Before I get to restating the union today, I'd like to send any readers over to Isaac Butler's passionate "gut response" to a NY Times piece about creative control issues between writers and directors. Here it is.
My gut responses to what Isaac is saying here are as follows:
I think it's sort of amazing that directors, who are a nearly unstoppable force in the rehearsal room, and omnipotent in many smaller productions behind the scenes, are essentially getting less recognition after a production or in the press than they would like for what is being deemed "their contribution."
And while the best directors offer more than contributions (I'm thinking more along the lines of "solutions"), it is obviously a slippery slope. What if, for example, you want to produce Arsenic and Old Lace and you've got a script that says "Two Old Women Walk Downstage Left." If you, as a director, simply have them walk down-stage left, are you using the orginal staging? Should you have to put the performers upstage left to avoid paying for rights?
And what about actors? Should the Marlon Brando estate receive royalties every time a lumbering oaf does an imitation of him in "Streetcar Named Desire?" at a local community theater?
The question here is, as Isaac says, authorship. And proof of authorship is where rights come into effect. One reason playwrights have a great deal of creative control in the theatre is that they are the creator of the very thing being worked upon by others. The principle is, as I understand it: "If you build something, it belongs to you. If others use that thing, they should pay for the right to use it."
If they take that thing and create something entirely new...well...then we're going to have to sit down and hammer out exactly how new it is.
If we move towards copywrighting interpretation (I staged the play this way, I spoke the line this way) we are about to enter a legal limbo from which we will never be pardoned.
That being said, there is one theme emerging lately (it's also been discussed recently on the nytheatre i) which is that directors seem to be up to their eyeballs in frustration with their recognition in the theatre.
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.