Roundabout gives playwrights new deal

'Language Archive,' 'Tigers' on tap for fall 2010

The Roundabout Theater Company has opted to forego subsidiary rights for the regular runs of shows produced in its Off Broadway space, as well as for runs of any length at its smaller venue. The policy change was announced Tuesday along with plans for two fall 2010 offerings, “The Language Archive” and “Tigers Be Still.”

Subsidiary rights pertain to the coin earned by a play subsequent to its initial production, from sources including further stagings, film deals or other future media incarnations. A percentage of that potential future money is often claimed by producers of the original staging.

In the new Roundabout deal, scribes will no longer be required to fork over a percentage of their subsidiary rights for plays produced in regular engagements (that do not extend) at the at Off Broadway space the Laura Pels, or for plays that have runs of any length at its Off Off Broadway venue, the Black Box.

Roundabout will now only get a chunk of the subsidiary rights of a new play at the Pels if a show extends its original run there. If it runs more than 18 weeks, rights will be open again to negotiation.

New arrangement extends back to “The Understudy,” the Theresa Rebeck comedy that played the Pels last fall. Deal does not apply to the org’s productions at its three Broadway venues, the American Airlines, Studio 54, and the Henry Miller’s (soon to be rechristened the Stephen Sondheim).

Playwrights and agents have long grumbled about subsidiary rights deals they considered onerous, including those made with the Roundabout. The general discontent of legit scribes, particularly regarding the difficulty of making a living at the profession, also got a prominent airing in “Outrageous Fortune,” the book about playwrights by Todd London and Ben Pesner. The book stirred up much discussion in the legit community following its recent release.

Although the Roundabout decision reps the loss of a revenue stream for the nonprofit company, managing director Harold Wolpert didn’t characterize it as a significant one, and added the org chose to implement the new arrangement a signal of respect for the company’s relationship with playwrights.

“The financial impact to us is not nearly as significant as it is to the playwrights,” Wolpert said.

Coming to the Steinberg Center under that new deal is “Language Archive,” the Julia Cho play that recently picked up the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. A Roundabout commission, “Archive” will preem at South Coast Rep later this month in a production staged by Mark Brokaw, who also will helm at the Pels.

In the Black Box, Kimberly Rosenstock’s comedy “Tigers Be Still” will be directed by Sam Gold, who recently helmed Off Broadway buzzmagnet “Circle Mirror Transformation.”

Both shows are on tap for fall 2010 runs, with exact dates to be announced.

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