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Yet another cease-and-desist letter letter to regional taking liberties with a play's text.

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broadwaydevil
Broadway Legend
joined:2/16/11
While this seems far more minor than the other one, the Alchemist Theatre is still in the wrong. Producing someone else's work that is not in the public domain is a privilege not a right. It's no so hard to comprehend that it's not your work and that absolutely any changes you make need to be approved by whoever issued you the rights.
Scratch and claw for every day you're worth! Make them drag you screaming from life, keep dreaming You'll live forever here on earth.
ggersten
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joined:5/11/06
Sometimes you just need to ask permission - rather than to wait and ask for forgiveness.
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broadwaydevil
Broadway Legend
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With this sort of thing, you ALWAYS need to ask for permission.
Scratch and claw for every day you're worth! Make them drag you screaming from life, keep dreaming You'll live forever here on earth.
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dramamama611
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joined:12/4/07
It is very clear in the contracts you get that changing the gender of characters is not allowed.

I'm sort of glad these stories are getting attention. I know plenty of directors that pay little mind to the contracts they sign, and it gets my goat. Maybe this will remind people a little bit.

If we're not having fun, then why are we doing it? These are DISCUSSION boards, not mutual admiration boards. Discussion only occurs when we are willing to hear what others are thinking, regardless of whether it is alignment to our own thoughts.
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broadwaydevil
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joined:2/16/11
Agreed. I can't count the number of regional productions I've seen making unauthorized changes with no repercussions. There should probably be another cease-and-desist letters issued every day for how frequently this happens.
Scratch and claw for every day you're worth! Make them drag you screaming from life, keep dreaming You'll live forever here on earth.
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Auggie27
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joined:10/13/03
I know of a case where the entire last scene of Jordan Harrison's "Maple and Vine" was dropped. Anyone who knows that play knows it basically leaves out a particular Twilight-Zone-esque O'Henry twist. It wasn't reported but should have been.
"I'm a comedian, but in my spare time, things bother me." Gary Shandling
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SNAFU
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When I recently directed three short Beckett Plays over at the Irish Rep, Beckett's Estate were breathing down our backs constantly. I had to write out a specific request to be able to perform Act Without Words using a bunraku style puppet. It was the very first time anyone had made such a request to them and the first time they allowed the change. The Estate came 4 times during our run to review the shows.
In the requirements to get the rights, a character's sex could NOT be changed, no dialogue could be added or subtracted without written consent and ALL of Beckett's stage directions were to be followed to the 'T'. I guess so much of Beckett's work is the rhythm and movement, they have to be that hard-nosed about it.
Those Blocked: SueStorm. N2N Nate. Good riddence to stupid! Rad-Z, shill begone!
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somethingwicked
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SNAFU, the Beckett estate is indeed notoriously diligent. When Deborah Warner and Fiona Shaw collaborated on FOOTFALLS in London in the mid-90s and took some liberties with it, the estate banned the production from touring and refused to allow it to be filmed, both of which were planned.

Neither were allowed to do a Beckett piece again until they eventually did HAPPY DAYS just a few years ago.
Tonya Pinkins: Then we had a "Lot's Wife" last June that was my personal favorite. I'm still trying to get them to let me sing it at some performance where we get to sing an excerpt that's gone.
Tony Kushner: You can sing it at my funeral.
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SNAFU
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Somethingwicked, the Estate seemed to like what we did and are allowing us to that the show to the Adelaide Theatre Festival in March!
Those Blocked: SueStorm. N2N Nate. Good riddence to stupid! Rad-Z, shill begone!
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ukpuppetboy
Stand-by
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SNAFU - sounds like the Beckett estate are really taking their role seriously and I'm glad they were pleased with your results. It reminded me of watching an all female production of Waiting For Godot that the drama society at the university I attended staged and rather arrogantly boasted how tabboo this concept was to the author and how he had expressly forbade it to happen in their programme notes. It was awful but must have slipped under their scrutiny.

Updated On: 6/21/14 at 01:26 PM
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SNAFU
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Although I find the character of Carol being portrayed by a man,(while hopefully retaining the name Carol), an interesting concept, I think it would totally change the dynamic of Oleanna a great deal.
Those Blocked: SueStorm. N2N Nate. Good riddence to stupid! Rad-Z, shill begone!
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ukpuppetboy
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The only other male Carol I'm aware of plays Big Bird.. Now THAT would be a play..
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dramamama611
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joined:12/4/07
Carroll O'Connor. Well known American actor.
If we're not having fun, then why are we doing it? These are DISCUSSION boards, not mutual admiration boards. Discussion only occurs when we are willing to hear what others are thinking, regardless of whether it is alignment to our own thoughts.
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SNAFU
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joined:4/20/04
Exactly Dramamomma!

ukpuppetboy, had they informed the Estate they were doing they would have never been given the rights! Perhaps they performed it without obtaining them? I guess a very short run could get away with it.
Those Blocked: SueStorm. N2N Nate. Good riddence to stupid! Rad-Z, shill begone!
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dramamama611
Broadway Legend
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I would imagine that this happens more often than they could possibly catch. They could have gotten the rights but kept their intentions quiet. There is no way all productions can be policed.

If course, just as big an unforgivable issue is that of producing WITHOUT obtaining rights.

If we're not having fun, then why are we doing it? These are DISCUSSION boards, not mutual admiration boards. Discussion only occurs when we are willing to hear what others are thinking, regardless of whether it is alignment to our own thoughts.
Updated On: 6/21/14 at 02:02 PM
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South Fl Marc
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"Although I find the character of Carol being portrayed by a man,(while hopefully retaining the name Carol), an interesting concept, I think it would totally change the dynamic of Oleanna a great deal."

I agree, it sounds like an interesting concept. I think something like that would be the only thing to make me sit through "Oleanna" again. I'm glad I saw it, but I don't think I ever want to see it again unless the concept was so different that it would warrant it. I find the characters two dimensional and the writing slightly pretentious.
Now living in DC. I really have to change my name on the board.
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followspot
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And once again, a completely unapologetic, ego-filled reaction from those responsible:

In a statement issued Friday evening, Erica Case and Aaron Kopec, owners of Alchemist Theatre, said: "We excitedly brought this story to the stage because even though it was written years ago, the unfortunate story that it tells is still relevant today. We auditioned for this show looking for the best talent, not looking for a gender. When Ben Parman auditioned we saw the reality that this relationship, which is more about power, is not gender-specific but gender-neutral. We stayed true to each of David Mamet's powerful words and did not change the character of Carol but allowed the reality of gender and relationship fluidity to add to the impact of the story. We are so very proud of the result, of both Ben and David Sapiro's talent, and Erin Eggers' direction."

So the problem in this situation lies not in directorial hubris, but in a playwright's inability to appreciate how these visionary artists wanted to "add to the impact" of his work. They're the victims. Unbelievable.

Alchemist Theatre's take on Oleanna admittedly sounds fascinating (see link). They may very well be visionary artists. But there's a right way to do things, and there's a wrong way. This was the wrong way.


Oleanna
"Tracy... Hold Mama's waffles."
Updated On: 6/21/14 at 02:14 PM
Gothampc
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joined:5/20/03
"we saw the reality that this relationship, which is more about power, is not gender-specific but gender-neutral."

Then stop being lazy and write your own d*mn play and leave Mamet's work alone.
If anyone ever tells you that you put too much Parmesan cheese on your pasta, stop talking to them. You don't need that kind of negativity in your life.
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SNAFU
Broadway Legend
joined:4/20/04
With that statement alone, I am glad the was a cease and desist ordered! I hope from now on that theatre has difficulty obtaining any rights at all!
Those Blocked: SueStorm. N2N Nate. Good riddence to stupid! Rad-Z, shill begone!
Gothampc
Broadway Legend
joined:5/20/03
"When Ben Parman auditioned we saw the reality that this relationship, which is more about power, is not gender-specific but gender-neutral."

In other words, the actor auditioned in the nude with his penis taped down. (Or maybe as they say on Seinfeld "There was shrinkage.")
If anyone ever tells you that you put too much Parmesan cheese on your pasta, stop talking to them. You don't need that kind of negativity in your life.
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James885
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joined:5/2/05
Wow. What is it with directors who think that they can alter an author's work in such a way?

I'll never forget a production of Little Shop of Horrors I saw years ago that inserted 'Mean Green Mother From Outer Space' at the end of the show and changed the finale to mirror that of the movie, so that Seymour and Audrey survived and got their happy ending.
"You drank a charm to kill John Proctor's wife! You drank a charm to kill Goody Proctor!" - Betty Parris to Abigail Williams in Arthur Miller's The Crucible
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tazber
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joined:5/10/05
I just want to back up a sec here and say that using bunraku puppets for Beckett is a brilliant idea!
....but the world goes 'round
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Auggie27
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joined:10/13/03
Anyone in the Dramatists Guild will tell you this is not a gray area; it's black and white. The playwright owns the play, allows his agent(s) including a publisher/leasing mechanism to license rights for production. It's a basic contractual issue, no nuance. The playwright's prerogative is the only binding concern. I've never seen so much sthus about this (the Playwright's Group on FB is filled with blathering about fairness to female actors, grandiose ruminations on interpretation freshness, the "need" for new ideas in staging classics). None of it matters. The DG protects its own, as AEA protects its members.
"I'm a comedian, but in my spare time, things bother me." Gary Shandling
Wilmingtom
Broadway Legend
joined:7/18/11
Snafu, there is no estate. The author is alive and, reasonably, pissed. A play is someone's personal property that you're renting. You wouldn't rent a car and decide to paint it orange, would you? I have had very good luck asking authors if I could make revisions to their work. But when they say no, then it's no and you need to determine if you want to do it as written or not. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But this all needs to happen before the production is scheduled. Ego, hubrus and arrogance are not a pretty trio.
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GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
The Alchemist's gang should have done their homework. Mamet withdrew the performance rights for OLEANNA from the Mark Taper Forum. (It's possible he didn't legally withdraw the rights; but merely created such a fuss that the theater surrendered them.)

Mamet did so NOT because the Taper changed the script or gender of the actors, BUT because they didn't cast the black actor (IIRC it was Delroy Lindo) that Mamet wanted in the role of the professor.

I thought the Taper was right: making the professor black renders the student's speeches about patriarchal privilege nonsensical and makes her seem even more deranged than she is already written. (Speaking of laziness, Goth, surely this is Mamet's laziest play!)

By the same token (and I admit I refuse to reread what I already think is a lousy play) changing the gender of the student makes no sense as I remember Act III.

My point, however, is that Alchemist's should have known with whom they were dealing.

Updated On: 6/21/14 at 08:53 PM

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