CONTRACTS AND DOCUMENTS OF CONTROL
The Laughing Audience can assist theatre and production company managers in the explanation, framing and testing of terms and conditions in contracts. This can be conducive to your negotiations, especially for younger managers who may be confronted by a seeming jumble of terms and documentation from operators more seasoned in the business of the theatre.
Though not lawyers, we are experienced in the ‘unholy trade’ of negotiations and deals: for touring abroad, festivals and itineraries, importing shows, subsidised productions in the commercial sector, co-productions, licensing, UK standard agreements for performers, writers and stage management, other rules and regulations – all the wheeler-dealing you will encounter in balancing visionary art and business!
The following contract for an engagement at the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh illustrates the brevity of agreements between manager and a leading actor in the years before the rise of the chain of touring theatres and incorporation of Howard and Wyndham as a limited company in 1895:
I agree to give Mr Powrie three shillings and 6d per week for fifty-two weeks and a benefit in Edinburghthe receipt of the whole amount to be divided between Mr Powrie and the management. Mr Powrie’s salary to commence this day. The travelling expenses away from Edinburgh will be paid by me.
R. H. WYNDHAM, Manager, EDINBURGH,
Remuneration for star actors in London has always been more expensive than in North Britain:
THE THEATRE ROYAL, DRURY LANE, LONDON: CONTRACT BETWEEN MANAGER BUNN AND TRAGEDIAN WILLIAM CHARLES MACREADY, 1835
It is agreed this 21st day of September, 1835, between Alfred Bunn and William Charles Macready:
That the said Alfred Bunn shall engage the said William Charles Macready as the Principal Tragedian at the Theatre Royal. Drury Lane, on a salary of thirty pounds per week, play or no play, for thirty weeks and a half; the payment of the said full salary of £30 to commence from Thursday, October 1, 1835, and to be continued, without any interruption or deduction, on any pretence whatsoever, until Saturday, March 5, 1836, being a period of twenty-two weeks and a half (from which date, March 5, to Monday, April 4, 1836, the said Alfred Bunn and William Charles Macready have no claim whatever on each other): the payment of said salary of £30, free of all deduction, to be recommenced by Alfred Bunn to W. C. Macready, from April 4, and paid to May 27, being a period of eight weeks, making altogether thirty weeks and a half (in gross amount £915 for thirty weeks and a half. in weekly payments of £30), for which Alfred Bunn has the power of requiring the services of W. C. Macready four nights in each week of this engagement.
That W. C. Macready is to have the clear half of the total receipts of a night appropriated for a benefit, which shall be the first, without exception, in the season, and on a Monday night.
That Alfred Bunn shall produce immediately after Christmas the Tragedy called The Bridal, altered from Beaumont and Fletcher’s The Maid’s Tragedy, on the usual terms of £33 6s 8d per night to the nineteenth night, and £100 for the twentieth.
That W. C. Macready is to be subject to no forfeit or fine by Alfred Bunn, under any pretence whatsoever, and that he is to have the same privilege of orders as during his last season at Drury Lane Theatre.
That W. C. Macready may be required to perform any parts in the list, given in by him, and such others as are classed in the leading tragedy, but not such as he, W. C. Macready, may deem as partaking of a melodramatic character, and that he is to have the choice of characters on all occasions, with sufficient notice for the proper study of new parts.
That W. C. Macready shall not be required or asked to act the characters of Sir Giles Overreach, Joseph Surface, or Rob Roy, and that he is to have a dressing room to himself, secure from removal or intrusion.
That in the event of W. C. Macready being deterred by illness, or any other calamity, from appearing before the public, his salary is to be discontinued, until he shall report himself capable of resuming his duties.
That upon the infringement, at any time or times, of any of the above-named conditions, W. C. Macready shall have the power of giving notice that his engagement is null and void, and that the same shall be null and void upon the delivery of such notice.
COMPANY ADMINISTRATION, DUTY STATEMENTS, INTERNAL DISCIPLINE AND FINES
The Laughing Audience can also assist managers in writing and testing job descriptions, person specifications, management team restructures, company meeting arrangements and other personnel practices in the proliferating responsibilities of the backstage industry today. Please contact us to discuss support.
Although theatre managers may be subjugated to increasing external local government and arts council intervention in the 2000s, we might take heart that when companies were more prone to artists’ and staff argument, misdemeanour and division, rules and decrees regulated every aspect of internal management, especially for a national theatre – such as these examples from the Comédie-Française:
RULES FOR THE CONDUCT OF WEEKLY ASSEMBLIES AT THE COMÉDIE-FRANÇAISE, 1766
EXTRACTS FROM ARTICLE IV: Concerning Assemblies
EXTRACTS FROM ARTICLE V: Concerning Programming
EXTRACTS FROM ARTICLE VI: Concerning Resolutions
Ordannances et règlement, Comédie-Française, Paris, 1766-1823, pp.1-10.