Boy, do I feel dumb. Here I've been, writing about Seattle theaters for years, and I never once thought to ask for a little cash money. Obviously, I'm an idiot.
You won't catch the brain trust at KING 5 sleeping on an opportunity like that. Earlier this year, they paid a visit to some marketing folks at arts organizations and told them to quit whining about the lack of TV arts coverage. All they'd have to do is buy some. The 5th Avenue Theatre bit, bought a year's worth of weekly slots on New Day Northwest—a new daytime talk show—and has even sublet some of those weekly slots to the Seattle Repertory Theatre and the symphony (click here for the details).
I can't believe I've been giving it away for free all these years.
Katie Jackman at the Seattle Rep told me her theater paid "around" $1,600 to be on New Day—not for a commercial aired during New Day, but to have a segment on the show itself (not identified as a commercial for the Seattle Rep). But Jacque Rardin at ACT Theatre said she heard the price was between $3,000 and $6,000. (Whoa, Katie! Why you gotta lowball me like that? You think I wouldn't ask around?) I'll cut you a deal: $2,500 for each story I write about Seattle Rep. That's the friend price.
I've written 425 theater stories since I started working for The Stranger. At $2,500 a pop, Seattle theater collectively owes me over a million dollars for the ink I've lovingly spilled on its behalf. By my count, Intiman is in arrears by $52,000 and ACT by about $50,000. Washington Ensemble Theatre owes me at least $35,000. This season, I've written enthusiastic stories about six of the seven shows at Seattle Rep. Great year, you guys! That'll be $17,500 down, and you can make up the additional $55,000 later. The city's fringe theaters (Annex, Theatre Off Jackson, and the rest) each owe me over half of their annual operating budget.
I called some theater PR people and made my proposition. Rardin at ACT hedged at first: "I'm kind of old-school: Editorial is editorial and advertising is advertising." But she said she'd consider it. John Longenbaugh at 5th Avenue said that if he couldn't convince me to cover his theater for free, "that wouldn't necessarily be the end of the conversation."
Lane Czaplinski, artistic director of On the Boards, was more of a jerk: "No! Because at that point, you'd cease to be a vehicle that covers culture, and we would both give up all credibility. People would call bullshit really fast."
Very well, Mr. Czaplinski. (By the way, you owe me $92,500.)