N.Y. Musical Theater Fest backs down

Event won't take portion of subsidiary rights

The New York Musical Theater Festival has relented. The org will omit from its new contract a proposed clause that would give the fest subsidiary rights on shows that premiere at the annual event in Gotham.

“The mission of NYMF is to support theater artists, not to argue with them,” said fest exec director Isaac Robert Hurwitz in a letter to Dramatists Guild prexy Ralph Sevush. “We therefore withdraw our request to share in the subsidiary rights of authors participating in the 2010 festival and will remove that section (paragraph 5(E)) from our contract.”

Proposed language gave NYMF “2% of the applicant’s gross on all income received from the play in excess of $20,000 over 10 years” and “2% of the author’s gross on all income received from the play in excess of $20,000 over 10 years.”

Similar clauses are fairly standard for an institutional nonprofit theater, many of which develop the work they premiere, but are much less common for a theater festival, which contributes no developmental work to its shows.

The changes were publicized by the Dramatists Guild, which sent a strongly worded email to its members urging them to boycott the festival. “This organization is taking the position that they deserve the prerogatives, controls and compensation of a producer, but with the minimal obligations of a presenter,” said the emailed statement.

Several NYMF alum have thrived, both critically and financially: “Next to Normal” won the Pulitzer Prize for drama this year (show preemed at the fest under the name “Feeling Electric”), and “Altar Boyz,” which ran for nearly five years and more than 2,000 performances at Off Broadway’s New World Stages.

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