Saturday, May 29, 2021

My 10th year sales

Pioneer was right.

In their annual letter to writers last year, they said that as tough as last school year was (I saw a 13% drop in productions, with nearly all shows cancelled in the second half of March and April), they warned that the coming year would be worse.

I'd hoped it wasn't true. Like most people, I'd thought that the pandemic would peak in the summer but that things would be back to normal by the time school started up again in September.

Of course it didn't happen that way. As everyone knows, we had a whopper of a wave that started in November and didn't end until we started to see the effects of the vaccine in February. (Thank you, researchers!). The result: almost an entire year's worth of school and community theater productions were wiped out.

Fortunately, there were a couple bright spots. One was the growing popularity of virtual theatre through streaming apps like Zoom. The other were all those brave directors and students who managed to maintain all those social distancing procedures necessary to keep live theater, well, alive.

Still, things weren't great. I had a total of 160 productions--a 49% drop from the 314 productions I had last year, which was a 13% drop from the 361 productions I had in my best year of 2018-2019.

That's not as bad as it could have been, but most of those productions were for shorter plays or fewer performances than my usual mix, resulting in an even more painful drop of 69% in revenues.

For the fourth year in a row, my bestselling play was The Enchanted Bookshop with 40 productions. That's a huge drop from the 121 it got last year and the record-setting 156 it got the year before that, but it's still pretty impressive for a large-cast play in the middle of a pandemic.

It was the first full year for the musical version of that play, The Enchanted Bookshop Musical. With 22 productions during the year, it moved into second place. This one actually has 12 productions booked for next year, so I'm thinking it may do very well next year.

You're Virtually Driving Me Crazy! was released in August and came in as my 3rd most popular play for the year, with a respectable 20 productions. That's not too surprising because it was adapted from You're Driving Me Crazy! for virtual performance during the pandemic. It'll be interesting to see how well this and Pioneer's other Zoom-friendly plays do as schools open back up.

An Enchanted Bookshop Christmas is my most recent release, coming out in September. It had 13 productions, which isn't too bad for a holiday-limited play in the middle of a pandemic. It actually was my biggest moneymaker for the year because it sold a ton of scripts. A play's first full year is usually its best year so with schools opening up again I'm thinking it could do gangbusters in the next twelve months. 

You're Driving Me Crazy! also had 13 productions. I don't know if the bulk of these were also virtual productions but I wouldn't be surprised if they were. At the very least, three of the four scenes that make up this driver's ed-themed collection of short plays are very small cast (two or three actors each), so schools who did perform ut live may have chosen it for that very reason.

On the other end of the spectrum, The _urloined Letter, my oldest play, got zero productions, and Babka Without Borders and The Purrfect Crime each got just one production. Things were so bad, in fact, that because of cancelled productions, two plays--the aforementioned Babka Without Borders as well as The Stinky Feet Gang--actually made negative royalties for the year.

But there is a light at the end of this seemingly endless tunnel. The vaccine is now widely available, cases are way down, and most schools are preparing to reopen for live instruction in the fall.

And this month alone, I made more in royalties than I did in the first seven months of the 2019-2020.

A very bright light indeed.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Wandering back to the Springs

I miss Colorado Springs.

Don't get me wrong. I love Phoenix. In fact, I wouldn't live anywhere else (unless I get really rich and can move to the Amalfi Coast). But Colorado Springs is better in some important ways, and one of those ways is its theater scene.

Although Colorado Springs has a population of only 300,000, the city has a wealth of professional, amateur, church and children's theaters. I've been involved with several of them, but I've never had anything done by one of my favorites, Springs Ensemble Theatre (otherwise known as SET).

Until now.

My 10-minute play The Wanderer has just been selected for their Fatherhood Out Loud Play Festival on--when else?--Father's Day Weekend (June 18 to 20).

The play has only been done twice before (kudos to Springs Ensemble Theatre for not insisting on world premieres): Once at Oakland's Pan Theater in 2012 and once at Connecticut's Stonington Theatre in 2013.

It's my only drama. Opening in the waiting room of a police station, it centers on an old man who was arrested for shoplifting a lady's watch and his workaholic son who's trying to understand why he did it. 

The play was inspired by my own father. And no, he never stole a watch--or anything else, come to think of it. But the thin ice that the father and son tread in their 10-minute very much resembles our own relationship dynamic.

Due to the pandemic, SET still isn't performing live, but that's a good thing because it means anyone in the world can stream the show. You can buy your tickets here (cheap!). But don't wait too long. The video isn't available after closing day. 

And if you're a playwright with a short mother- or father-themed plays, make sure and bookmark SET's website. Their Motherhood Out Loud and Fatherhood Out Loud festivals shows are an annual thing and they accept submissions from anywhere The deadlines are February 28 and March 31.