Two years ago, a short play of mine, Trumpets Sounding Over Harrisburg, was staged as part of a production of horror-themed one-acts. (It was October, after all.) As part of that production, all of the short plays involved were published online at Indie Theater Now, the website maintained by indie theatre stalwart Martin Denton. I was delighted to be able to say I was technically a published playwright, as were all of us who participated in the production – but since that was a modest little off-off Broadway production, which only ran three performances, I viewed the publication as a courtesy and wasn’t expecting much to come of it.
A few weeks ago, the Indie Theater Now website ceased operations. This week, I received an email from Martin Denton, as I presume did all my fellow playwrights. The email contained a proposal; those of us with unpaid royalties (amounts under ten dollars, which hadn’t been sent to us yet) were being asked if we’d like to donate them to be part of one mass charitable contribution to All Hands Volunteers, a charity helping to fund disaster relief efforts throughout the world. This seemed like a reasonable request and a fine cause, but there was one pressing question uppermost on my mind:
I had royalties?!
Yes, in the two years in which Trumpets Sounding Over Harrisburg was available for download on the website, I had accrued royalties from purchases. A grand total of forty cents – one fat dime for each of the four people who had purchased a copy.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not lamenting that only four people purchased this play during the course of two years. I’m amazed that four people purchased it at all. It is, if I do say so myself, a fine little play – but it’s only ever been performed three times, two years ago. It was the only play I had listed on that website. And I’m not yet famous enough (I’m working on it!) to warrant people seeking out my work – at least, that I know about.
Who were these mysterious four? Were audience members of that original production so blown away by my piece that they felt compelled to purchase the script as a souvenir? It’s a piece for two actresses – were young women in scene studies classes looking for new works to use? Is there some obsessed archivist out there somewhere in Pennsylvania downloading everything with the name “Harrisburg” in it?
And to what purpose? Were any of these scripts downloaded in order to stage the show somewhere? That would be fine with me – they clearly went to the trouble of paying me my whopping ten cent royalty, so they wouldn’t be stealing my work. But did such a production happen at all? If so, where? Some community theater? A university? I have no way of knowing – a google search on the title yields but seven hits, all tracing back to the original production.
And yet, there are those forty cents. (Or there they were, before I donated them.) Proof that the play is out there, doing…something.
If anybody has ever seen a production of this play (you’d know if you did – it’s two women meeting against the backdrop of the Three Mile Island meltdown, and things get bloody at the end), or sees it in the future, could you please contact me through this website and let me know how it went? I’d love to know those were forty cents well spent.
Posted on October 16, 2017
by Michael C. O'Day