA, NE, WA, WI, IA, DE (these don't include plays done by students in competition--those were used widely, across North America). Santa Doesn't Live Here Anymore had the most productions of my short plays this year, and has quite a few lined up for 2017. In August, the AND Theatre in South Korea flew me to Incheon to see a festival of my short plays. Eight different companies each produced a different short script, in Korean! More than 50 people worked on this festival, performing in front of enthusiastic crowds. It was an incredible experience.
Eden in Chains, in Incheon, South Korea
 Estimated Audience for 2016:  6,000 total. (down a lot from 2015)

For published plays I estimate low, 40 people/performance. The rest of the total audience comes from books sales, plays published in anthologies, etc. I also don't track plays used by students in competition. So the actual number is probably much higher.

Books sold:  60+   Very, very slow year for book sales for me. The craziness of year really cut into my efforts here. I will make more time for book marketing in 2017.


Total:   186   (down from 197 last year)
queries for plays:  13
play scripts submitted:  142   (Last year I sent 169)
queries for books: 28
book manuscripts submitted:  3

I plan to increase submissions in 2017. Marketing time definitely got squeezed this year.

Hours spent on writing :  1,223 hours
  • actual writing and research:  416 hours (my goal was 350)
  • reading for work (not fun):  28 hours  
  • rehearsals and writing meetings:  438 hours  (includes teaching)
  • marketing and admin:  274 hours
  • New England New Play Alliance:  67 hours
This year I spent a lot of time working with my hands, on major house renovations, including converting our attic into a new master suite, where I (along with my wife) did a lot of the interior framing and windows and all of the drywall, doors, trim, painting, floors, and tile. Altogether, I spent about 873 hours on house renovations, including 650 hours on the attic project. 

Spent a lot of time with the nail gun in 2016.
This gives a total work hours of 2,096 for 2016. 

Here's how my time was spent in past years:
2015:  1,035 hours (262 writing/52 reading/295 rehearsing/303 admin/123 New Play Alliance) + 561 on moving and house renovations
2014:  1,426 hours (452 writing/109 reading/342 rehearsing/396 marketing/127 New Play Alliance) + 130 hours farming.
 2013:  996 hours (394 writing/308 rehearsing/294 marketing)  + 902 hours farming
2012:  896 hours.  (386 writing/278 rehearsing and meeting/231 marketing)   + 734 hours farming

2011: 818 hours.  (I didn't break out rehearsals from desk writing time in 2011).

Given our family challenges of 2016, and the large amount of carpentry work, I'm quite content with my writing hours. Having two commissions where I was trying to meet deadlines required me to keep writing. I set a new record for hours in rehearsal/meetings this year, mostly because I was super involved with the production of Blood on the Snow, and the workshop of Drift at the Huntington was also pretty intense. For 2017, I still have some major house renovation projects (gutting a bathroom and major exterior work), but I hope to increase my overall writing time a bit and cut carpentry time down closer to 600 hours. We'll see.
Writing output:
1 new full-length play (Drift)
1 new feature-length historical screenplay (commissioned)
1 new one-act on quantum physics for Central Square Theater and the MIT Museum (commissioned)
various rewrites (especially of Blood on the Snow and Chore Monkeys)
Plays watched:  45   (saw 52 in 2015)
Movies/TV series watched:  39   (51 in 2015)
Plays read: 25     (18in 2015)
Books read:  17  (12in 2015)

Despite a busy year, I saw more plays than I would have expected. I always want to read more books and plays, and will actively work to make that happen in 2017

Gross Income$25,857   
published plays:  $1,244
production royalties:  $2,320   
film projects:  $16,500  (hired to write a script and one of my novels was optioned)
commissions:  $3,284 
teaching: $2,200 
my novels:  $259 
Prizes: $0 
misc. (essays, panels, editing, other): $50 

Expensesabout $11,472  
I spent more than $6,000 on legal fees for two different film projects. Good entertainment lawyers don't come cheap.

Net Income:  $14, 385  

Financially, 2016 was my best year ever. It'll be tough to beat it in 2017. I was able to meaningfully contribute to our family's finances from my writing income (which is good when you have a kid in college).

past years:
2015:  Gross income: $8,662  Expenses: $4,979  net:  $3,682
2014:  Gross income:  $7,974  Expenses $5,580  net:  $2,494
2013:  Gross income:   $7,767  Expenses:  5,758  net:  $2,029
2012:  Gross Income:  $3,844  Expenses:  $2,808  net:  $1,063
2011:  Gross Income:   $2,638   Expenses:  $4,665  net:  $-2,027

Those are my writing numbers. Despite all the turmoil in our lives, it ended up being a pretty good year, writing-wise. I hope to make 2017 even better. I've already got about a dozen productions scheduled, which feels awfully nice (including 2 full-length productions in New England).

Please let me know if you keep track of numbers like this.  If you post about it anywhere, let me know, and I'll post a link below.

These are some friends who have summed up their years:

Adam Szymkowicz's year in review 
Donna Hoke's year in review
Diana Burbano's year in review