Commissioned Play


The budget below shows the cost of developing a new play, from scratch, right up to its premiere at a regional theater. This particular play is by the Civilians, a New York–based theater company that specializes in investigative theater. The budget represents the cost of their unique brand of research, as well as the cost any theater company would incur commissioning and workshopping a script. In other words, this is the expense of producing enough of a play to attract funders.

The play, Brooklyn at Eye Level, is about the massive new Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn. A team of actors gathered over 250 hours of interviews with Brooklyn residents, developers, politicians, and other stakeholders, taping their voices and noting their facial and physical idiosyncrasies. They performed the material to test it out, then they handed it over to a playwright, who created a script from the material.

This budget is divided into three parts: Investigation, Theater, and Development. Investigation is the cost of interviews and research. Theater is the cost of two weeks of writing and producing a sample play at a Lyceum theater. Development is the cost of commissioning and supporting the playwright.

This is an installment of Creative Accounting, an ongoing series that will show where the money goes for all of the major creative industries. Future issues will cover book publishing, television, fine art, and public sculpture. Eventually the series will be collected into a single, indispensable volume, published by Believer Books.

—Christopher Benz

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

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