Australian playwrights will benefit from greater protection and increased minimum commissioning fees under a new theatre industry agreement finalised this week with the nation’s eight major theatre companies.
The three-year Theatre Industry Agreement (TIA), negotiated by the Australian Writers’ Guild (AWG) with major theatre companies, provides increased minimum commissioning fees, greater protection of the rights of authors and improved clarity for both playwrights and producers over issues including royalties, integrity of the script, casting and the rights of authors to attend rehearsals.
Alana Valentine, AWG Board member and AWGIE Award-winning playwright says the benefits that the TIA will deliver to hundreds of Guild members are a continuing recognition of the foundational role of playwrights in contemporary drama.
‘Improved fees and definitions are a measure of the respect in which Australian playwrights are held by the Australian theatre sector. I am proud to be the Board member who delivers the work of a long line of playwrights and others who have championed the collective bargaining power of the Australian Writers’ Guild to deliver these significantly improved rights to members,’ said Valentine.
Financially, the agreement sets a new minimum commissioning fee of $15,000 for plays, and enshrines an annual increase in fees, as well as guaranteeing a significant minimum for playwrights working in group-devised projects. The commissioning fee remains non-refundable and separate to royalty payments, which are also specified for plays, including those written, produced and given worldwide premieres in Australia that are later re-staged here or overseas.
The TIA additionally clarifies the rights of playwrights in accepting script amendments, approving directors and leading cast and attending rehearsals and workshops, and recalibrates the definitions of adaptation in improved ways.
Speaking on behalf of the eight major theatre companies party to the TIA, Rob Brookman, Executive Director of State Theatre Company South Australia, said:
‘Our companies are delighted to have reached this milestone agreement with the Australian Writers’ Guild. Creating new Australian work and supporting the creativity of our playwrights is fundamental to our objectives and very existence, and we hold the vital role of playwrights in high esteem. We recognise that, like most people who pursue a life in the theatre, the remuneration and conditions for playwrights is humble indeed, so it is important for us to find ways to advance their cause. And equally important to respect the primary role that playwrights have in making great new Australian theatre.’
The eight major theatre companies are: Bell Shakespeare Company, Belvoir, Black Swan State Theatre Company, Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne Theatre Company, Queensland Theatre Company, State Theatre Company South Australia and the Sydney Theatre Company.
Alana Valentine won the Major AWGIE Award for best script of the year in 2013 for her play Grounded, as well as the inaugural David Williamson Award for Excellence in Theatre Writing. In January 2016, Griffin Theatre Company world premiered her play Ladies Day and the Merrigong Theatre Company commissioned Letters to Lindy, which opened in July, and is touring to Canberra and Sydney in August and September.
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