There’s a group on Facebook sending letters to good old (old) John McCain (R-PTSD) about what artists do as he recently said: “$50 million in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts — all of us are for the arts,” McCain said. “Tell me how that creates any significant number of jobs?”
This is an important matter. It is also an irresistable opportunity for snark. Consequently, here’s my “Dear John” letter. The whole thing wouldn’t fit on the Facebook page, but this is the entire message I sent to him. I can’t wait to hear back!
Dear John– I understand you are not aware of how funding for the arts creates jobs. So, I’d like to tell you what I do for a living.
I am a playwright. I write plays for theatres to produce. When a theatre agrees to produce one of my plays, they pay me a fee, which I use to pay my mortgage. When I pay my mortgage, that’s one less home going into default and one less bad loan that has to be covered by the government to prevent the financial system from collapsing.
Also when a theatre produces one of my plays, they hire a director, actors, set designers, light designers, property designers, sound designers, stage managers, box office managers, public relations professionals (who disperse money for advertising), and other theatre professionals, many of whom have advanced degrees from universities who have received their tuition.
When a patron chooses to come see my play, they buy a ticket or tickets. They and their friends may also choose to have dinner before the play, which means they go to restaurants, order food, tip waiters and waitresses, and so on. If they drive, they purchase gas to operate their automobiles and often they pay for parking. Many times, if my play has entertained them or provoked discussion, they will go for a drink afterwards, which usually means they spend a few bucks. You like to have a drink now and then, right? And they often make plans to see their friends again, which means they’ll get together and do something at a later date, which usually entails spending more money. To get home, they’ll either drive, or maybe they’ll pay for a taxi. Or, even if they’ve had one or two drinks too many, are tired, or are visiting from out of town, they’ll stay a hotel that night.
People even sometimes fly in from out of town to see one of my shows, which not only involves staying in hotels but requires purchasing airline tickets. So that’s how a silly little bit of “entertainment” affects the economy. Clearly, I should charge more for my plays.
But then, I think you know all that, and you’re just playing politics with the whole
arts issue because a good many of your supporters feel that the arts industry is dominated by liberals, and, as they’re conservatives, singling out the arts is a way to “stick” it to the opposition while pretending to be a great defender of the budget. But we’ll just leave that little inconvenient wrinkle between the two of us, uh?
Thank you so much for asking what I do. One of the traits that helps playwrights do our work is staying informed as to how the world, including politics, works. So I do. It comes in handy when I’m writing. Especially about politics.