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NOTES FROM THE LEAGUE

A NEW PLAN FOR PLAY PRODUCTION

However partial American theatergoers are to musicals, the play is still the thing. And the play has been in short supply on Broadway in recent seasons.

Now, with the entire Broadway constituency cooperating, a bold new plan has been announced. More than a year in the making, it is intended to stimulate the production of new plays on Broadway and to develop new audiences.

"The Broadway Alliance--A New Plan for Play Production" brings together, cooperatively and for the first time, labor, management, the creative crafts and suppliers of goods and services to the Broadway theatre, all making concessions in the interests of the common goal.

Complex though the details were to work out, the principles of the plan are simple: keep the costs of production down and the ticket price as low as possible. Plays produced under the plan, which becomes effective September 1, will be put on for no more than $400,000--about half of what it usually costs today--and the ticket price will range from $10 to $24 as opposed to the $25 to $45 currently charged for a play on Broadway.

Each of the major theatre owners--Jujamcyn, Nederlander, and Shubert--has designated a theatre (the Nederlander on 41st Street, the Walter Kerr on 48th Street and the Belasco on 44th Street or the Lyceum on 45th Street) to be booked on a rotating basis if the play submitted meets the plan's guidelines. 

To make possible the low production budget, low weekly operating costs and low ticket price, concessions are being made on all sides. The unions are cutting their minimums by 25 percent or reducing their manpower requirements. The theatres are waiving rent until production costs are recouped. (But under the plan, a play could recoup and go into profit in nine and a half weeks by playing to 75 percent of capacity.) Producers are taking no payments other than limited office expenses on losing weeks. Royalties, advertising commissions and fees paid to independent contractors are all being reduced. In return, those union members working at the minimum salary will be part of a profit participation plan after recoupment. 

The Leauge is contributing $250,000 as seed money for the project. This money will be used for administrative expenses as well as for establishing permanent basic lightning systems in each of the three designated theatres--saving the expense of setting up and talking down for each production.

Theatre Development Fund is contributing monies toward a revolving fund to assist producers in completing the financing of their plays and will post union bonds if needed. Other sources of funding are being explored. 

A producer who wishes to present a play under the plan will be required to submit it to the Alliance for approval. The production budget cannot exceed $400,000, nor the weekly operating expenses $60,000. If the play turns into a hit, it cannot transfer to a full Broadway contract. If the play is accepted by the Alliance, the producer will then submit it to the theatre operator, who has the right of first refusal.

The Broadway Alliance has come into being because of the conviction of the theatre community that without a strong dramatic theatre on Broadway, everything suffers--the art of acting, the dramatic craft, ultimately the quality of film and television, which depend so heavily on Broadway for talent and ideas, and certainly Broadway's traditionally strongest draw: the musical itself.

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Playbill is pleased to make this space avalible to The Leauge of American Theatres and Producers. The opinons expressed herein are those of The Leauge and not necessarily those of Playbill.

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In spite of her achievements Zora was buried in an unmarked grave in a section labeled "Negroes only"

[[image - black and white photograph  of George C. Wolfe]]
[[photographer credit]] MARTHA SWOPE
[[caption]] Playwright George C. Wolfe was the perfect choice to adapt Hurston's work to the stage[[/caption]]

price of a square meal from a young woman on her pay day. Once again, as in the first tale, the woman's intelligence triumphs over her pursuers' obtuseness. What makes this segment so memorable is the high spirited narration by Kevin Jackson and the poetic, Harlem jive talk spouted by Victor Mack, Reggie Montgomery and Danitra Vance. There is a Glossary of Harlem Slang published in PLAYBILL from Hurston's work Spunk that defines what each term means.

The third and longest tale concerns a blissfully happy married couple, Missie May (Ms. Vance) and Joe (Mr. Jackson), whose union is almost shattered by the wife's brief infidelity for financial rewards.

Although this is playwright Wolfe's first use of Hurston's material, he has long been an admirer of her work, which is finally attracting the attention it merits. "She was an extraordinary American writer," Wolfe recently told PLAYBILL. "At the time that she lived," he says, "she didn't receive the recognition that she deserved because she was a woman and she was black. THis time is ripe for her now because she captures a time and place and people so well. Her command of what it means to be a human being is incredible, and the world is finally catching up with her."

Zora Neale Hurston was a fascinating enigma. She was born in Eatonville, Floridia, the first incorporated black town in America, but the year of her birth is indefinite. So is the number of her marriages. She had great pride in being black, and she was vividly impressed from childhood with the black folk tales she heard spun in her town. At an early age, after her mother's death, she ran off with a Gilbert and Sullivan road company, working as a wardrobe girl. Later she managed to graduate from Morgan Academy in Baltimore and to attend Howard Univerity in Washington. Upon publication of one of her stories in a magazine called Opportunity, she found her way to New York City where she became one of the leading lights of the Harlem Renaissance. 

Her accomplishments were many. Franz Boas, the anthropologist, became her mentor, and under his guidance she received a degree from Barnard. She wrote four novels, and one of them, Their Eyes Were Watching God, has now achieved the stature of a classic. She dabbled in everything, writing plays, revues, books on black American folklore and her autobiography. She wrote many essays and short stories and was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship.

Despite all these achievements, Zora ws finally forced to return to her birth-place, Eatonville, after being wrongly accused of molesting a ten-year-old boy. She died in poverty and was buried in an unmarked grave in a section labeled "Negroes only." But as the years passed and her fames as a writer grew, a fitting tribute to her spirit and spunk was paid to her by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Alice Walker (The Color Purple). Ms.

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