Thanks, everyone, for your comments on the showcase code post, much appreciated. And multiple people have brought up the proposed 99 code, which if you haven't read it can be found here. There's a lot of good in it. Here is Garrett Eisler's article on the issue from the Village Voice and here is the ART/NY "white paper" on the issue.
A lot of what is in all of these (and in the comments to my earlier post) makes a lot of sense (the White Paper, which Freeman urged me to reread is definitely worth a read). The limits on rehearsal hours, number of performances etc. are not only potentially crippling to the producers but also to the actors, who don't really get a chance to get "showcased" since it can take awhile to build momentum behind a project.
This is the sticking point for me: What should the budget cap be? The proposed 99 Seat Code linked to above sets it at $60,000. That is, I feel, too high. In the early naughts, I worked at two different resident off-off companies, both of whom produced on the seasonal showcase producing 2-3 shows a year. Their total production budgets for their seasons landed between $60K and $70K. If I was Joe Equity, looking at the proposal, I think my attitude towards it would be, "hey, if you can afford to raise $60K, then you can afford to do a $20K showcase and keep a large enough out-of-budget reserve to upgrade easily to a mini-contract should it be successful enough."
At some point, and I suspect that point would be different depending on who you talk to, paying $10 a performance to actors plus a metro card crosses the line between what is possible/fair to everyone involved in producing the show and what is the kind of exploitation that Equity was founded to combat. This is not to say that the NYC99 folks (including the folks who've signed the petition which includes me and like every other blogger I know) are looking for ways to exploit actors. They're just looking for ways to make making work possible. We all would probably draw that line in different places. For the people who wrote the proposed 99 Seat Code, that line is a $60,000 budget. For Equity right now it's a $20,000 budget. In the ART/NY White Paper, it's $40,000. For me it would somewhere in the $30-$40K range. Above that, and I'd personally like to see producers (including myself, should I be so lucky) to be paying actors a percentage of their total budget like companies producing under the seasonal showcase do. If that were to happen, a $60K show at a 15% actor's salary rate would have to pay its actors $9,000 divided by how many actors there were (for a five character show: $1,800 a person or roughly $900 and month for two month's work assuming it only runs four weeks).
As they say on Marketplace... let's do the numbers. You're producing a show with a $60K budget. Assuming we've embraced the above model, that means that you're paying $9,000 split up amongst your cast of 5. You're a fair minded person, so you've decided to pay everyone the same. So your director and design team of four (lights, sound, set, costumes) and stage manager and playwright all get $1,800 a person. So that's another $12,600 out the door. So now, of your $60K show, you have remaining $38,400.
Now you want to do your show in a niceish venue and so you're paying $3,500 a week to rent the space for five weeks (that's four weeks of performance plus one week of tech/previews). That $17,500 gone, leaving you with $20,900 in your budget.
So now you rent rehearsal space. You're renting it at $15/HR, and you're rehearsing an average of 24 hours a week (6 days a week, four hours a day because actors have day jobs) for three weeks plus tech. That's $1,080 gone to rehearsal space.
That leaves you with $19,820 (I think, I'm doing this at work on the back of a napkin) to spend on marketing your show, building the set, lights and costumes, paying any kind of run, box office or set crew you might need, hiring a press agent, hosting your opening night party, printing your program etc. etc. and so forth. And that's not a huge amount of money. But it's still larger than the budgets of most (but not all) of the shows I've directed in New York.
Hmm... your throughts on all this, reader?