The Plays of Max Sparber
July 15, 2010 11:19 PM   Subscribe

The Plays of Max Sparber
Max Sparber, AKA Astro Zombie on MetaFilter, offers downloadable copies of all of his scripts, as well as reference material for other playwrights and various musings on theater.

Specifically, there are my full-length plays, with scripts and any additional media required to produce the play.

Additionally, there is the Fast, Cheap & Out of Control project, written by myself and sometimes in collaboration with my girlfriend Coco, who you might remember from the Pixar story. These are scripts that are available without a licensing or royalty fee. They also tend to be a little bonkers, such as Basement Porn Party, which is exactly what its title suggests.

The resources section include such useful information as how much a playwright can expect to get paid for a play (hint: not much), a press list for Twin Cities playwrights, and useful advice for playwrights who are creating an online presence, including info about how to make your own Web page.

And there is some blogging, including my explanation as to why I give away plays for free and why I think we're at the end of the time of the professional theater critic.

You can even watch the entirety of my play Minstrel Show on the site.
posted by Astro Zombie (11 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Astro Who?
posted by Evilspork at 4:01 AM on July 16, 2010

posted by Astro Zombie at 4:21 AM on July 16, 2010

Turf, more like.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:15 AM on July 16, 2010

posted by Astro Zombie at 7:05 AM on July 16, 2010

I just read your advice pages and am now completely horrified. You're sending in "pages of dialogue, which they then cut and reassemble as they see fit"? The average take is £2.2k for a pro-commission? Have you been signing contracts without reading them or something? If that sort of treatment is normal where you are, then something is supremely fucked in the state of Minnesota and I suggest you apply a serious boot to the rear of your union.
posted by the latin mouse at 12:01 PM on July 18, 2010


In the cases of people cutting and reassembling as they see fit, that's never done without my knowledge or permission. Working collaboratively if a bit different than just writing a play, in that you are authoring something with a company, instead of for a theater company. But even so, many of my plays allows companies to edit the script as they see fit. I write to ensure maximum collaboration, and I like that any two productions of my play may be significantly different from each other. That doesn't violate my wishes as a playwright, it respects them.

As to how much playwrights get paid -- yes, it's pitiful, and is leading to a crisis in the theater community. The recent book Outrageous Fortune makes the case that is is effectively impossible for playwrights to make a living -- or even make a few thousand dollars per year -- writing plays. A lot of what I am doing on my site is attempting to develop tools to address that crisis, at least to the extent that I need it addressed.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:32 PM on July 18, 2010


Yeah, union.

I wonder if the disparity stems from the fact that the WGA and DGA are separate bodies, whereas the WGGB covers both screenwriters and playwrights. More members = more clout. Legitimate UK theatres will use boilerplate contracts that adhere to WGGB standards even if the writer in question isn't a member.

The idea that a newbie playwright would be expected to negotiate for things like rights ownership, rehearsal attendance fee, revisions fees, etc. with no idea of what's appropriate and with no massive trade organisation to fight their corner is rather discouraging.

I write to ensure maximum collaboration, and I like that any two productions of my play may be significantly different from each other. That doesn't violate my wishes as a playwright, it respects them.

If both parties agreed to that at the time of the commission, fair enough, but your website makes it sound like that isn't always the case. "They may tell you they are hiring you to write dialogue, but when the play comes out, it turns out they were just using your dialogue as a jumping off point for improvisations." That would be considered a pretty monstrous breach of contract over here.

And on your blog...

The Internet has been a remarkably sobering experience for critics. It has shown us, to our great alarm, just how few people read us. When we were published in newspapers, we could imagine that a certain percentage were theatergoers, and looked to us for advice. The Web, which can count every click, has added precision to that number, and we have discovered it to be a handful. Unfortunately, it has also demonstrated this to our editors, who, under great pressure to reduce costs, have realized that they can cut arts coverage and the only people who really complain are the artists and the critics.

Hmm. Lyn Gardner was talking at Shift about that change, but in almost entirely opposite terms. She was saying how she used to sit on trains and spy on people reading the Guardian, then get depressed when they inevitably flicked right past her reviews. By contrast Twitter, RSS and blogging, have allowed her to track and communicate with readers much more directly and allows her to review more children's theatre, which she cares deeply about but which constantly gets bumped from print editions for reasons of space.

But I fully accept that LG is an outlier amongst major theatre critics as an early adopter of new technologies.

Finally if you were looking for new blog topics, I'd be interested in your thoughts on Bushgreen.
posted by the latin mouse at 3:49 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I was a member of DGA for years and it offers almost nothing for the starting or mid-career playwright. It's not a union; it's a professional organization, and one that really only seems to benefit the top echelon of playwrights. They don't do any negotiating on behalf of playwrights either.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:25 PM on July 18, 2010

Bushgreen looks fascinating; I'ma play around with it for a bit. Thanks for pointing it out!
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:31 AM on July 19, 2010

I liked your description of the meeting with Shelley Winters. You presented her with a script that depicted
"Alice [of Wonderland]'s experiences in a bewildering Victorian maze, where she is bedeviled, quite literally, by the retinue of a Middle Eastern demonic prince, as well as finding herself manhandled by a self-absorbed modernist composer, a bachelor party of pistol-wielding anarchists, and a murderous butler haunted by the ghosts of the family he murdered".
Ms Winters then
"called an emergency meeting at her house in Beverly Hills, [...] what she had hoped I would write was something like a homeless version of Laugh In in which indigent teenagers would say surprising and comical things."

posted by Joe in Australia at 7:35 PM on July 20, 2010

Oh, Shelley. It's hard not to miss you, you great crazy thing.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:40 PM on July 21, 2010

« Older Hear You Me...   |   Cookblast - recipe video searc... Newer »

You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.