How to make sure your production doesn't get shut down.
In the past few months, the news has carried several stories about plays and musicals being “shut down” by authors. In this post, I'll explain why, and also how savvy producers can avoid a similar fate for their productions.
Shows ordered to close by authors
In June, at least two productions were forced to close right after opening. A produxtion of David Mamet's “Oleana”,at Milwaukee's Alchemist theatre was shut down after the author and his representatives learned that a lead female role was being played by a man. And, a much anticipated production of “Hands on a Hardbody” at Theatre Under the Stars in Texas found itself shut down abruptly after one of the authors attended a performance and discovered that the order of scenes and songs had been changed by the production's director. But this isn't a brand new phenomenon. In 2009, I wrote about a situation in which Stephen Sondheim ordered an Australian production of “Company” closed unless the unauthorized “cuts” were restored. And last year, I wrote this blog post on the subject. In cases like this, producers risk total loss of their investments in the productions. The sad fact is, it's all easily avoided.
Broadway Producer Ken Davenport is a forward-thinker who is constantly pushing the envelope to improve things for the theatre producing community.
Right now, he's conducting a survey of Broadway Investors so he can put together a composite of the typical Broadway Investor. When it's ready, he will publish the results for all of us to see and learn from. Yep, soon enough, we’ll all have a picture of what Broadway investors look like! And, we’ll also know how we can give them an even better experience! Sounds like a great idea, right?
Here's a link to Ken's blog post about the survey. You'll see that it's completely anonymous.
If you're a producer, help out by forwarding the survey to your investors, and if you're an investor, please help us serve you and the theatre as a whole, better!
Authors in theatre enjoy privileges and approval rights not held by their screenwriting brethren. Sometimes, this can lead to trouble for producers and playwrights alike.
A recent article at The Guardian asks: “Should a playwright have the final say over a production?. The piece reports on an issue that arose recently when a disgruntled Australian playwright made a very strong statement against a production of his play.
On the opening night of Lachlan Philpott's new play, “Alienation”, the author removed his name from the production, and placed a note on each seat in the theatre declaring, “this production does not reflect my original scripted or communicated intentions as the playwright.”
The producers, the Perth Theatre Company later refuted this in their own statement, essentially calling Philpott's statements “inaccurate and unwarranted”.
But the incident has spurred some in the theatre to reexamine the power and authority of the playwright, and to question whether changes are needed. (if they're possible at all).
Authors' rights in Theatre are far more expansive than in film, television, etc.
Historically, the playwright (or the bookwriter, composer and lyricist of a Musical) has/have been given great deference when it comes to creative matters relating to their work. Under most production contracts, in fact, the author is given a right of approval that is very nearly absolute.