Disrespecting Playwrights and Their Words with Young Players in Minnesota

August 1st, 2015 § 46 comments

Call for submissions on Words Players TheatreI should say right up front that, until about two hours before I began writing, I didn’t know anything about the Words Players Theatre of Rochester, Minnesota or its parent organization, Northland Words. I only learned about them because the company had raised the online ire of people in the creative community. In particular, what caught my eye was a blog post by playwright Donna Hoke, “Dissecting The Most Disgusting Call For Plays I’ve Ever Seen,” in which she does exactly what she says she’s going to do in her title, line by line, word by word. I share her concern, but I’d like to take a macro view of the message that the company appears to be sending.

Throughout their call for plays for Words Players 2015 Original Short Play Festival, the company’s director Daved Driscoll says several things worthy of admiration: there’s a commitment to young performers, as well as a desire to find work which he feels will appeal to his local community. I don’t think anyone would argue with those goals.

But where his message gets into trouble is, first, in the margins, so to speak. “Our emphasis is perhaps less on the artist-centered goal of producing ‘great art’,” he writes; elsewhere he notes “our desire to give writers and directors first-hand experience of the vagaries of ‘marketability’ as much as the more arcane goals of ‘art’.” If Words Players’ primary goal is to sell tickets, that’s perfectly fine, but that intimates that their efforts are more commercial than not-for-profit, and Northland Words is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Yet plenty of not-for-profits are accused of chasing sales over creative pursuits, so they’re not alone, but it’s awfully dissonant to be asking for plays from artists while dissing art itself. Why not focus affirmatively on what’s sought, rather than what’s not wanted? Instead, Words Players notes, “We prefer most of all plays that are significant and interesting, without off-putting superciliousness.”

Secondly, Driscoll states that, “We largely ignore considerations of age, race and gender in our casting decisions.” While that would be jarring in a professional setting, it’s perhaps somewhat less troubling in a company that’s focused on youth. After all, Lin-Manuel Miranda has noted that he doesn’t mind when schools without Latino students perform In The Heights, because once kids hit college, they’re going to be typed and should have a certain freedom to play any role while very young, though he does ask that they give respect to the culture they portray, and neither paint their skin nor adopt bad accents in doing so. However, Miranda doesn’t condone willfully altering the characters themselves, let alone the story, and neither do I. That choice should be the playwright’s, not the director’s or the artistic director’s.

I’d also suggest that in pointing out his youth emphasis, Driscoll could do better than, “The audience invariably includes a large percentage of young people.  We will prefer scripts that appeal to them as well as to old, non-young people.” I believe most old, non-young people like myself wouldn’t mind at all that the work is for and by the young, were our decrepit state not reinforced redundantly. Honestly, young people play adults all the time in school theatre and community theatre where casts are young, so it’s not really an issue.

But what moves beyond poor communications and into the realm of unacceptable is how Driscoll speaks of how the theatre will handle the work of the very writers he’s soliciting. “Our production of the play is our only ‘compensation’ for its use,” he writes, later emphasizing the point by saying, “We don’t pay for the scripts.” Now if there are youthful writers in the local community who are the peers of the performers, who wish to write and be part of the program, that seems fair, provided no one else is getting paid either. But in a call for submissions that has clearly reached beyond the confines of Words Players and even Rochester. Minnesota, the idea that playwrights should give the company their scripts gratis devalues the work of writers – and if the youthful acting company knows of this, it suggests to them that writers’ words have no value.

Compounding this perspective, Driscoll writes, “While authors are welcome to confer with the directors, such conference is at the discretion of each director.  Student directors will develop their autonomous interpretation and will maintain independent control of each production.  They will in all probability modify settings and dialogue to fit our production situation and their own visions of the shows.  Directors will, in particular, strive to make each play ‘entertaining’ to our audiences and may modify the scripts, accordingly.” This is the behavior of Hollywood studios towards writers, and they pay huge piles of money for that right; in the theatre, while a work is under copyright, the playwright has the final say about what words are spoken, unless they’re inveigled into giving away that right.

Finally, there’s a mission statement at the bottom of the call for plays which reads, in part, as follows: “Merely preserving ‘the way it was done’ is for mummies and pottery shards, not performance art.” I agree, but there’s a difference between fresh interpretations and wholesale vandalism, especially when a play is new and in no way trapped in amber.

Every theatre can set its play selection guidelines as it sees fit, but Words Players seems to be emphasizing the players over the words, and insulting playwrights in the process. The guidelines bother me for the same reason it bothers me when school administrators and professional directors and many others mess with copyrighted texts without permission: because not only is it in most cases legally and always ethically wrong (at least in the U.S.), it’s setting such a disastrous example for the young people who witness this disregard, bordering on contempt, for the writer’s art.

It’s unclear how many plays will be in the Words Players festival, how many people will attend and what they might be charged. But when it comes to compensation, royalties for amateur productions of short works are often little more than the price of a couple of movie tickets and a bag of popcorn, so they’re hardly onerous for any company. But no payment gives a licensee the right to have its way unilaterally with the text in theatre, unless the playwright inexplicably chooses to grant it.

Online, people wrote that they saw this same call last year and spoke out about it, but that it’s unchanged – they were ignored. Facebook and Twitter posts suggest that Words Players response has been, essentially, “if you don’t like it, then don’t submit.” They’ve been removing dissent from their social media. They’re trying to hide the efforts of those that might inform their community of reasonable standards and guide them towards more appropriate behavior.

I’m not writing just on behalf the playwrights – I’m writing on behalf of every single kid in that program. If those kids admire theatre and the arts, then regardless of whether they become professional artists or simply audience members in the future, any adults giving them training need to distinguish between creative rights and wrongs for them now, because they are the path to our future and to the health of the theatre.

In the call for plays by Words Players, Mr. Driscoll is teaching bad lessons (Donna Hoke has made some strong points on that as well). Either he should choose the plays he wants and treat them with respect, or he should write them himself and let the directors and performers have at them if he likes. The latter choice is his right if he is the author. But no one should be asking for plays if they’re not going to produce them with professional conduct and ethical standards, even for only one or two performances with a cast of young people in Rochester, Minnesota. Every play has meaning, as does every production, and Words Players will best serve its community by altering its practices to set the right example.

Update, August 5, 3:30 pm: Yesterday, Doug Wright, president of The Dramatists Guild, sent a letter to Daved Driscoll of Words Players outlining the reasons why playwrights and the Guild were so troubled by the theatre’s play submission guidelines. This morning, Driscoll responded in writing to the Guild, and subsequently did an interview with Playbill discussing their desire to conform to professional and ethical standards. Conversations between those parties will be ongoing, and if welcome, I hope to participate in them as well.

Update, August 7, 2 pm: The conversations online and offline surrounding this topic have, in some cases, metastasized far beyond my intent and perhaps the intent of others who drew attention to this situation. I hope you’ll read my followup post as well, “Writing A Different Script About Respect for Playwrights.”

Note: an earlier version of this post contained two photos of prior productions in the Words Players Original Short Plays Festival. While the photos were made available for download without restriction on the company’s website, I have removed them at the suggestion of several commenters.

Howard Sherman is director of the Arts Integrity Initiative at The New School for Drama.


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  • Jill Pearson

    I’ve been reading the Words Players commentary with interest, both because I’m a published songwriter and because I’m an active volunteer and collaborator with Words Players. All three of my children are regularly involved in this theatre, and my son is even in a couple of the pictures you posted. He’s not sure how to feel about that.
    I wish two things: first, that I could walk in the shoes of a full-time playwright to better understand the challenges of the profession and why something like “hey, send us your play if you don’t mind the guidelines” could cause so much offense.
    We all want to feel our calling is worthy of respect, and we feel protective of our creative endeavors. I get that. But I’ve also met several of the playwrights whose plays have been chosen for our festival. They’ve traveled from near and far to watch, and without exception, they’ve been delighted with the results, and they’ve been impressed with the passion and enthusiasm of our student directors and actors.
    Obviously, not everyone agrees with our approach, but I’ve been quite surprised by the acerbic reaction and lengthy commentaries. I appreciate, by the way, that your post does not devolve to sarcasm and rudeness. You and others are concerned about our youth not appreciating artists’ rights. As a parent, I’m more concerned about our youth being raised in a culture of cruel and uninformed social media, where people feel free to jump on critical bandwagons. I can teach my son about copyright law in 5 minutes. It’s taken 17 years to raise him not to be the kind of person who posts harsh and juvenile comments on Facebook.
    Secondly, I’d love for you and others concerned for the youth at Words Players to spend a day with us. I am confident you would leave with a smile as you watch our youth collaborate, discuss literature and art, play multiple instruments, compose music, improvise, write scripts, build, sew, design, clean the toilets, help with fundraising, create wonderful shows on a $0 budget, and interact with the community. It’s really a unique and lovely atmosphere.
    We do not have money to pay playwrights. Not all playwrights are concerned with that. We do not have time to negotiate director changes. Not all playwrights care about that. Daved Driscoll is trying to be forthright in the call. This is what we can do. Stage your play with young actors and directors who get to make some creative decisions. Many of the plays ARE written by our youth, as you suggested.
    As parents, my husband and I have used this opportunity to dialogue with our son about all kinds of things…authors’ rights, tone, attitude, free will, and listening/reading to understand. Your article was helpful in this regard. Above all, we care about our son’s personal character and integrity. There are lessons to be gleaned in all situations, but there is never a reason to be rude or presumptuous.

    • earbox

      All of which is lovely and admirable; none of which bears any connection to the argument being made about the rights of the author.

      • Bill Arnold

        Jill, as a published songwriter, how would you feel about someone changing your lyrics and maybe adding a different middle 8 to one of your songs?

    • Ian Thal

      The issue is that student directors who are encouraged to disrespect the best standards and practices when working on copyrighted work, may become professionals who disrespect best standards and practices when working with copyrighted work.

      • Jill Pearson

        Thank you. I can see your point. Our kids definitely need to understand authors’ rights and that there are times you can make changes and times you cannot. They are smart kids. I’m certain they will adapt to the professional world and comply to the rules if they enter the theatre profession. If nothing else, this experience will teach them that!

        • ughughughugh

          No. This is naive. There is SO MUCH empirical evidence that shows this is not the case. Children watch and emulate. You are teaching them how to disrespect the artists they work with and they will continue that practice because that’s what they’ve seen demonstrated and what they’ve been told is acceptable and common practice. This is an incredibly short-sighted view.

          As to the “If you don’t like, then don’t submit” angle, that also defeats the purpose. There are playwrights desperate for production who will submit to anything. There are playwright who don’t know any better themselves. As theater educators, you are in a position to teach the RIGHT thing, which is this:

          Just because some playwrights agree to these terms doesn’t mean you aren’t doing a HUGE disservice to both them and your students.

        • Ian Thal

          They are smart kids. I’m certain they will adapt to the professional world and comply to the rules if they enter the theatre profession.

          This blasé attitude is worrisome for a very simple reason that children and teenagers are being taught to behave in an unethical manner and encouraged to think of this as professional behavior.

          Certainly, many parents would be outraged if they were to find out that their kids, as part of a job, internship, or educational program were being encouraged by their supervisors to cheat, abuse, bully or otherwise disrespect people.

        • Everett Robert

          Jill, I’m a working playwright as well, involved primarily in Theater for Young Audiences and community theater. I work with a lot of bright kids, smart talented kids, with aspirations of being theater teachers, dance teachers, English teachers or performers. During a recent rehearsal of a big name MTI licensed musical, I noticed the actors were taking minor liberties. Skipping a word here, a line there, rearranging words. To most people, this would not be a big deal, but I wanted to take this opportunity to teach these 16-21 years old (with a few 30 year olds and older thrown in) something. I sat down and opened up MTI’s licensing agreement at the front of the script and read to them and had them read along, the agreement that we are not allowed to change words, etc as written. It was like seeing a light bulb go off. This was something they had never been taught. As I explained, “even if I wasn’t a writer and this wasn’t a hot button issue with me, I would still be talking to you about this because this is what the license says we have to do.”

          The #PlaywrightRespect hashtag was chosen because that is what theaters are doing when they make blanket changes, lines, gender, etc. without at least consulting the playwright. There is a difference between interpretation and changes to the script. Here’s an example, I recently had a production of my TYA adaption of Alice in Wonderland done by a children’s theater education program in Atlanta. My script says this, ” HATTER crosses to the table, sits
          down and the chair breaks. He sighs and begins to work on it.” What they did was one of the funniest, couple of minutes of physical comedy I’ve seen a young actor do. It wasn’t anything I had imagined, but it was a legit choice that respected what I wrote. However, they respected every written word. They had a chair break and they had the Mad Hatter work on the chair. They said every word of dialogue as written.

          We could choose to not send in our plays, and many of us have made that choice. HOWEVER, the reason this is an issue to many of us is because we share the same goals as you and your company do, to educate the next generation of theater and art creators and that starts with teaching respect for the writer’s words. The writer’s who have spent hours, days, weeks, etc into crafting a play that you want to produce.

    • I hope people will engage with you politely. I do submit to unpaid opportunities of 10 minutes or less. I still expect at a minimum that theatres not change my work. I do appreciate that M. Driscoll warned me in advance, and I will not be submitting. (I did once see a line dropped from my work, apparently intentionally, without authorization, to allow acting the play with a different subtext; the next day they kept the line and the performance was so much better.) I can still assert (politely, I hope) that I believe M. Driscoll is doing a disservice to theatre. That some people were happy with the results – and please allow for the possibility that some people bite their tongue as it is too late to do anything; I have – does not excuse that the behavior itself is unethical and a bad thing to teach to children.

      As a side note to Mr. Sherman, I suggest removing the pictures.

      • Jill Pearson

        Thank you. I can see this conversation is important.

    • Walt McGough

      Jill: As one of the playwrights who sent an e-mail to Daved in response to Donna Hoke’s post, and who was, sure, probably a bit snarkier than was strictly necessary, I can only say that I responded with a tone that matched that of the submissions call itself. If the contest had been presented in the way that you just stated it, with the reasoning clearly outlined and the justifications calmly laid out, well, I probably still would have disagreed with it, but I would have shrugged my shoulders, not submitted, and been on my way.

      Instead of your measured, heartfelt and reasonable tone, however, the submissions call was written in a way that was, well, smug and dismissive full stop. The idea that playwrights should have any control at all of the words that they write, and be compensated for the production of those words, was referred to as an idea better suited to “mummies and pottery shards.” Great pains were taken to separate the content of this festival from any “old non-young” people. We were informed that one of the reasons for changing our scripts would be to suit whatever the directors felt was more “entertaining” than whatever pile of crap we had submitted. Almost every turn of phrase was custom-built to give the impression that the people in charge of this festival know better than any playwrights who they deign to select, whether about artistic merit, dramatic structure, or the all-important “marketability.”

      So, yes, many of us got a bit steamed. But when you’re asking people to do you a very big favor (and make no mistake, writing an entirely new play for free and then sacrificing any and all control over it is a big favor), it’s best not to do so in a way that is easily interpreted as disdainful. You said it yourself: tone matters. I hope that, if nothing else, Words Players comes away from this experience with a new appreciation of that same fact.

      • Jill Pearson

        I fully agree that there were issues with the tone of the call and can see how it could stir up frustration. When you’re requesting a “gift,” you should do so with humility along with honesty. That is exactly what we told our son. Thank you. I too hope it is revised in the future.

        • Walt McGough

          Thanks, Jill, I also want to say that by engaging in conversation about this fact, you’ve already gone a much longer way towards calming the waters than anyone actually on staff at Words Players thus far. Deleting social media posts and keeping up a wall of silence is a pretty terrible way to handle an issue like this, since it perpetuates the idea that they are uninterested in anything but their own agenda. I’d much prefer to see them actually have a conversation around the issue, as you have been.

    • Bill Arnold

      Jill, as a published songwriter, how would you feel about someone
      changing your lyrics and maybe adding a different middle 8 to one of
      your songs? What if your song was suddenly performed in 12/7 time at 150 beats per minute? Is it still your song? Do you want your name on it?

      • Jill Pearson

        I totally get what you’re saying, Bill. I wouldn’t like it. I have always been treated with respect by those who have recorded my music and made small changes. But on the other hand, as an artist, it’s my “right” to decide where to submit my work and under what guidelines. I don’t feel the need to tell other artists what they should and shouldn’t do, nor publicly shame a small youth theatre. If greater understanding on both sides can come from this dialogue, then it’s worth it. Thank you.

        • John Patrick Bray

          While I completely understand the notion that it is your right to decide where and when to submit (and I abide by the same rules), the issue is that submission opportunities such as the one above not only teach young people from the start to devalue an aspect of what is supposed to be collaborative creation, opportunities such as this are on the rise, and becoming more the rule rather than the exception. A number of us have been trying to avoid submission opportunities that send us through a bunch of hoops (often at great expense, after having spent weeks/months/years creating a play), and now it feels like we are doing this all for nothing. A better plan for the company above might be to create devised performances by company members, or choose playwrights from among them, and have the students learn the chain of actor-director-playwright communication (or, designer-director-playwright communication), which is what our world has been for so very long. And also, Dan and Rand have both made solid points. I nodded along enthusiastically. (I’ve been writing plays for 20 years, and have been seeing productions for 19). 😉 Best, Another Writer 🙂

          • John Patrick Bray

            PS: I’m also a teacher, and the practice is completely against any theatre training I have had in theatre education. I hope no one takes their ire out on the students who are a part of this company. I think many of us are surprised that the answer from the company (really, the teacher) seems to be “if you don’t like it, don’t submit.” It’s a very high road to take. I’m not sure who will benefit. Certainly not the students who are learning terrible habits (which my colleagues and I will have to work hard to correct when they get into college), and certainly not playwrights, and certainly not any theatre artist who seeks to diminish the role of another theatre artist; and as stated by others, opportunities that devalue playwrights are becoming more the rule rather than the exception. I hope these comments are all making sense 🙂

          • Jill Pearson

            Yes, thank you. The comments in this arena have been very helpful and heartfelt.

          • Eric Benson

            John, I’m impressed you knew this was me. It must be the Twins cap. “Eric Benson” is a pseudonym I use on occasions. I must be signed in as Eric somewhere else because this page insisted on calling me that even though I tried to correct it. 🙂 –Rand

        • ughughughugh

          I don’t even disagree with this; my biggest bone of contention remains that you are perpetuating unethical bad practices, and teaching students that directing is about “autonomous vision.” Theater is all about collaboration, and there are even more valuable lessons to be learned in teaching your students that, not the least of which is respect for the person who provided your blueprint.

        • Claudia Haas

          The last thing I want to do is publicly shame a small youth theatre! I’ve worked in youth theatre for 25 years, directed many (so many – my hair turned gray!) plays with large youth casts. When I directed my own plays, I made it clear that they could suggest changes but I made the final decision. Fourteen year olds have enhanced my plays with succinct ideas and they have also “suggested” things that were far from the scope of the play – for their own entertainment or to entertain their friends! Two things give me pause: that the kids are on a slippery slope and after years in this program, they will actually think it is all right to change material – and do so. And then instead of ethics coming into play – you have legal issues. Or at the very least, a “cease and desist” order in the middle of a run. I have huge respect and love with the young performers I’ve worked with over the years. I am sure the kids at your theatre are just as smart, eager, hard-working and I would love for them to understand that when you change a playwright’s play to suit your own needs – it no longer is the playwright’s play. But the playwright’s name is attached and it may not be what the playwright intended to present to the world. It seems to me that instead of calling for scripts that the theatre fully expects to change, you should find a way to devise plays with the kids that suits their sensibilities.

          • Jill Pearson

            I just had a conversation with 5 of the theater kids around my dinner table about this. Several of them have directed a short play and said the most they’ve done is remove some profanity to make it more family friendly, or add some physical comedy that wasn’t expressly written in the script. Perhaps this does not get at the heart of your concern, but it seems many commenters are extrapolating to a great degree how these kids might be changing the scripts. Not the case.

          • miamifella

            No one is extrapolating anything. We are responding to exactly what is written on Word Players website.

            “…Student directors will develop their autonomous interpretation and will maintain independent control of each production. They will in all probability modify settings and dialogue to fit our production situation and their own visions of the shows. Directors will, in particular, strive to make each play “entertaining” to our audiences and may modify the scripts, accordingly.”

            (And if they are not doing as they say, they are foolish because no reputable writer would submit based on their conditions and the snide tone of their call for plays, so they have certainly missed out on many good scripts over the years.)


          • I understand why people might be put off, that being said, if you don’t like the terms, don’t submit.

          • Have the Kids Write their Own Play and then Direct it. Then they will know the effort. Everyone wants artists to work for free – Maybe someday that will Change.

          • Jill Pearson

            For the record, we do stage a lot of our own plays, and last spring wrote our first full-length junior troupe musical. We understand well the effort involved. Especially when you’re co-writing with a large group of 10-14 year olds! The theatre has only been running for 11 years, and it takes awhile to build that into the culture, but it’s an ideal we are striving toward.

          • Jonathan Graham

            Jill as a playwright and a parent, here’s my perspective. The call for submissions that caused all this fury is way off the track of normal professional practice. We playwrights read these calls for submissions all the time, and this one is a real outlier. This is significant, even beyond the profound disrespect for playwrights that is conveys. If my kids were involved in a extracurricular activity where the leader (director, coach, teacher, etc.) were advocating for behavior that was as far from the mainstream as Daved Driscoll’s approach to new plays seems to be, my take would be either the behavior of the leader needs to change immediately, or there needs to be a new leader.

    • Daniel Guyton

      I’ve worked with several children’s theatres before. It’s great. They’re enthusiastic, creative, and typically very appreciative of my writing, which I enjoy. And on quite a few occasions, the students have had to change aspects of my script – either for casting needs, budgetary needs, etc. But in every single instance I can think of, the students and/or the director contacted me beforehand and asked if these changes would be acceptable. It showed respect for me, as well as for the written work. In almost every instance, I either said yes, or I offered an alternate solution to solve their problem, as well as maintain the integrity of the script. I do respect that Mr. Driscoll warns us up front that our scripts may be altered. Truth be told, I would much rather he warn us first than simply make these changes without our knowledge (plenty of other theatres have taken that route – and believe me, that is far more offensive). Like others have stated before me, however, I feel this sets a very dangerous precedent. Some students going forward may feel that this is an appropriate way to direct plays in the future. I would agree with most of the writers on here that it sets up some very bad habits. I am ok with the warning them warning that some changes may be made to our scripts. I am not ok with the notion that these changes will occur with or without our permission – and in some cases with or without our knowledge beforehand. I would far more comfortable submitting a play if I knew that the director and/or producer would reach out to me first to at least let me know of the changes that might occur.

      • Jill Pearson

        Thank you for sharing, Daniel. I think our students will come out of this with a greater understanding of the writer’s perspective.

        • Daniel Guyton

          And that is definitely something I can get behind.

        • ughughughugh

          And that is really the entire focus of this “campaign.” Too much of this goes on in the name of ignorance; how can we change that if not from the start?

    • Tim A

      As a playwrite, I would never submit work under these conditions. I am perfectly willing to work with directors and producers so my shows work in your theatre and community… but I spent a lot of my time making sure the message I was telling in my show was just right… who says what, to whom, and when… whose present to listen to anything being said. Those are choices I made when writing to convey certain things, and set things up that happen later in the script. The show I’m currently writing is my most personal yet… I’ve cried over the decisions I made writing it…. and I hope, when it does see production, that the audience will be crying with me.

  • Ian Thal

    Isn’t this just a blatantly upfront statement of tendencies already at work in American theater?

    Given all the high profile incidents in recent years of directors altering plays without permission of the playwright, a number of people have been reporting anecdotally theater schools simply do not train directors to respect the texts of copyrighted plays. Indeed, they are being encouraged to view altering other people’s texts as a creative option.

    This isn’t just a matter of young, early career directors disrespecting playwrights, but the already established directors who are training them.

  • Eric Benson

    Jill and all, let me attempt in my own way an explanation as to why this upsets us playwrights so much.

    I think most people who are not writers probably have no idea how much time and effort is put into the writing of a play. One of my most successful plays took me 2 years to write. After (finally!) completing it, at least enough to feel confident in sending it out to producers, I began to market the play. For 5 years I sent it here, there and everywhere. I won some awards, got some readings and then a few productions. Finally I felt it was at a place where I could market it to publishers. 7 years after I first wrote “The lights rise to find…” I got my play published.

    After publication the first company to produce it tried to do so without telling either my publisher or myself. (To avoid paying me, obviously.)Fortunately I had a good friend who lived in the city where it was being done and she alerted me. This friend went to a performance and said the company had made many, many changes, the worst being that they had cut it from a full length play to a one act. So much had been left out that it made little sense. She said it was, in a word, awful. And yet my name was still attached.

    Can you imagine how this made me feel? Completely disrespected as a playwright. 7 years of work for a company to tear my play to shreds.

    And yet this is exactly what Words Players seem to be encouraging. It’s far worse than just not paying the playwright. It’s taking his/her play and saying “This is okay, but we know better than this person who has written and lived and breathed this play for weeks or maybe months (or years!) and we can make it more entertaining.”

    If you respect a person’s play enough to select it for this festival, then respect the playwright as well.

    • Jill Pearson

      This is exactly what I was hoping for to further my understanding… a view into the life of a playwright. Thank you for sharing your story. I will share this with my son to help him make sense of all this. Best wishes.

    • ughughughugh

      Compounded by the idea that this would then be recorded and put online WITH the author’s name attached no matter how many changes were made.

      • Maureen FitzGerald

        This to me is almost the most horrifying part. It’s bad enough when actors (bless them) can’t remember the lines they’ve actually learned (OMG people are going to think I WROTE it that way!). But to have some … let’s just call it a “reinterpretation” of your work on the internet where anyone can potentially stumble across it, with your name on it, after the fact, when there’s nothing to be done but change your name and start over? <>

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  • Susan Goodell

    An equally important discussion is the line between a director’s interpretation and outright alteration of a script. Is the director free to have the characters–say, clinging to Lincoln’s nose on Mount Rushmore–as long as the author’s words are left intact?

    I’m fresh from a disagreement around staging my play –written as a stage play for live actors–as a substantially prerecorded multimedia extravaganza. I’d specified a limbo setting and the producer remonstrated, “you didn’t say we couldn’t.”

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  • Ian Thal

    Doug Wright, president of the Dramatists Guild of America, weighs in in an open letter to Daved Driscoll:


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  • I’ve written a followup post, which I want to share with you all, but I also want to say how much I appreciate the quality and tone of the conversation that took place in this comments areas. Elsewhere, I found it more problematic.

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