I Am Sorry You Lost Your Monopoly Money

Philadelphia cut its entire arts budget. Except Mural Arts. They kept that funding.

Hi! My name is John Rosenberg. I am not from here. I am from Los Angeles. So, I am not gritty like you all. 

It was strange to me to see theater companies shilling for money on “Giving Tuesday” in the middle of a pandemic. It was strange to me to see the Wilma charging $100 for their buffet during a pandemic. But hooray! It would be boring if we were all the same. I am glad they do it so I don’t have to.  

I guess what made me stop to say something was hearing the City was cutting the Philadelphia Cultural Fund and the outcry from the theater community. I am sorry you might lose your monopoly money from the city. I am sorry taxpayer money isn’t going to support you playing make believe right now. But grow the fuck up. 

I know you put on fantastic work. I know you put your blood, sweat and tears into your productions. Some of you are able to put on plays for next to nothing. Some of you need to drop $30,000 on a show. Just because you are an artist or a dreamer does not make you special or exempt from reality.

The arts deserve taxpayer money. Bring back the WPA writers program. Every play, stage crew animal, every actor (unless they are in my show) should be paid the wage they deserve. I am not a cynical person. But what the fuck are you holding onto? Things are not going to return to how they were before. You should have realized that when Fringe Arts cut the registration fee. Haha, they know Fringe isn’t going to happen. 

If theater is supposed to tell the truth or hold power accountable or whatever you have in your mission statement, it seems strange to me freaking out when you lose your play money.

Money has no value. Embrace the fact that what you write and perform has zero value as well. 

If you are the vanguard, if you are the tip of the spear, if art is your weapon…you can take it on the chin. Maybe don’t put on a play this year. Reread whatever made you a playwright in the first place. Donate your budget to a non-profit. Keep the money. Smoke it. Maybe learn how to do something else so when this shit ends, you can come back different. You can put on fantastic work for very little money. 

16 Replies to “I Am Sorry You Lost Your Monopoly Money”
    1. Hi, Merilyn-

      I think what I am trying to say is with a global pandemic going on and massive unemployment, maybe we don’t get up in arms the city is cutting off funding for the arts. It is bad form in my estimation.

      Maybe right now, theatre people find different ways to do work that don’t cost money. Tons of artists strive to make the best possible work with whatever money they have- maybe some of the big houses can follow the lead of diy theaters and do some sacrificing?

  1. LA John – All us gritty folk? Wuzzat? Last time I got out and gritted was months ago. You’re a playwright of great talent and ability, but I read your article over a couple of times and don’t understand what you’re going on about. Why shouldn’t Philadelphia pretend it’s a real city? Must all the money go to endless traffic-snarling recreational events to please the Great Unwashed? Can there possibly be none available for the cultural activities that go a long way toward making a city great? The arts need all the help they can get from whatever source they can find for however much they can beg, borrow, defraud, steal, or shame city hall into ponying up. Art is the poor relation begging at the door in the driving snow, trying its best to protect a baby project from the howling winds of indifference – yeah. Bring on the bucks and damn the fiscal torpedoes.

  2. Hi, Bill-

    Haha, hooray you dont get what I am going on about. I think what I am trying to say is maybe choose not to complain about losing funding for arts during a pandemic. Embracing dangerous unselfishness. Maybe we do without the money, champion the creation of bare bones theater where the writing and the acting is the only production value. Perhaps then once life returns to semblance of normalcy, the art presented is honest, humble and changed by the immense lost everyone is experiencing. Fuck the lifeboats. Get in the water like everyone else. And then fight for the funding to return.

  3. John – I’m a slow twister and happy you got back to lay it out plainly. If I get what you’re saying, though I might be reading in, in some ways the pandemic is a good thing for local theater as it drives the need to produce on half a shoestring. You feel that instead of begging the local theater community should cozy up and embrace it’s poverty, using it to adapt to bucks-down reality with a brave and resolute nobility, learning to grow from the lack and produce more honest work.
    What I’ve seen happening, long before the virus showed up, is local world class theater artists turning their backs on the stage because they could not make any kind of living at it or feed their families. I’ve not seen poverty to be ennobling. I don’t think less money makes for better theater, I believe it makes for less theater. Certainly theater folk don’t expect to get rich working on the stage, but they would like to continue to afford a roof overhead and something on the dinner plate.

    1. Hi, Bill-

      I don’t have a desire to see people embrace poverty. I don’t believe in suffering for art. I am saying while there is a pandemic going on, unemployment reaching levels not seen since the Great Depression and a government that has been slashing funding for the arts for the past 40 years, maybe plan for the fact no one is coming to save us.

  4. Guy. You make art, right? I hope your Art has value. If you don’t think it does not, it probably shows. And why should art cost little money? You can make art that costs little money, that’s great. But other people have every right to want to do more.

    1. Hi, Griffin-

      Maybe what I do is art, maybe it is garbage. Perhaps because I believe art has no intrinsic value, it shows in my plays. You are probably right.

      I think what I am trying to say is in the middle of a pandemic with the highest unemployment since the Great Depression, perhaps artists say, hey, use this money for something else. To me this is a positive and exciting moment. People finding new ways to create work that reflect this reality so when the funding returns, when the pandemic subsides, artists come back different of their own volition.

  5. John – Amen to that. I know you’re a good hearted man and a passionate producer of theater. I think we’re both on the same side in this, which is why I couldn’t understand what you seemed to be saying. Is local theater more important than feeding the hungry and caring for the sick? No. We’re all heading into the dark night of world-wide economic depression, but I say we shouldn’t go gently. Support for the arts is dwindling and has been, but I believe in yelling and screaming and generally raising hell to spotlight city hall’s priorities. The pie is going away, but the arts continue to need a slice of whatever is left. Don’t cut funding and push the arts away from the table, rather dish out our share by cutting into the bloated recreation budget. And good on yer, John. You and Hella Fresh Theater are cutting edge. We need more work like yours, not less.

      1. Well, still dumb as fuck. Go to Europe. Check out their state-funded arts programs. I’m sick to death of this human sacrifice phase of late-stage capitalism.

  6. Honestly John… I know you moved to LA and came back, and so weren’t active in Philly for a while, but the fact that your company doesn’t get cultural fund funding is just laziness and/or ignorance. Those of us who are advocating against this cut are not saying the arts are more important than essential services. We’re saying that $7000 a year to, for example, Almanac or, hypothetically, to HellaFresh goes way further than $2M to the PMA (as much as some of us tiny companies love when they commission us) or MuralArts (I think I’ve seen plays you’ve written spew hatred toward them anyway?) . you should value your work enough to advocate for it and for the work of others. Continually paying your actors $200 isn’t actually as cool as you think it is. Hopefully we can reverse this decision and then you, too, can apply for funding. It’s easy and affirming.

    1. I know grant writing isn’t for everyone but the cultural fund is a true equalizer. They make us better artists and they have the right priorities. The staff is made up of awesome and patient human beings.

    2. Hi, Ben-

      Yes, it is possible me not applying for cultural fund funding is just laziness and/or ignorance.

      No, I did not write a play that spews hatred towards MuralArts. You have me confused with Josh McIlvain, another handsome man who wrote one of Almanac’s shows.

      Yes, seven years ago I paid you $200 to be in a play that you were fantastic in.

      Unfortunately, I have subsequently paid actors more.

      1. I’m glad to hear that, and I hope you know how much appreciated that experience and that amount of money… Didn’t mean to confuse you and Josh. If we save the funding I’m happy to help you apply this fall.


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