Wednesday, August 31, 2011

abstract principles of fairness & Mister Rogers

I've argued with a few people about the lopsided male:female ratio of plays represented on Martin Denton's Indie Theatre Now web site and my opponents keep accusing me of jealousy - because none of my plays were included on the site.

Now they could just be trying to win an argument and figure that is the best way to dismiss me without actually listening to my points.

Or maybe they just don't understand abstract principles of fairness, and so can't imagine that I would have any other reason for being unhappy with the unbalanced gender representation except pure self-interest. Maybe they themselves only care about their own careers and really don't give a damn about abstract principles.

For the record, I never expected one of my plays to be included. I've only had one play in the past five years reviewed by nytheatre.com, and it was an adaptation of the novel "Jane Eyre" so why would I have something included? And to be perfectly honest, my impression of the way things work with Martin Denton's ventures is that you have to be on friendly terms with Martin Denton himself. Certainly many of the playwrights who are listed on Indie Theatre Now also do reviews on nytheatre.com. I have to work for a living at a full-time job, and just don't have time to schmooze.

And in fact, I'm sure that works against lots of women - things get done in the theatre world as part of a social club. Some people have claimed I said Martin Denton was a sexist - I don't think I ever have. But I do think that men have more time on their hands to schmooze. And that's how you get ahead, by schmoozing.

And then there's the issue of fairness. If black people made up half the population and only 17% of plays produced were by black people, you'd rightly suspect that bigotry was involved. Well women do make up 50% of the population yet only 17% of plays produced are by women. So anybody who cares about opposing bigotry must have an issue with the current practices.

There is one major factor that can account for at least 20% of the lopsided ratio - the fact that Western Civilization has been a patriarchy since before the ancient Greeks, and so there is a legacy of sexism that only started to break down in any meaningful way in the late 20th Century. When Aristophanes was writing, there were no female playwrights; when Shakespeare was writing, there were none, and when Shaw was writing there were maybe a handful. So unless a theatre company only does work from about 1975 on, there is an inevitable lopsided ratio due to the effects of extreme patriarchy.

But if you're publishing brand-new plays, you don't have that as an excuse.

Of course fighting for the production and publication of plays by women is also in my self-interest, but not only, and as I said, I never expected to be included on Denton's site.

Maybe I'm so annoyed because this year's Dramatists Guild conference focused to a fair degree on female playwright parity - including this great keynote speech by Julia Jordan. I watch this and then a couple of months later there's yet again an example of a ridiculous lopsided ratio. I would submit that politely requesting that theatre organizations produce more plays by women has done almost nothing. How much longer are we supposed to patiently wait? Since women make up the majority of the live theatre audience, I think the next step will have to be boycotts.

But whenever women stand up for themselves about an issue that is not life-and-death you hear the usual Richard Dawkins harangue - a woman mentioned in a video blog clip that she had been nervous to be in an elevator at a hotel at 3AM, especially when the man invited her back to his room. Dawkins went apeshit and pulled the old STFU you have no real reason to complain. Dawkins wrote a letter to an imaginary "Muslima" in order to mock Rebecca Watson's concerns:
Dear Muslima

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.

Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so . . .

And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.

Richard


So you see, unless somebody's cutting up your lady parts you have no reason to complain.

That is exactly the argument that a woman made to me a few days ago in response to my complaints about the Martin Denton site.

I say since nobody is chopping off our lady bits, why not spend our time, lady bits intact, to do something positive for women.

Now luckily there is more to theatre then arguing with people. My actor friend Renee, who recently performed in my MISTRESS ILSA sent me an email today that said: "I auditioned for Lisa Lax agency today with the Mr. Rogers scene you wrote! They loved it and asked who wrote it :) fingers crossed"

How cool is that? Although the "Mr. Rogers scene" from MISTRESS ILSA, is quite possibly the most disturbing thing that I, or anybody has ever written:

(Mistress Ilsa exits. Trixie tries to read her Harry Potter book but the mask is in the way. Reverend Hartford enters. He is dressed as Mr Rogers.)

REVEREND HARTFORD

Hi neighbor.

(Trixie drops her book in surprise. She starts speaking in her normal voice but remembers and lowers her voice.)

TRIXIE

And just what are you supposed to be?


REVEREND HARTFORD

Can’t you tell? I’m your old friend Mr. Rogers. I need some punishment. I’ve been doing some bad things.

TRIXIE

I don’t believe it.

(Trixie is well and truly freaked out at the idea of punishing someone dressed as Mr. Rogers.)

REVEREND HARTFORD

Oh yes. You know the puppet Queen Sarah Saturday? I used her to masturbate with.

TRIXIE

Excuse me.

(Trixie exits to go get Mistress Ilsa. Reverend Hartford remains and hums “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood,” Mr. Rogers theme song, to himself. Mistress Ilsa enters followed by Trixie. She stops for a moment stunned by the idea of Mr. Rogers appearing in her establishment, even though she knows it’s the Reverend Hartford.)

MISTRESS ILSA

Mr. H!

REVEREND HARTFORD

Oh you can call me Mr. R today, Mistress Ilsa.

MISTRESS ILSA

As you know, virtually anything goes, here in my dungeon. But this is the one thing I don’t allow. Nobody may dress up as Mr. Rogers while they are here.

REVEREND HARTFORD

I didn’t get the costume here, I brought it from home.

MISTRESS ILSA

You must go home and change. When you return, you will have an extra long session with Mistress Trixie, who is ready to whip the living shit out of you.

TRIXIE

Yes I am.

REVEREND HARTFORD

What? This is an outrage! I have always wanted to be beaten while dressed as Mr. Rogers, dammit! I pay good money here.

MISTRESS ILSA

Please Mr. H., it is the only thing we don’t allow.

REVEREND HARTFORD

Well! You know there are other places I can go to. There’s a new girl in town . They call her The Snake. They say that anything goes at her dungeon - for real. I think I’ll just go to her from now on.

MISTRESS ILSA

I’m sorry you feel that way, but some things are sacred.

REVEREND HARTFORD

Some things are sacred? Hah!

(Reverend Hartford exits.)


We didn't include any photos of actor Doug Rossi in his Mr. Rogers get-up for our show publicity because we didn't want to give it away. But the audience didn't have as big a reaction as I expected, alas.

The Mr. Rogers scene is set up earlier in the play with this exchange between Mistress Ilsa and Trixie:

MISTRESS ILSA

Look, you’ll see alot of this kind of thing, so get used to it. You’re going to see men who are big and important: CEO’s, attorneys general, diplomats, ministers, rabbis, all of them. The pinnacles of success and the pillars of society. They want to be whipped or they want to lick your boots. And you learn all about their lives. How they’re cheating on the wife - by the way, none of them considers this cheating because we only whip them, we don’t have sex with them; how they’re spending the money they made from insider trading. It opens your eyes to just how ugly the world is. There was only one true good man - and he is no longer on this Earth.

TRIXIE

You mean Jesus?

MISTRESS ILSA

No I mean that guy on TV. He’s American but they had him in Latvia too. The one who sang “won’t you be my neighbor.”

TRIXIE

Mister Rogers?

MISTRESS ILSA

Yeah, that’s him.

TRIXIE

Well, he liked to play with puppets.

MISTRESS ILSA

But not in a weird way. He was trying to help kids.

TRIXIE

Yeah. He was like one of my best friends when I was little. I used to come home from school and put him on the TV and then I wasn’t afraid to be in the house by myself anymore.

MISTRESS ILSA

I was not sorry when he died. I used to be afraid that one day he would show up and ask to be whipped. And I would not be able to deal with that.

TRIXIE

Wow, that would be strange.

MISTRESS ILSA

I didn’t want him to die of course. But you know what I mean.


That bit is taken directly out of my own head. I thought Mr. Rogers was a great guy - I blogged about it a few years ago - and I used to be afraid it would turn out he was secretly a big pervert. So I was really relieved when he died and no reports of perversion came out. Not that I wanted him to die.

But when Reverend Hartford shows up dressed as Mr. Rogers, the audience has some idea of how much this freaks out Mistress Ilsa and Trixie. Whee!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

off-off ills - a reconsideration

Over the weekend I blogged about some of my issues with various aspects of off-off Broadway, sometimes known as "independent theater." After hearing from various indie folks, especially Suave Diplomat Guy, I've reconsidered the excessive harshness of my commentary.

But that doesn't mean I'm entirely mollified...

Many people have said to me that Martin Denton is a swell guy, helps women playwrights etc. I have no reason to dispute this, but here's the thing - members of the Facebook group 50/50 in 2020 complained about a bunch of theatre companies for producing no female playwrights this season - The Public Theater, The Vineyard, Classic Stage Company, MCC, Roundabout; and the Atlantic Theater Company for producing 1 female playwright out of 6. Does anybody believe that all the decision-makers at those theatres are misogynist ogres? I'm sure that any number of people that are associated with those organizations are swell people who help female playwrights.

But that's not enough.

I believe that if Martin Denton had made a serious effort, he could have included a much better male:female ratio of plays on his Indie Theatre Now web site than 93:17.

You want to be nice, and help women playwrights? That's what really counts - producing women playwrights, publishing women playwrights.

I also think that there could be better transparency with disclosing any connections between the people whose work is being reviewed and nytheatre.com or any of its sister organizations. It only makes sense and to my way of thinking, it gives the review itself integrity. The non-disclosure situation makes me have less confidence in the reviews on the site.

Also I think many of the reviews are less incisive and interesting and specific than they could be. Many of the reviews I've read at nytheatre.com seem pretty bland and homogenized. That's an intellectual/aesthetic issue rather than an ethics one - but those things count too.

More on this soon...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

online weather maps: a critique

I like maps - I used to have a big collection of paper maps before everything had a GPS, and I still have a few paper ones because they're just more satisfying to use than little bitty iPhone screens.

I have also always been fascinated by weather - it always seemed to me the closest you could get to predicting the future. And until I cancelled my cable TV service three years ago I was a regular watcher of The Weather Channel. I find watching weather reports soothing - usually. Until they start talking about tornadoes and other scary weather. But even when it's scary it's fascinating.

So it goes without saying that I am fascinated by online weather maps, especially when there is a massive hurricane approaching New York City as is currently the case.

But I haven't found the perfect Hurricane Irene map yet.

The weather map at the NYTimes is almost perfect - it's everything a hurricane map should be - clear, enlarge-able, easy-to-read. But dammit, they only update it every six hours - I have to know more frequently than that where that sucker is and where it's heading.

So I turn to the weather maps at the good ole Weather Channel web site. They have lots of maps - you got your "Classic Doppler", your Infrared Satellite, your Visible Satellite, your Winds and Gusts and lots more. And they are updated about 15 - 30 minutes or so. And yet... none of their many maps in the regular section or "Hurricane Central" have that slick trajectory that the NYTimes map has.

The government agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, through its National Hurricane Center does have trajectory maps - but they only have two sizes, small and big, and even at the big size is hard to read, and just plain ugly. They do have the quaint Mariners' 1-2-3 rule map but its graphics are incredibly primitive.


Last we have the Weather Underground map selection. Any coolness points this web site gets for being named after a notorious radical left-wing organization is destroyed by the massive number of ads all over the site. And no trajectory maps. However they get big points for Dr. Jeff Master's Wunderblog which actually has a piece of information I haven't seen anywhere else - that as of 1:32 PM Friday, Hurricane Irene "continues to weaken." This is the kind of stuff I like to know about impending weather fronts of doom:
. Satellite imagery shows a distinctly lopsided appearance to Irene's cloud pattern, with not much heavy thunderstorm activity on the southwest side. This is due to moderate southwesterly wind shear of 10 - 20 knots. This shear is disrupting Irene's circulation and has cut off upper-level outflow along the south side of the hurricane. No eye is visible in satellite loops, but the storm's size is certainly impressive.
So in summation - there is no one perfect web site of weather information, especially approaching hurricane information. You have to look at them all.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Abbey Road web cam



Too cool - it's the Abbey Road web cam - I heard about it via the New Yorker web site.

What Edward Einhorn did to my play TAM LIN and why all American authors should be concerned - part 7

We last left this series at part 6, where I had found a copy of a back issue of Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts that contained an article that not only argued against a director's copyright but suggested that Edward Einhorn may well have violated MY copyright by taking a copy of my script, putting his words on it and submitting the results to the US Copyright Office.

Unfortunately I can't afford to start a lawsuit just now - unlike Edward Einhorn I don't come from a wealthy background and didn't inherit money - but then we all know the legal system favors the wealthy.

But Edward Einhorn may rest assured (and I know he reads this blog regularly, including now while he's in Israel) - one way or another his unauthorized, unethical, shameless "blocking and choreography" script will be removed from the US Copyright Office database. If it takes me the rest of my life, I will see to it. And the Dramatists Guild is dedicated to the same goal - and really, all American authors should want to see justice done - we are all threatened by the ability of wealthy people like Einhorn to use the legal system to throw an elaborate hissy-fit.

So one result of the trial of April 2006 was this: Mergatroyd Productions was ordered to pay Edward Einhorn $800 plus interest for his work-for-hire as a director. This was much less than the $2000 the Einhorns tried to scare out of us with the cease and desist letter of October 2004 and less than I had been willing to pay him. And it was only $300 more than what Jonathan was willing to pay him. So Judge Kaplan agreed with Jonathan that Einhorn didn't deserve $1000, much less $2000 - he only disagreed about how much less than $1000 - their difference came down to $300.

But the rich are different from you and me.

So Mergatroyd was ordered to pay Einhorn the money, which we did. But the Einhorns were ordered to do something too - de-register Edward Einhorn's "blocking and choreography" script.

Now Jonathan and I had believed that if a federal court judge ordered something, it would be done without delay. Certainly Judge Kaplan's ruling made it crystal clear that the Einhorn copyright failed every single criterion of copyrightability. To quote from Kaplan's decision:
I find that no such (blocking and choreography) script existed before Mr. Einhorn was fired from the show, nor was there any intention on anybody's part that any such script ever be created. Mr. Einhorn claims that during the course of his direction of the show he made handwritten notes on a copy of Ms. McClernan's script from which Plaintiff's Exhibit 52 (blocking and choreography script) was prepared... He claims these notes were made contemporaneously during the direction of the show. I'm sure at least some of them were. The script, in any case, is incomplete. It ends at page 35 whereas the entire blocking script, so-called, Plaintiff's Exhibit 52, is over 100 pages long and the material added by Mr. Einhorn accounted for very few of those pages. So, the majority of any notes that Mr. Einhorn may have taken in connection with directing the show have never been produced and no really satisfactory explanation, at least none that I credit, has been offered for that... But, Mr. Einhorn decided to parlay whatever notes he had into building up a claim here in an effort to get the $1,000 he felt he was owed or, if possible, more, and that resulted in the production of Plaintiff's Exhibit 52. Why prepare Plaintiff's Exhibit 52? Well, the reason was that Mr. Einhorn, aided and abetted by his brother, decided that they were going to file an application for registration of copyright, the filing of which is a prerequisite to a lawsuit....

...The claimed (blocking and choreography script) consisted of movements of actors and positioning of actors. There is a very lively question, I suppose, as to whether that is an appropriate subject of the copyright as to which I express no opinion. If it is, however, the deposit copy certainly didn't cover it because it is impossible to discern with precision from the deposit copy just exactly what the movements were and what the positioning was.


In other words:
  1. I had no intention that Einhorn should create his "blocking and choreography" script - so it failed as an authorized derivative work.

  2. Although Einhorn's copyright registration claims that Einhorn's work was created October 21, 2004, Judge Kaplan finds this is false.

  3. The Einhorns registered the copyright for the purpose of instigating a lawsuit.

  4. The Einhorn "deposit copy" was too insubstantial to be copyrightable.


  5. Now according to Chapter 37 of the Code of Federal Regulation:
    General policy. The Copyright Office will cancel a completed registration only in those cases where:

    (1) It is clear that no registration should have been made because the work does not constitute copyrightable subject matter or fails to satisfy the other legal and formal requirements for obtaining copyright;


    A federal court judge said exactly that - the work fails to satisfy legal and formal requirements for obtaining copyright.

    Months after the trial ended, the Einhorns still had not deregistered the copyright, and on a theater blog in October 2006 Edward Einhorn actually stated that "...the copyright was never found invalid in any way. This was not ruled on."

    Only the deliberately obtuse could fail to understand that Judge Kaplan did indeed find the copyright invalid. The only thing he did not rule on was the issue of whether a director's copyright is valid or invalid - but that has no bearing on the fact that Einhorn's copyright was declared invalid. Period.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

random blog fun

Oh Damn You Autocorrect, you are killing me!

Cookie Monster sings Tom Waits' "God's Away on Business"



The entire movie "My Dinner with Andre" is available for viewing on Youtube. Part 1:



I watched the movie again - Schopenhauer is name-checked towards the end of the movie. I hadn't noticed that before.

Also the movie is so quaint now - in this first part Wallace Shawn talks about all his errands that day - making phone calls, going to the stationary store, going to the post office to mail out copies of his plays. And neither he nor Andre look at their cell phones once during the entire dinner.

Speaking of Schopenhauer - wags liked to point out that Schopenhauer's primary relationship was with his poodle. This sketch is by a contemporary of Schopenhauer, Wilhelm Busch.




My kittehs - such cutie-wootie pussy-woosies!




They each get an entry in Wiki: Black cat - Siamese cat.

Miss Willow is the black cat and could pass for Basement Cat.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dickens Camp

There's a fascinating article in this week's New Yorker about the Dickens Camp held annually in California. The article is only available in abstract format online - but you can still get the magazine on newsstands.

Dickens camp is "a week of discussing Dickens, sleeping in dormitories, and eating in a cafeteria, bringing together literary scholars, teachers, and students, with readers who love Dickens. Every year the campers read a different book. This year, it was “Great Expectations,” which also happens to have been a recent selection of Oprah’s Book Club."

The article reveals that Dickens was a complete asshole to his wife - and I don't just mean discarding her for a 17-year-old actor. According to the article:
In May of 1858 he more or less kicked her out of the house. "She does not - and she never did - care for the children" he insisted "and the children do not - and they never did - care for her."

Charley, the Dickenses' oldest child, went to live with his mother. At twenty-one he was the only one of the nine children old enough to make his own decision. Dickens all but forebade the rest of the children to see their mother. The youngest... had just turned six.


Also according to the article, his 1867 tour of the United States was not very well received although it was a financial success. It mentions that Henry James thought Dickens' readings "charmless" and Mark Twain said they were "glittering frostwork."

Twain himself had more than a casual interest in Dickens' performances, since 1867 was the year that he began performing his works on stage.

I found the entire piece that Twain wrote about Dickens' performance here.
I was a good deal disappointed in Mr. Dickens' reading - I will go further and say, a great deal disappointed. The Herald and Tribune critics must have been carried away by their imaginations when they wrote their extravagant praises of it. Mr. Dickens' reading is rather monotonous, as a general thing; his voice is husky; his pathos is only the beautiful pathos of his language - there is no heart, no feeling in it - it is glittering frostwork; his rich humor cannot fail to tickle an audience into ecstasies save when he reads to himself. And what a bright, intelligent audience he had! He ought to have made them laugh, or cry, or shout, at his own good will or pleasure -- but he did not. They were very much tamer than they should have been.

I knew an actor who does a one-man show of Dickens' Christmas Carol, but with a spin to differentiate it from all the other one-man Christmas Carols - the idea is that the actor is Dickens himself, on his 1867 tour, and has lost his copy of the Christmas Carol and so must perform it from memory. And his incarnation of Dickens' couldn't be more different from the way Twain describes him:
Promptly at 8 P.M., unannounced, and without waiting for any stamping or clapping of hands to call him out, a tall, "spry," (if I may say it,) thin-legged old gentleman, gotten up regardless of expense, especially as to shirt-front and diamonds, with a bright red flower in his button-hole, gray beard and moustache, bald head, and with side hair brushed fiercely and tempestuously forward, as if its owner were sweeping down before a gale of wind, the very Dickens came! He did not emerge upon the stage - that is rather too deliberate a word -- he strode. He strode - in the most English way and exhibiting the most English general style and appearance - straight across the broad stage, heedless of everything, unconscious of everybody, turning neither to the right nor the left -- but striding eagerly straight ahead, as if he had seen a girl he knew turn the next corner. He brought up handsomely in the centre and faced the opera glasses. His pictures are hardly handsome, and he, like everybody else, is less handsome than his pictures. That fashion he has of brushing his hair and goatee so resolutely forward gives him a comical Scotch-terrier look about the face, which is rather heightened than otherwise by his portentous dignity and gravity.
Portentous dignity and gravity is just about the opposite of what this actor does, which is very well since Dickens sounds like a complete drag, whereas there are few things on this earth more enchanting than this actor breathlessly announcing himself offstage and then running onto the playing area - the conceit is that he's almost late for the show due to a luggage mix-up - and explaining the luggage situation with warmth and vivacity and the comfortable familiarity of a dear and favorite uncle.

Would that Charles Dickens was as charming as this actor portrays him - and would that Dickens was as decent a human being as you would expect him to be based on his writing. But that's why we need stories and theatre - to break up the normal monotonous, incessant march of disappointing reality.

Monday, August 22, 2011

JULIA & BUDDY - ready to go!

I finally completed JULIA & BUDDY, full-length version. It only took a whole damn year! I was going to produce it myself but it turns out my old high school friend Cate the anthropologist has a boyfriend who runs a theatre company in Virginia and he's invited me to send my work. It would be cool to have the J&B world premiere in ole Virginny.

If I produce it myself I'm going to wait until next spring and hire myself some serious professional actors, outside the usual off-off Broadway crowd. This play would be perfect for any movie or Broadway actor who wants to strut their stuff. It's a bit of a challenge with all the dialects, convulsions, blackouts and Arthur Schopenhauer impersonations required. The actors will need to have alot of energy.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

more reasons why I hate TALLEY'S FOLLY

A year ago I blogged about how much I dislike TALLEY'S FOLLY. Some have suggested to me that I saw a bad production - I saw a community theatre version in Haddonfield New Jersey almost 20 years ago. I barely remembered the play except for how bored I was. Wikipedia provided a synopsis that makes it clear that the Matt character in the play is a flat-out stalker. But I decided to read the play to see if maybe it was the fault of the production or the fault of Wikipedia.

No, the fault is entirely the play's.

People are always quick to tell you that when it comes to writing for theatre, you should "show not tell." These are the same people who think that TALLEY'S FOLLY is a wonderful play in spite of the fact that it is 10% show and 90% tell.

Now, about the stalking. Early on in the play, Matt says to Sally:
Were you hiding behind the curtains when I was out in the yard talking to your brother? You like to hide from me so much.
But no does not mean no in this play. Because as any stalker knows, their love-object really truly does love them, deep down, no matter how much they protest otherwise. And since this play is a stalker's fantasia, Wilson comes through for his stalker:

Also, I talk to the patients at the hospital, remember? Some are not so young. And they all say "Are you Sally's beau? Every time we say something sweet to Sally, try to get fresh, she says 'Come on now, I got a beau."
Stalking her at her place of employment is not enough for Matt, however, and not only is Matt not ashamed about being a stalker, he brags about it, with the most noxious metaphor possible:
MATT

Oh my goodness. She does have a vanity as well as a temper. You are thirty-one because you were fired from teaching Sunday school on your twenty-eight birthday and that was three years ago.

SALLY

What?

MATT

I've become great friends with your Aunt Charlotte. There's a counterspy in your home. You're infiltrated. I didn't tell you. You're ambushed. I've come up on you from behind.

SALLY

When did you talk to Aunt Charlotte?

MATT

Last year. For a second today. And every few weeks during the winter. On the telephone. (He laughs.) I never heard of anyone being fired from Sunday school before.
So how does this woman who has a temper respond to humiliation and gross privacy violation? Like this:

SALLY

I quit. We didn't get along.

To have her respond in a way that a person with a temper would respond would work against the narrative that says that Matt will win her in the end.

Matt's charm offensive doesn't end with the stalking, however. He's not afraid to use physical force - many times throughout the play Sally tries to leave the boathouse and he stops her by holding her back or blocking the door:
SALLY

-Get gone now. Leave before I hit you with something. You can walk to the Barnettes', they'll give you some gas for a couple of coupons.

MATT

Now who is making the disturbance?

SALLY

(Angry, quite loud.)

Get off this property or get out of my way so I can go back to the house, or I'll disturb you for real.

MATT

We are going to settle this before anyone goes anywhere.

SALLY

I won't be made a fool just because I fell in love again, Matt, and I won't be pushed around again.

MATT

You're not getting away from me.

SALLY

Get out of here!

MATT

Do you realize what you said? Did you hear yourself?

SALLY

(Yelling toward the door.)

Buddy! Cliffy! Here he is. Matt Friedman is down here!

(Her last words are muffled by Matt's hand as he grabs her and holds her fast. She tries to speak over his lines.)

MATT

(Grabbing her.)

Vilde chaya! you are a crazy woman! We could both be shot with that gun. People do not scream and yell and kick.

(She stops struggling.)

People are blessed with the beautiful gift of reason and communication.

(He starts to release her.)

SALLY

Cliffy!

MATT

(Grabbing her again.)

How can such a thing happen? When they passed out logic everybody in the Ozarks went on a marshmallow roast. You are rational now?

(He releases her. She moves away. Matt stands where he can block her exit.)

Life is going to be interesting with you. Are you hurt?

Is there anything more repulsive than a thug using physical force against someone he is supposed to love, and then lecturing her on the proper way for people to behave?

Of course the lesson here is that bitches is crazy, but if you impose your will on them long enough they'll come around and be "rational" and you can have a life together.

And there's an important reason why Matt just happens to use Yiddish during the struggle which I will get to in a moment.

But Matt is not done charming this woman yet:

MATT

I am foolish to insinuate myself down here and try to feel like one of the hillbillies. Who ever heard of this Friedman? I don't blame you. I won't be Matt Friedman any more. I'll join the throng. Call myself... August Hedgepeth. Sip moonshine over the back of my elbow. Wheat straw in the gap in my teeth. I'm not cleaning my glasses, I'm fishing for crappies. Bass.

SALLY

Sun perch.

MATT

Oh heck, yes. Only I'm not. I can't even take off my shoes without feeling absurd.

SALLY

People don't walk around with their shoes off here, sipping moonshine. It isn't really the Hatfields and the McCoys. The ones who go barefoot only do it because they can't afford shoes.
So Matt is bigoted, domineering and a stalker. And he manages to win Sally over to him in ninety minutes (more about that later.) How could such a character possibly be set up as a romantic lead? I think this section makes it clear how:

MATT

...and Buddy came - does your entire family have such absurd names?

SALLY

His real name is Kenny. We call him Buddy.

MATT

Kenny? Is his real name? This is better, for a grown man? Kenny? Kenny Talley, Lottie Talley, Timmy Talley, Sally Talley? Your brother also does not know how to converse. Your brother talks in rhetorical questions. "You're Sally's Jewish friend, ain't ya? What do you think you want here? Did you ever hear that trespassing was against the law?"

Kenny has a good reason for telling Matt he's trespassing - he told him to leave because Sally wasn't there. And Matt refuses to go. So why is Buddy the bad guy and Matt the hero of this passage?

Anti-Semitism.

Matt's from an oppressed minority so he's allowed to be completely obnoxious and still get the girl.

Still not convinced? Imagine how obnoxious Sally would sound if she said this to Matt: "What kind of names are those? Schlomo, Golda, Moishe, Uri?" She even says at one point that he shouldn't make fun of her accent because she wouldn't make fun of his. But the normal rules of polite behavior do not apply to Matt, because he is a victim of anti-Semitism.

Now as much as I loathe this play, Wilson, in his introduction to the published version, reveals it could have been much worse. Wilson writes:
Everyone loved it, that is, except Marshall W. Mason, who was to direct. After many glowing comments and applause, Marshall and I retired to his office. He had (ominously) said nothing during the discussion period. I thought the play was perfect, so I had quite a chip on my shoulder. He said something like, "So the story is, essentially, Matt comes down to Lebanon and browbeats this girl into hysterical admission that she's barren." I said yes and he said "What's fun about that?" He pointed out that with Matt knowing she couldn't bear children he didn't even have to tell her he refused to bring children into the world. Except for being turned down, he had nothing more at stake. He didn't even have to browbeat her, he could just say Lottie told me. It wasn't even dramatic. His actions were brutal with little cost to himself.
All true enough, but please note that in spite of these glaring flaws "everyone" - that would be the Circle Rep play reading group - loved it, and Wilson himself thought it was "perfect." Wilson continues:
However, if he did not know her situation, then he would first have to tell Sally that he refused to have children and ask if she would have him in that condition. He had to risk something. Marshall must have been very convincing because the chip fell off my shoulder and very soon I was taking notes. I rewrote the middle third of the play. It was much more dramatic... Marshall said, "Let's read it. I'll read Matt, you read Sally.

OK, so Wilson rewrote some of this "perfect" play, but there was still a huge problem:
I had sat there as Sally, watching Matt jump through hoops, and all I said was "Oh Matt" and "Come on now, Matt." I didn't like my part. And I especially didn't like it when Matt finally told me he wanted to marry me but he didn't want kids. The writer had not provided me with the obvious response: "Who told you I couldn't have children?" I sat there livid because he had made me feel terrible about his lousy childhood and I thought it had all been a ploy. And all I did in the script was cave in. Back to the typewriter. Sally's part grew by a third. It is still not as flamboyant as Matt's but I think she now holds her own. She is much stronger and much more her own woman. We finally had a play.
I would argue Wilson is giving himself too much credit here - as I've demonstrated, Sally is a sap when it's narratively convenient. But then Wilson admits there are still problems with the final version of the play - the version that won the 1980 Pulitzer for drama:
If Matt knows she can't have children and it takes the whole play for him to convince Sally it's OK that she can't have children - it's a story. If he doesn't know and he presents his resolution, and then finds out she can't have children anyway - it's a plot. What happens is a very strange phenomenon. When Sally finally screams out in desperation, "I can't have children, I can't bear children!" there is an almost audible click as the last piece of the plot locks into place. It is an enormously satisfying moment. We feel the perfection of it. But it is also terribly disappointing. We feel like we have been manipulated. This has all been a carefully worked out artifice... that's what a plot this starkly presented does. It underlines the artifice... we decided to live with it.
Now give me that Pulitzer.

Now the repulsiveness of Matt's character is not an issue for Wilson because, as I said, Matt gets an asshole license due to anti-Semitism. But the problem with the plot as-is goes beyond the "perfection" of its artifice. Wilson has set up a situation where a woman is interested in a man, but tells him to go away many many times, presumably because she can't have children. But if that's the issue, why didn't she just tell him she can't have children and see what he says?

But if that is really why she rejects him, why wouldn't she immediately respond, when he tells her he doesn't want children, that she can't have children? Instead he has to drag it out of her. No matter how many times Wilson has someone tell us that Sally is strong, what he shows us instead is that Sally is a dithering, childish cipher who has to be browbeaten and physically restrained by Matt.

And are we to believe that because she can't have children, Sally has sworn off men forever? And that only a browbeating stalker who doesn't want children and is eleven years older could possibly make her interested in sex, love and marriage again? Are we supposed to believe that Sally is going to end up an old maid unless Matt comes along, like Mary in the George Bailey-free alternate universe in "It's a Wonderful Life?" That movie has the excuse of being made in the 1940s. TALLEY'S FOLLY was written in 1979.

Finally, the device of having Matt speak to the audience at the beginning of the play, telling us up front that he's going to try to get the girl, adds nothing to the story.

But worse than not adding to the story, it does two things that work against the play:

It puts Matt and Sally on an even more unequal footing by making Matt the omniscient narrator and Sally just a character behind the fourth wall, and it puts the audience in the position of being confederates of Matt in his campaign to win Sally. And while the mood lighting mentioned in the beginning of the play isn't objectionable, by the end of the play we've learn he's spied on her and we see him use physical force to get his way. And his little winking aside to the audience at the end of the play: :

(takes out his watch, shows time to Sally and then the audience) ...right on the button. Good-night

- is creepy, precious and smug, all at the same time.

I've been sponsoring weekly play readings for almost eleven years now, in New York City, and I've seen actors make really crappy plays sound good. Skilled and appealing actors can work wonders on bad scripts. And Wilson had access to a very high caliber of actor for his work by the time he wrote TALLEY'S FOLLY. But what those not-so-great actors in Haddonfield New Jersey made plain to me, and what the text itself and Wilson's own comments make plainer is that this is actually a poorly thought-out play with a repulsive character as a romantic lead, Pulitzer Prize voters be damned.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

In case you ever had any doubts about what scumbags Fox News and their Republican government employees are

Really, conservatives are the absolute scum of the earth. They will be the first up against the wall when the revolution comes.

The Daily Show gives a list of the lowest of the scumbag low. If you get to the end of this clip and don't want to punch that monster Ann Coulter in the face when she calls poor people "animals" there is something wrong with you.

Friday, August 19, 2011

hot tasty Boudain Balls



I don't know how many times I must have passed this New Orleans-themed restaurant Sugarfreak without noticing it - it's right down the street from me. I probably didn't notice because they don't have their name displayed very prominently. But my daughter and her girlfriend took me out for dinner there last night, and it's very good. Their big speciality is Boudain Balls, which come in either pork or crawfish varieties. I had the crawfish, so these Balls basically tasted like crab cakes. Which is fine with me, I like crab cakes.

New Orleans cuisine is one of the few regional cuisines I have some familiarity with, having been to New Orleans twice - once for a Microsoft conference and once for an anthropology conference. Good times. This was all before Hurricane Katrina, so I don't know how much it's changed since I was there. But I'm guessing the food is pretty much the same.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

the shreek of mighty KRGTHULU II

So Krugman responded to the attack by OFA:
Well, at least they’re paying attention.

I would say this: on one side you have the GOP, which responds to completely crazed Tea Party demands by doing all it can to assure the hard right that it’s on its side. On the other, you have the Democratic establishment or at least part thereof, which responds to complaints from its own base that it’s going too easy on the crazies by lashing out at the base, with a bit of bearded-professor bashing on the side.

Way to strengthen your bargaining position, guys.


He's got a point. As always.

the shreek of mighty KRGTHULU!

I knew something was up today when "krgthulu" kept popping up in my web site analytics. So I went over to Eschaton to see what was up.

Yes, Duncan Black had indeed flung the K-bomb.

Apparently the Obama campaign has been doing some hippie bashing - because since you've already pissed off the Left with the crappy debt deal, why not bash some hippies while you're at it?

Lots more at the Huffington Post.

I can't help but wonder if the Obama administration has it in for Krugman for pointing out a very embarrassing moment for Obama:
Obama, at his press conference last December, announcing his surrender to the GOP on tax cuts; the questioner was Marc Ambinder:

Q Mr. President, thank you. How do these negotiations affect negotiations or talks with Republicans about raising the debt limit? Because it would seem that they have a significant amount of leverage over the White House now, going in. Was there ever any attempt by the White House to include raising the debt limit as a part of this package?

THE PRESIDENT: When you say it would seem they’ll have a significant amount of leverage over the White House, what do you mean?

Q Just in the sense that they’ll say essentially we’re not going to raise the — we’re not going to agree to it unless the White House is able to or willing to agree to significant spending cuts across the board that probably go deeper and further than what you’re willing to do. I mean, what leverage would you have –

THE PRESIDENT: Look, here’s my expectation — and I’ll take John Boehner at his word — that nobody, Democrat or Republican, is willing to see the full faith and credit of the United States government collapse, that that would not be a good thing to happen. And so I think that there will be significant discussions about the debt limit vote. That’s something that nobody ever likes to vote on. But once John Boehner is sworn in as Speaker, then he’s going to have responsibilities to govern. You can’t just stand on the sidelines and be a bomb thrower.


Although I've called Obama a sell-out, this incident is much more worrying - when Obama was asked the question he didn't quite understand what the reporter was asking - as if it never occurred to him that the Republicans would pull even more evil in the future.

The next day The Daily Show also highlighted the moment - and you can see how young Ambinder looks - something that Stewart points out ("Peewee Blitzer"). The relevant section begins at minute 4:00.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Dealageddon! - A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Compromise
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook


As of this posting Krugman has not yet responded but - he mentioned on his blog recently that his postings would be light due to travel.

But seriously, Obama for America (OFA) New Mexico State Director Ray Sandoval needs to be fired. I don't think he realizes just how influential Krugman is. Seriously, what's next - go after The Daily Show for criticizing the Obama's abysmal performance on the deal negotiations?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

thee-ay-tah roundup

OH YEAH BABY, I got my first scholarly citation, in the Damascus University Journal, Vol.27 No.1+2,2011 in the article "Destructive Consequences of Pseudo-Education Powers in David Mamet's Oleanna" by Dr. Ahmad Shtaywi and Dr. Khaled R. Aludayli.

Footnote 11:
John is fully aware that Carol is backed by a group, her classmates and other students. He knows it for a fact that Carol's power is not only a personal one. Otherwise, he would not have had allowed her to stay long in his office and humiliate him every now and then (11).

(11) N. G. McClernan thinks that Oleanna “is not really about a man-woman misunderstanding, or a student reacting overzealously against what she truly believes is sexual harassment. This play is about a shadowy Group with an agenda to censor free thought by any means necessary. The Group creates a situation where John's life is ruined unless he capitulates to its demands”. http://www.mcclernan.com/mcclernan/oleanna.asp.


I published that essay in 2003 and I think it's stood up well. I'm always amazed by how few critics even mention The Group in reviews of OLEANNA, considering its pivotal role in the play's dramatic showdown.

This paper gets it right, although I'm not sure exactly what their point is here - maybe it's an Arabic-English translation issue, but the outraged tone of the essay makes it sound like they're talking about a real-life scandal rather than analyzing a play:
It is mean, cheap, and criminal for Carol and her group to wait for the extremely critical time of the tenure to file what Carol calls proved facts (Act III, p. 64) against John. It is a pure act of cheap revenge; which is anything but educational. Carol and her group become blindly driven by their emotions of hatred for John and the desire to destroy him, in a cheap act of taking revenge. If they had been rightly educated, they would have directed their academic dissatisfaction into a reasonable plan of reforming the educational system. But instead, they actually add more corruption to the already-corrupted system.

Like I said, odd tone, but they get Mamet's message right - the group is basically hysterical feminists who hate John irrationally and unfairly. Mamet of course repeated this dynamic in his play RACE, although it isn't an entire group (unless you count black woman solidarity, which Mamet may well do) but a single character. Crazed, hysterical women, plotting and planning to destroy men - that's David Mamet's great Satan.

The Group is Mamet's grotesque caricature of feminism, but when I wrote the essay nobody wanted to believe it. Mamet's a cool guy! certainly a liberal! he's just commenting on the dangers of political correctness!

Now that it turns out that Mamet is so far right he considers Glenn Beck an important thinker, more people are finally coming around to my side. It's not easy being ahead of the curve.

MISTRESS ILSA is resting up after the brief learning experience in the Midtown International Theatre Festival. Soon I will make it into a full-length play.

In the meantime, I had another breakthrough in my rewrite of JULIA AND BUDDY. At this rate I might actually have a finished play one of these days! But I am thrilled with this breakthrough, I think I'm finally on the right track.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ghosts of Broadway hits past



Jean Kerr, most famous these days for her memoir "Please Don't Eat the Daisies" which was turned into a movie and a TV show, had a hit play on Broadway called MARY, MARY. The play opened in 1961 and ran for 1572 performances and was the longest-running non-musical of the 1960s.

I'd never heard of the play myself until I was recently reviewing back issues of the New Yorker in search of any last original Willie the Whaler ads. (No luck - but if I find any of course I will post it/them with the usual fanfare.) There were ads for the play in almost every issue in 1962. You can see one above. Although clearly this one is aimed at the tourists ("Plan Your New York Visit Now.")

To my surprise it has been done fairly recently - Hunterdon Hills Playhouse did it in 2000.

In spite of its popularity with the public, critics were not much impressed. The review by John McCarten in the March 18, 1961 issue of the New Yorker is entitled "Fine Feathers on an Old Hat" and says:
...For all (Kerr's) skill, however, she has not been able to disguise entirely the fact that the central theme of her play is rather banal. "Mary, Mary" begins by introducing us to a moody young publisher, waiting for his divorce to become final, who plans to marry an heiress but has doubts about whether he can support her in the manner to which she is accustomed... The publisher is still in love with Mary, but he refuses to admit it until an old Navy buddy, now a Hollywood star, happens by and immediately falls for her. Now the problem is: Will Mary and her husband become reconciled, or will they go through with the divorce, allowing her to run off with the Hollywood dream prince? Mrs. Kerr's solution is readily predictable.
So it was considered old hat in 1961 but it was still being produced even by 2000. But considering what a huge hit it was, you'd figure it would be more well-known than it is. It's always interesting to see which art remains valued and which does not.

But check out the ticket prices in that ad - they top out at $7.50 - tax included!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Richard O'Brien

So I was just doing a little Googling about the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The movie was based on a London stage show - same name but without the "Picture" part. Richard O'Brien wrote the stage play and also played Riff Raff in the movie.

Here's something interesting from Richard O'Brien's Wiki page:
O'Brien has married twice and fathered three children. In a 2009 interview he spoke about an ongoing struggle to reconcile cultural gender roles and described himself as being transgender or possible third sex. O'Brien stated, "There is a continuum between male and female. Some are hard-wired one way or another, I’m in between."
I assume the marriages were to women, so it does seem odd that he would describe himself as not quite male. Certainly not being 100% male hasn't prevented him from reproducing in the usual male way.

I'm always fascinated by people who say they're not the right gender.

Eddie Izzard refers to himself as a "male tomboy." I've seen alot more of Eddie Izzard than Richard O'Brien and Izzard projects a standard masculinity - he does not come off as femme in his normal mode of presentation.


I support everybody's right to be anything they want - but I just don't understand gender dysphoria. I mean, how could you know you're the "wrong" gender if you don't know what it's like to be the other gender? It always strikes me as just rebelling against society's rigid gender dichotomy. Izzard says: "women wear what they want and so do I" which sure sounds like nothing more than a desire for liberties accorded women. Like, say, an American woman in 1919 might have wished she was a man so she could vote. Once women could vote, and once, someday, male attire isn't so constrained, the desire to be the other gender will disappear, won't it?

But Izzard's also said on occasion that he wants to be a woman. He said his fantasy would be to make love to a woman as a woman.

When I was a kid and became aware of the systemic devaluation of girls I wanted to do boy things. I liked to consider myself a tomboy. I joined a girls softball team and stuck it out for two years even though I was a terrible player. When I was in high school I made a serious effort to participate in a team sport during PE - and the first time out I was bashed in the face with a field hockey stick. I was knocked out briefly and had to have stitches and the left-hand side of my lower lip droops slightly to this day. That was it for me and team sports. I was done with being a jock forever.

But my lesbian daughter considers me "butch" because I don't enjoy typical women things like clothes shopping, and I use less makeup than many women and I almost never wear high heels.

But in spite of my "butchness" and jockish attempts, I've never felt that I was "really" a man. And I've never been sexually interested in women.

I should say that if I thought it would get me laid by a guy I really liked, I'd have no problem doing the whole femme bit with high heels and whatever else. But I've always maintained that most of what women do to femme it up won't actually help them get laid. Take long painted fingernails. I haven't seen any empirical studies but I'd be willing to bet that those are number 900 on the top 100 list of things that heterosexual men find appealing in women. I just don't think they care if your fingernails are long and painted. Not counting men with a fingernail fetish - I've never heard of any, but there must be some out there. There appears to be a fetish for everything.

So Richard O'Brien says he's a third sex - what can that mean? He feels he's not macho? He has desires for men? I mean, I am heterosexual, but I'd be very happy if fewer men displayed "typical" male behaviors. I'd be happy if NASCAR disappeared off the face of the earth.

If guys like Eddie Izzard and Richard O'Brien could be considered not quite manly, a kind of third sex, I say hooray for the third sex!

Speaking of Eddie Izzard - amazing - on Youtube there are videos of a staged performance of the production of A DAY IN THE DEATH OF JOE EGG that Izzard was in. I can't believe posting these videos doesn't violate some law - but here it is until they take it down:



Rocky Horror

Just because...



The absolute best part of this song is when Dr. Frank-N-Furter says "you both look pretty groovy" and does that thing with his lower lip. Perfection.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What Edward Einhorn did to my play TAM LIN and why all American authors should be concerned - part 6

My former partner Jonathan and I had an idea that we could do TAM LIN every Halloween. First so that we could learn more about producing and second because we wanted to build a loyal following and make seeing the play a Halloween tradition.

And so we did the play in 2003, 2004 and by 2005 the folk music community had found out about us and were starting to get the word out. We were on our way. We assumed that Edward Einhorn had given up on the 2004 disagreement entirely. As I said, I wanted to give him the entire $1000 originally agreed on, but I was overruled. That we didn't hear from Einhorn further wasn't all that surprising. I had been to his place, and he didn't look like he was hurting for money.

But soon after we began the 2005 rehearsal for TAM LIN there was a knock on the door first thing in the morning. Now I worry about my daughter all the time, and so whenever there's a late night phone call, early morning knock, etc. the first thing I think of is that something happened to my daughter. I opened the door and saw a woman dressed in a police-like uniform and feared the worse. So when she served me the court papers indicating I was being sued by Edward Einhorn, I was so happy I could have hugged her. It always helps to have a little perspective.

We couldn't believe that Einhorn was suing us for producing TAM LIN 2005 and we immediately contacted the Dramatists Guild who hooked us up with a lawyer. It all seems like a blur now, but we ended up going back and forth with the Einhorns over the next five months over the issue of my right to have my play TAM LIN produced without having to pay Edward Einhorn. There was another issue involved, over Einhorn's payment and whether or not he had a contract. The contract issue was a complete waste of time from my point of view - I only cared about whether or not my play would be freed from Edward Einhorn's legal machinations.

So we went back and forth until it finally became clear that the Einhorns were refusing to give up on the copyright issue and so we went to court in April 2006.

I wrote about the case for the Dramatists Guild in September 2006, and posted the article with links under The Strange Case of Edward Einhorn v. Mergatroyd Productions.

The Guild pointed out in its Amicus brief:
Directors are employees hired to help turn a dramatist's script into an ephemeral experience for an audience. To accomplish this, a director gives ideas to the designers, to the actors, to the choreographer, and to the writers as well. Directors do not actually write the play, or design the sets, costumes or lighting, or act the roles, or choreograph the dance. In this sense, directors are interpretive, rather than creative, artists, and their role in the collaborative process is not unlike that of an orchestra conductor. A conductor interprets a musical composition by working with an orchestra to achieve a particular rendition of the work. Unlike Plaintiff, who has claimed ownership of his interpretation of the playwright's work, no conductor, to our knowledge, has had the temerity to claim ownership in his or her version of a Mozart symphony.


Pamela Berlin of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society took the stand for the Einhorns. She said:
It is my view and the view of the SSDC (the acronym is now just SDC) that choreography and often stage directions amount to intellectual property of the creator.
Notice her emphasis on choreography, which had already been established as a copyrightable form. We were not arguing about choreography and as I mentioned earlier in this series, although Einhorn claimed that his script was for "blocking and choreography" there was no choreography created for the TAM LIN production of 2004.

The Einhorn legal team tried to compare our case to the case of Mantello v. Hall but the Dramatists Guild countered:
Plaintiff's reliance in this case on Mantello v. Hall... is wholly misplaced. The Court in Mantello held only that the director's copyright registration created a presumption of validity; the Court, however, had no occasion to determine whether, on the facts of that case, the presumption should hold, or whether the stage directions at issue were entitled to copyright protection.


Recently I discovered the Summer 1996 issue of the Columbia Law & the Arts with an article by David Leichtman that discusses the Mantello case, among others, called "Most Unhappy Collaborators: An Argument Against the Recognition of Property Ownership in Stage Directions.:

Some very important points made here:
...directors have sought further power through the courts by alleging intellectual property rights in their work.

This attempt pits stage directors and dramatists, who must work closely together as artists, directly against one another in the legal arena. For one thing, if stage directors are found to have rights which survive the closing of a production, the publication of dramatic works will be radically affected. The printed version of the work, which normally incorporates most aspects of the premiere will cease to be a complete record, as it is meant to be, of the "defining" production in which the dramatist participated and approved of changes in the staging. Because it is rare that a dramatist will participate in rehearsals beyond the first production, the only insurance the dramatist has that the work will continue to be performed in accordance with her wishes, is to cause the script to be printed as performed. Indeed, it has hertofore been the custom to simply assume the New York production is one and the same with the play. For example, in the Love! Valour! Compassion! case, the playwright Terrence McNally included a preface in the Acting Version of the play, stating that the initial New York Production was "definitive." The author even told one reporter that it was his hope that regional productions would not stray too much from his intent, as reflected by the staging of the New York production.

Thus, the dramatist normally receives a copy of the stage manager's script upon the opening of the show. This is then incorporated in the script given to the publisher, which normally also becomes the licensing agent of the play for subsequent productions (other than first class productions, which only the dramatist can authorize)... Further, the script itself includes the following notice:

All groups receiving permission to produce Love! Valour! Compassion! are required to (1) give credit to the Author as sole and exclusive Author of the Play in all programs distributed in connection with performances of the Play... and (2) to give the following acknowledgement on the title page of all programs distributed in connection with performances of the Play: 'Originally produced by the Manhattan Theatre Club on November 1, 1994.

In the Love! Valour! Compassion! case, one of the Caldwell Theatre's major defenses is going to be that they relied heavily on the Acting Version in preparing their production. The accused theatre's development director, William McCarthy, has stated "[i]n our mind, we didn't do anything out of the ordinary that any regional theatre that's trying to mount a productin in two and a half weeks doesn't: you refer to the script and to other information that you get from the producing entity and you use it. According to the artistic director, the script sent to him by the licensing agency included explicit stage directions which mirrored the Broadway production. McCarthy continued, "[w]e reviewed [SSDC's] list of complaints, and for the most part were able to relate them back to information contained in the script. Thus, Dramatists Play Service will no doubt have to be added as a necessary party to the lawsuit. In turn, Terrence McNally, who authorized the publication, will also be drawn into the suit.


But it's the section in the article called "II. Can Stage Directors Copyright Their Work A. Limited Scope of the Grant" that has some absolutely fascinating footnotes:
Thus stage directors encounter their first difficulty in securing protection. If they fix their work, it is most often without authority to do so.

Footnote #36: Both Mantello and Guitierrez affixed their notations to copies of the script. See "Gutierrez stage production of the Most Happy Fella," PAu 1520015 (June 6, 1996) (copyright registration form); Dolen, supra note 4 (Mantello submitted his own notes and the prompt book for copyright protection).

While some fixations may be authorized, the director's interest in them is not tenable: the stage manager's script, also known as the prompt book, is the culmination of many people's work and does not represent the sole work of the director. Similarly, a videotape of the production also does not justify copyright registration by the director.

Footnote # 37: Initially, a producer has no right to videotape the production, save for short excerpts for the purposes of promotion...


I should note here that since the 2004 production of TAM LIN was not an Actors Equity Showcase production, and the author of TAM LIN was also a producer, we videotaped some of the rehearsals and shows. Einhorn tried to use our rehearsal videotapes against us.

As we have seen, the dramatist's grant of rights to the producer is normally quite limited in scope: the producer is entitled only to present the work on the live stage. Thus any attempt to register the entire performance or to prevent others from performing it is beyond the scope of the producer's grant of rights.

Footnote # 38: See O'Neill v. General Film Co...

Since the director is an employee of the producer

Footnote #39: See SSDC CBA...

it is also beyond the scope of the grant for the director to do anything other than what is required in connection with the live performance.

Footnote #40: Because the dramatist retains the sole right to make copies of the work under 17 U.S.C 106(1), and to distribute it under 17 U.S.C. 103, the director's act of copying the script and sending it to the Copyright Office is itself an act of infringement.


It is footnote #40 of course that I find the most fascinating. The suggestion that Edward Einhorn infringed my copyright by submitting a copy of my script (with his notations affixed) to the Copyright Office. I will have to look into this legal issue further.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What Edward Einhorn did to my play TAM LIN and why all American authors should be concerned - part 5

So here is Edward Einhorn’s original copyright registration.



This copy is exhibit 51 that Einhorn’s own legal team submitted. You can see the entire thing here.

Einhorn claimed the “work” was created on October 21, 2004. The date for the filing of the copyright was December 10, 2004. This date is significant because the Einhorns didn’t use this registration to sue me for producing TAM LIN in 2004, the year that Einhorn was hired as a director. They used this copyright to sue me for producing TAM LIN in 2005, the year that Einhorn had absolutely nothing to do with the show. So he claimed that I used his “blocking and choreography” in 2005, in spite of the fact that the script was different, the direction was different and the set was different. In other words, no matter how different any production of TAM LIN was from what Einhorn did, he planned to claim it was in violation of his copyright registration.

But even more interesting is that Edward Einhorn registered a copyright on a derivative work based on my play TAM LIN and the form he submitted for registration does not even mention my name. He claims the title of the work is “BLOCKING AND CHOREOGRAPHY SCRIPT FOR TAM LIN.”

Now I’m not sure if the Einhorns falsely filed this work as a free-standing original work, or the Copyright Office did not require a declaration of a work as derivative in 2004.

In any case, Einhorn’s copyright registration currently in the Copyright Office’s database does mention my name. Here is a screen cap of the existing Einhorn registration:



So somewhere along the line Einhorn's registration was changed, which means the Copyright Office should know that the original registration was incomplete - if not outright fraudulent. And yet it doesn't seem to matter.

So Edward Einhorn filed a copyright registration without mentioning the living author of the original play, without the author’s knowledge in December 2004.

At eight o’clock in the morning, in October 2005 there was a knock at our apartment door...

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Martin Denton's sausage fest

I've already blogged about the bullshit boosterism of the NY Innovative Theatre - NYTheatre.com axis and their efforts to colonize off-off Broadway by handing out innumerable awards, quashing reviews that are "too negative" and allowing friends to review shows without revealing the conflict of interest.

These people are the absolute standard of conventionalism and back-slapping careerism. Schmoozing is how you get ahead in this part of the theatre world.

And men, as we know, have much more free time to schmooze than women do. So it's no surprise that Martin Denton's Indie TheaterNow.com lists 86 playwrights and of that there is a total of 15 female playwrights. Or 17.5%. And this is off-off Broadway, where the female representation is supposed to be respectable.

More like ManlyTheatreNow.com or maybe SausageTheatreLastCentury.com.

Interesting quote from Gary Garrison of the Dramatists Guild that I found here:
And of course, it is worth noting that there are now thousands of female playwrights in the United States. For example, women constitute 40% of the Dramatists Guild today; 2,230 females are members. – Gary Garrision - “Numbers.” Dramatists Guild of America E-Flash. Newsletter to Members. 26 Feb. 2009.


Just a reminder - women make up just about 50% of humanity.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Very interesting article in this week's New Yorker about the mission to take out Bin Laden

The Americans hurried toward the bedroom door. The first SEAL pushed it open. Two of bin Laden’s wives had placed themselves in front of him. Amal al-Fatah, bin Laden’s fifth wife, was screaming in Arabic. She motioned as if she were going to charge; the SEAL lowered his sights and shot her once, in the calf. Fearing that one or both women were wearing suicide jackets, he stepped forward, wrapped them in a bear hug, and drove them aside. He would almost certainly have been killed had they blown themselves up, but by blanketing them he would have absorbed some of the blast and potentially saved the two SEALs behind him.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

What Edward Einhorn did to my play TAM LIN and why all American authors should be concerned - part 4

As soon as we fired him, Edward Einhorn immediately got his brother David to concoct the following letter which was delivered by hand to me the day of our opening:

Dear Mr. Flagg and Ms. McClernan:

We serve as intellectual property counsel to Edward Einhorn("Einhorn") and we write to you regarding Einhorn's direction of the play TAM LIN ("Play").

Pursuant to a valid and enforceable contract between yourselves and Einhorn, Einhorn provided his skill and expertise as a director and his services of providing blocking and choreography for performance of the Play. You have also used his name, and therefore his renown, in press releases and publicity material. Please be advised that Einhorn is the absolute owner of copyright in the blocking and choreography of this performance in and to all rights of publicity associated with his name.

Our client does not consent to your continued production and staging of the Play, which uses his blocking and choreography, unless this matter is settled before the Play is scheduled to open this evening. You are put on notice that your performances of the Play are in willful infringement of copyright in and to the blocking and choreography owned by Einhorn. Our client is willing to grant you a license to use his blocking and choreography for this run only if you will pay him $2,000 (two thousand) before the opening of the show today, in settlement of this dispute. It is made clear, however, that even if this amount is paid to Einhorn today, you will not be accorded the right to use hiis choreography and blocking in future productions of the Play absent further negotiations with Einhorn.

Failure to provide this payment to Einhorn will subject you to liability for willful infringement of Einhorn's copyright in and to the blocking and choreography. You are put on notice that (in accordance with 17 U.S.C. 504c(2)) if this run continues without his permission, you may be liable for statutory damages of up to $150,000 (one hundred and fifty thousand) per performance of the Play and for all of Einhorn's attorney's fees. You are put on further notice that further performances of the Play using our client's blocking and choreography may render you liable for criminal copyright infringement under 17 U.S.C. 506 and 18 U.S.C 2319

Very truly yours,

David A. Einhorn

Scan of the original cease and desist letter: Page 1, Page 2


There are many items of interest in the cease and desist letter:


  • From the second paragraph: "You have also used his name, and therefore his renown, in press releases and publicity material" - you have to love Einhorn's sense of self-importance reflected in this line. He also presented newspaper clippings of reviews as an exhibit for his case - causing the judge to ask "since when are newspaper clippings evidence?"


  • We originally advertised the director position for $500. Einhorn persuaded us to raise it to $1000 (one of his ideas was to take money we planned to give to actors and give to him because actors are "happy" to work for free.) 

    Now the Einhorn brothers are saying we owed them $2000, which is what prompted the judge to say during the trial: 


    JUDGE KAPLAN: So this was a hold-up straight and simple, right?

    EINHORN: No of course not.

    JUDGE KAPLAN: You went to your brother, the lawyer, who was representing you for nothing to send a demand letter saying pay me $2000 or the show can't go on. That's the sum and substance of your case, isn't it?



  • The Einhorns deliberately conflate two separate issues into one in this cease and desist letter - Einhorn's work-for-hire payment as a director and Einhorn's so-called "blocking and choreography" copyright and licensing monies the Einhorns claim we owe them every time we perform TAM LIN.

    This immediately complicated negations over Einhorn's director's fee. Jonathan intended to pay Einhorn $500. I wanted him to pay the full amount but Jonathan was the money in this situation and felt Einhorn didn't deserve the full amount. But if we were to pay Einhorn any amount at this point, it would be as though we agreed that Einhorn held a copyright on my play. Without the copyright issue this would have been a simple small-claims court issue over $1000. Einhorn, in the words of the Judge Kaplan "made a federal case" out of it.

    Some have suggested that this whole thing would have gone away if we had paid Einhorn $1000 - but we don't know that for sure. I would not be at all surprised if he planned to file an unauthorized derivative copyright on my play no matter what we paid him, purely out of spite. He makes it clear on his web site that he believes in the cause of a director's copyright.

    No, we don't know at all for sure that the solution to the Edward Einhorn problem would have been simply to pay him $1000.


  • Einhorn claims his copyright is for blocking and choreography. The sum and total of his "choreography" was to direct actors to perform, as the script requires, "a few dance steps" - this is not meant to be an actual dance but to give two characters a moment together. And one of the characters admits he can't dance at all - so he wouldn't suddenly break into an actual dance.

    Einhorn further claimed that he created "choreography" because in an email to him I had said that I wanted to see the big magic scene "choreographed" - which was merely a figure of speech I used to indicate I wanted the scene to be timed with music - I clearly did not intend for there to be dancing. It would be as if I had said to a set designer that I wanted them to "architect" a solution and then have the designer turn around and claim that I hired them as an actual architect.

    And in any case, Einhorn, as usual, didn't do as I asked and there was no timing with music of the big magic scene anyway.


  • More seriously, in the "cease and desist" letter David Einhorn suggested that we might be charged with "criminal" infringement. The judge called him on it during the trial, remarking (bold emphasis mine)
    Truly, one of the sad parts of this whole mess, as luck would have it, is that Mr. Einhorn's brother, Mr. David Einhorn, is a lawyer who, I take it, regards himself as an intellectual property specialist. So, the brothers got together and what is labeled a cease and desist letter was prepared on the letterhead of a well-known firm in this city in which the claim was made, on behalf of Mr. Edward Einhorn, that any performance of the play would constitute a willful infringement of copyrighting; and two, the blocking and choreography owned by Edward Einhorn, the offer to grant a license to the production company for the eight scheduled performances only if $2,000 -- double the agreed compensation -- were paid before the show opened the day the letter was written. Moreover, it indicated that if the defendants ever wished to perform the play after this currently scheduled run, they would have to pay more. It concludes with this paragraph: Failure to provide this payment to Einhorn -- meaning Edward -- will subject you to liability for willful infringement of Einhorn copyrighting and to the blocking and choreography. You are put on notice that in accordance with 17, U.S. Code, Section 504(c)(2), if this run continues without his permission, you may be liable for statutory damages of up to $150,000 per performance of the play and for all of Einhorn's attorneys' fees. You are put on further notice that further performances of the play using our client's blocking and choreography may render you liable for criminal copyright infringement under 17, U.S. Code, Section 506 and 18, U.S. Code, Section 2319.
    Now, once again I digress and make two parenthetical remarks about this letter. The first is that it bears the date October 22, which was the day after the show opened. In fact, I find that it was written, as distinguished from delivered, on October 21st, indeed, in all likelihood, shortly after Edward Einhorn got finished sending his e-mail to the cast of the show in an effort to upset the opening. The second parenthetical comment I would make, and it is parenthetical only because it is not to the point of a decision but to the conduct of Mr. David Einhorn, it is a violation of Disciplinary Rule 7-105 of the Code of Professional Responsibility in the State of New York for an attorney to threaten criminal prosecution to gain advantage in a civil dispute. I think it is at least arguable that David Einhorn's inclusion of the last line of the letter constituted a violation of the disciplinary rules. I will not render any final decision on that now. It is not my place to do that now or later. But, surely good judgment had been dispatched with long before this letter went out of the office of Mr. David Einhorn, even if it didn't go so far as to violate the disciplinary rules.

    Apparently David Einhorn was willing to risk his career to try to gain $2000 for his brother and to prevent us from ever performing TAM LIN again without paying off Edward Einhorn.


  • I didn't know much about copyright law in 2004, but I knew enough that there had never been established a "director's copyright" and so Einhorn's cease and desist letter seemed a flight of fantasy. But without my knowledge or authorization the Einhorn brothers had filed and received a derivative copyright on my play TAM LIN.

    This is not allowed according to the Circular 14 of the US Copyright Office:
    Only the owner of copyright in a work has the right to prepare, or to authorize someone else to create, a new version of that work.


    The fact that the US Copyright Office does not require proof of authorization is a huge loophole that the Einhorns exploited, and the loophole is there to this day. And this is one reason why this case isn't about me - it's about all American authors. I will address the copyright issue further in the next installment.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

double whammy

Immediately after my MISTRESS ILSA run ended I came down with a nasty cold, and on top of that my cable box died and Time Warner won't come and fix it for over a week - SOP for TW.

I've barely gotten out of bed for the past two days and only an iPhone for Internet access - it's like living in the Dark Ages!

So I've passed the time watching Ken Burns's series on New York. I was very impressed by the section about Lincoln's Cooper Union speech which must have been one hell of a speech which I will read soon.

Here it is in case you want to read it too.