Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Writing by the Numbers 2021

In September, Moonlight Abolitionists marked the return of in-person performances. It was an absolute joy to get to work with this team, in this amazing place.

I write these annual posts to provide some public account of myself and my work, but more importantly to share some of the reality behind what's involved with a life in the theatre and the arts. Many new theatre artists arrive into the field without any idea of what people make--my story isn't necessarily a success story--I'm not famous or making a living at my art, but I am creating work that reaches thousands of people every year, our productions create work and pay for other artists, and I'm earning some positive income. With my ventures into site-specific work, I've found a creative avenue that is completely engaging and I get to work with fantastic collaborators on challenging, high quality projects. That part feels like success to me.

This past year saw the continuation of the global COVID pandemic, as well as political turmoil in the US. In the theatre world, the arrival of the COVID vaccines brought a quick subsidence of the virus and hope for a return to normalcy. My company, Plays in Place, finally saw a return to in-person performances in September and October. Now, with the Delta and Omicron variants, the situation looks rough for at least the coming weeks or months, though I have hopes for the spring.

The pandemic resulted in the postponements of productions of my plays Mox Nox and Beloved Island: Windows on Campobello, and slowed down the overall the theatre market. I was fortunate to be involved with several projects that are still in R&D/revision mode, with productions not scheduled until 2023 and 2024, plus some new audio projects.

In addition to the pandemic, the biggest impact on my writing life was my family's move--we sold our house in Medford, Massachusetts in June, and moved to an old house and barn in Florence, MA, that we bought two years ago and have been working on ever since. This move took up a LOT of my time and energy (and provided a payback for many hours I've spend on home renovation, a larger financial return than any writing project, by far). We've gotten through it and are settling into a new town with a more relaxed pace of life and a lot more nature around. I still have significant building/carpentry projects ahead, as we renovate this barn to include not just our offices, but also a large woodshop and a loft suitable for rehearsals and meetings. We hope to hold artist retreats and new play development workshops here in the future.

Below you'll find my attempt to sum up the year's writing-related stats. I want to express my gratitude to all my creative partners this year--all the artists who worked with me on projects, the staff and leadership at Rev Spaces, Mount Auburn Cemetery, Lyric Stage, and the National Park Service, and the friends who let me crash at their houses while I put together shows in Boston. And a special shout-out to Jazzmin Bonner, my co-producer at Plays in Place, who is helping me navigate a complex series of productions while I'm also writing and revising scripts with some unique challenges.

New steel beam arriving for the loft of the barn.

So, here are my numbers.

My writing/life stats for 2021:  

Productions were up from 2020, but only about half of what I'd see in a normal year. I did get to see a production of some of my short plays on an island in Lake Champlain this summer, and I was glad to add France to the list of countries where my work has been read or produced.

Number of Productions/Readings:  26 (23 productions, 3 readings). Some were streaming, but most were in person this year.

These were of 18 different plays, including 2 full-length scripts. In 11 US states and 5 countries (US, Japan, Korea, Australia, France)

Number of Performances:  60.  This includes published plays.

Previous Years' productions and performances:

2020:  14 productions and readings, 21 performances
2019:  46 productions and readings, 310 performances
2018:  42 productions and readings.  259 performances.
2017:  48 total.  227 performances.
2016:  40 total. 106 performances.
2015:  49 total. 151 performances.
2014:  44 total. 123 performances.

Moonlight Abolitionists at Mount Auburn Cemetery was a highlight of 2021

Estimated Audience for 2021:  3,300 total

Audience reach is one of my important concerns. This year was double 2020, but still only about 25% of what I'd hope to see in a normal year. I expect that 2022 will also be rough.

Previous years' audiences:

2020:  1,607
2019: 12,077
2018:  11,424
2017:  13,092
2016:  6,000
2015:  11,578
2014:  13,411

(For published plays I estimate low--40 people/performance. I don't track plays used by students in competition, so the actual number is higher. )

Monstrat Viam was one of my audio plays this year, and a chance to work with longtime collaborator Courtney O'Connor.

My books have all been out for a while now, so sales were low. I don't have the amount that Mount Auburn Cemetery sold of our anthology, so the actual number is probably a bit higher. But still depressingly low. (I'm tempted not to include them, but stats aren't very useful if you only include the happy stuff.)

Books sold15

Previous Years'  book sales:

2020:  76
2019:  35
2018:  77
2017:  40+
2016:  60+
2015:  350+
2014:  78


My script submissions remained quite modest this year. I spend more of my marketing time trying to land new gigs for Plays in Place than I do sending out scripts to theatres. Most theatres are struggling right now, so there are many fewer opps for in-person production. Audio adaptations were a digital highlight for me this year.

Total:   61 (slightly up from last year.)

queries for plays:  5
play scripts submitted:  56 (Same as last year)

This is a new audio version of one of my newest plays, North Pole Noir, from Gather by the Ghostlight, and is great fun.

Writing output:

This year was almost all about revising and research, which was fine, because the move made new writing a challenge. The coming year will see more revision but also at least one new full-length play that needs to be written (as a commission) and possibly some others. 
  • Wrote a lot in my journal.
  • Wrote more drafts of Scipio's Balcony, a commissioned full-length site-specific play, which is scheduled for 2023 production at Boston's Old South Meeting House
  • Finished a new audio play for Lyric Stage, which was released in May.
  • Continued research on a new site-specific play for the National Park Service
  • Researched and co-wrote a pilot and the series bible for a new historical audio series that my writing partners and I hope will find a home in 2022.

Plays watched:  29 (saw 30 in 2020)
Movies/TV series watched:  47 (44 in 2020)
Plays read: 14  (14 in 2020)
Books read:  18 (24 in 2020)

Imagining the Age of Phillis is a series of 8 short films directed by John ADEkoje that I produced for Plays in Place and Rev Spaces early this year.

Patrick's writing $$ for 2021

Gross Income:  $11,394
published plays performance royalties:  $597
play production royalties:  $1,260   
film projects:  $0  
play commissions:  $4,450   
teaching/coaching/consulting: $2,419   
my books:  $33
Prizes/fellowships: $0     
Plays in Place (as producer): $2,460

misc. (essays, panels, editing, other): $175

Expenses:  about $5,866  (includes mileage expenses)  

Net Income:  $5,582  (before taxes)

Past years:

2020:  Gross income:  $14,162  Expenses: $5,822  Net:  $8,340
2019:  Gross income:  $19,511  Expenses:  $7,500  Net:  $11,761
2018:  Gross Income: $23,192  Expenses: $14,227  net:  $8,965
2017:  Gross Income: $31,343   Expenses:  $9,715  net:  $21,628
2016:  Gross Income:  $25,857  Expenses: $11,472  net:  $14,385
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

As expected, 2021 was rough financially, as it was for so many theatre artists. Plays in Place managed to survive and produce two theatre projects and one video project--which paid me some producer fees, but most of those were absorbed back into the business. The coming year should be much better--I already know of at least $12,000 in coming commissions and consulting. With a little luck, my writing income could almost be back to where I was in 2019. (Which I realize is still not a sustainable income, in any real sense.)

I Am This Place by Miranda ADEkoje was a Plays in Place project that premiered at Old South Meeting House in October. This was our first commission of a writer other than me, with more already underway.

My writing time for the year was decent, given that we moved this summer. My goal is typically 400 hours of writing time, so I was glad to surpass that (though my record is 580 hours ).  Next year has several large writing projects that are going to demand a lot of time and discipline, but I'm excited to tackle all of them.

My Plays in Place hours have grown substantially, to more than 450 hours. Overall, it's important me to keep a balance between my writing and producing time, and also to make sure I make time for carpentry/renovation projects. For the, the mind-hands equilibrium is important for my health and sanity.

Here are my time stats for 2021:

Total working time: 1,698 hours    total transit time: 157 hours

Time spent on writing :  1,358 hours   

  • actual writing and research:  480 hours 
  • reading for work (not project research):  11 hours  
  • play attendance:  48 hours 
  • rehearsals/writing meetings:  129 hours  (includes teaching/consulting)
  • marketing and admin:  156 hours  
  • Seven Devils Board Work: 27 hours 
  • Dramatists Guild: 37 hours    (I resigned as Regional Rep in late spring)
  • Media Work (learning video stuff):  9.25
  • Transit time for writing projects: 56 hours

Time spent on Home Renovations/Real Estate/Moving: 339 hours

  • Renovations and repairs and sale of Medford house:  225 hours
  • Fixing up Northampton property: 114 hours
  • Transit time for these:  101 hours

I now have a spacious office in the barn. We're working on creating a space in the loft of the barn for rehearsals and meetings.

Here's how my time was spent in past years:

2020:  1,882 total work hours. 1,382 writing hours (580 writing/21 reading/55 play attendance/189 rehearsing/176 marketing/36 Seven Devils/106 Dramatists Guild/200 Plays in Place.  78.5 in transit.  519 hours on home renovations/real estate.

2019:  2,119 total work hours. 1,619 writing hours (394 writing/31 reading/83 play attendance/375 rehearsing/210 marketing/11 New Play Alliance/79 Dramatists Guild/437 Plays in Place.  294 hours in transit.  500 hours on home renovations/real estate.

2018:  1,905 total works hours. 1,905 writing hours (546 writing/30 reading/89 play attendance/553 rehearsing/373 marketing & admin/41 New Play Alliance/110 Dramatists Guild/164 Plays in Place).  282 hours in transit.

2017:  2,018 total work hours.  1,338 writing hours (371 writing/23 reading/468 rehearsing/347 marketing/129 New Play Alliance and Dramatists Guild)+680 hours on house renovations

2016:  2,096 total work hours. 1,223 writing hours (416 writing/28 reading/438 rehearsing/274 marketing-admin/67 New Play Alliance)+873 on house renovations.

2015: 1,596 total work hours.  1,035 writing hours (262 writing/52 reading/295 rehearsing/303 marketing-admin/123 New Play Alliance) + 561 on moving and house renovations

2014:  1,556 total work hours. 1,426 writing hours (452 writing/109 reading/342 rehearsing/396 marketing/127 New Play Alliance) + 130 hours farming.

 2013:  1,898 total work hours.  996 writing hours (394 writing/308 rehearsing/294 marketing)  + 902 hours farming

2012:  1,630 total work hours.  896 writing hours.  (386 writing/278 rehearsing and meeting/231 marketing)   + 734 hours farming

2011: 818 writing hours.  (I didn't break out rehearsals from desk writing time in 2011). My kids were a lot younger back then.

Thanks for reading. 
I hope you all have a productive and prosperous 20212  Happy New Year!

Tracy and I are excited about our new house and barn.

1 comment:

Emma Goldman-Sherman said...

Congratulations on a year well spent! I wonder how you manage to keep track of so much and vow to do better myself. Very inspiring, thank you!