Some people don’t like to talk about their salaries, and it’s considered rude to ask, but let’s chuck that aside today, and talk about money.
In 2011, I worked steadily with only a few weeks between contracts. I made somewhere between $25,000 and $26,000. It wasn’t the best financial year I have ever had, but it was the most I had made working in theater. I worked 6 separate contracts (some contracts were purely non-union, and some contracts hired union). My salary ranged from $325 a week, to $525 a week. 5 of those contracts provided food if I so chose to partake; three being dinner theaters, one being a resort, and one a tour. All contracts provided transportation.
I was listening to This American Life this morning, and Ira Glass said that it costs around $31,000 to keep one inmate in prison for a year in Missouri. That gave me pause. My best year of acting paid less than the cost to keep an inmate in prison in Missouri for a year? Now that’s something to ponder!
The wheels started turning, and I was researching online like a mad woman. In my craziness I found THIS article in the NY Times about the cost of prison, and it’s worth a read. The article states that it costs $167,731 a year to keep an inmate in prison in NYC. That figure is 56% more than what Broadway minimum salary pays for a year. From the NYTimes : “The Vera Institute of Justice released a study in 2012 that found the aggregate cost of prisons in 2010 in the 40 states that participated was $39 billion.” A $39 billion dollar industry? Maybe I went into the wrong profession!
My purpose is not to proclaim “Down with the prison system!”, or “Actors need a higher salary!” I am not educated enough on the topic to make claims on any side of the argument. But, maybe it’s worthwhile looking into a career working with prison theater programs. I am sure there is money to be made, and good to be done.