'3C' vs. 'Three's Company'

Legal action threatens play

Allegations of copyright infringement are a playwright’s worst nightmare. So it is understandable that David Adjmi, who wrote the play “3C,” was frightened when producers received a cease-and-desist letter. Adjmi’s play explores sexual and gender dynamics in the TV show, “Three’s Company.” DLT Entertainment, the company that owns the copyright to the TV series, filed a legal protest with Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre. At issue was whether the author took too many elements from the series to make his point.

Like the series, Adjmi’s play features three roommates: two women and one man. The male character must pretend to be gay in order to live with the women. If you remember, Jack Tripper often had to use the same trick in the TV program. There is also a character similar to Larry, another character from the series.

Unlike the TV show, Admji added elements to the story and the characters. Still, audience members and critics understood that the play was commenting on the TV show. Some people even thought that the play was better than the series.

DLT Entertainment told Admji that the play should never be produced again. They have also told the playwright that he cannot publish the script. If he did not agree to the terms, the company would sue him for copyright infringement. According to the New York Times, Adjmi decided to give in to the company’s demands. He cannot afford to fight a large entertainment company in court. But many playwrights, including Jon Robin Baitz, believe that the playwright should have his day in court.

At issue for many theater people is the idea that a company can stop them from commenting on an established piece of work. Many people believe Admji’s play is a parody of the series. Parody is supposed to be protected by law; however, playwrights must have the means to launch a fight. Without funds, companies could shut down productions for any reason.

More on Broadway: ‘The Exorcist’ and Billy Ray Cyrus in ‘Chicago’

One thriller and a heartthrob

Few movies have scared audiences like the “The Exorcist.” Now, this classic film could be heading to Broadway. The play, by John Pielmeier, will open on July 11 at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. It will star Brooke Shields and Richard Chamberlain. Critics, such as Michael Reidel from the New York Post, are looking forward to the thriller. After all, Teller from Penn & Teller, is helping the production with special effects. Pielmeier’s previous work includes the hit play “Agnes of God.”

If the show proves to be a hit in Los Angeles, theatergoers can expect it to play during on the Great White Way this fall. Malcolm McDowell will replace Chamberlain as the priest due to scheduling conflicts. Shields will play the mother. No word on who has been cast as Regan, the little girl possessed by the devil.

Broadway producers certainly know how to lure celebrities into making their stage debut. According to Entertainment Weekly, Billy Ray Cyrus will fill the role of Billy Flynn in “Chicago.” From the beginning of November until Christmas, Broadway theatergoers will see him act and sing. It isn’t Cyrus’ first stage gig. He appeared in “Annie Get Your Gun” seven years ago. But that was Toronto and this is Broadway. Will the New York critics skewer his limited run? It’s doubtful. After all, the singer has a huge fan base that will be more than happy to see him perform for a limited run.

Other celebrities have performed in the role, including Usher and Richard Gere. So while theater folks raise a fuss over this latest incident of stunt casting, they should remember the bad economy. If Cyrus’ fame can fill audience seats, it will keep many other theater workers employed during the holidays.

Gilligan’s Island may be coming to Broadway

The musical will feature an additional character.

While Broadway has become a haven for movie actors, it has also given audiences the chance to see their favorite TV shows brought to life. It is a natural development. After all, Disney has made a franchise out of turning their product lines and movies into live theater. But even the most jaded industry insiders were taken aback by recent news that Gilligan’s Island might be coming to the Great White Way.

That’s right. The 1960s TV series has been remade into a live theatrical event. Gilligan’s Island: The Musical will feature the Skipper and Gilligan, along with the luscious Ginger, innocent Mary Ann, the Howells and Professor. Like the TV show, all the characters will live isolated on an island.

According to Deadline, there is an unexpected modern twist to this classic show. An alien will also be stranded with the characters. There is no word on whether this alien will have special powers, or why an alien would even be stranded on an island. Perhaps this is an “E.T, The Extraterrestrial” and Gilligan’s Island mash-up. One can only hope the character will fit into the wacky ensemble.

The production team is one of the brightest aspects of this potential Broadway show. Sherwood Schwartz, the creator of the original TV series, wrote the book with his son, Lloyd. Hope Schwartz, Sherwood’s daughter, teamed with husband Laurence Juber to compose the score. Apparently this show has already been performed in a handful of theaters. Hopefully, they have worked out technical and script issues.

Casting will play a large part in whether this show is a success. No stars have been attached to the production. But can you see Matthew Broderick playing The Professor? Maybe Brian Dennehy is available for the Skipper role? What do you think? Does this musical have possibilities, or should it sink to the bottom of the ocean?

The 2012 Tony Awards: Do they matter?

Broadway can entertain and inspire.

People in the theater community often look askance at the Tony Awards. After all, Broadway is just a small part of theater in the country. Granted, it is the theater that gets the most attention. Tourists from all over the world come to New York to see a Broadway show. They rarely venture outside of mid-town, thereby missing a variety of innovative work happening downtown. Most actors, directors and playwrights will never get a chance to see their names in lights. And they don’t care.

One of the biggest complaints about Broadway is that it is entertainment and not artistic. Of course, people employed with these shows will beg to differ. To work on Broadway you need an immense amount of raw talent and imagination. There are millions of dollars on the line in each production. Investors want only the best and brightest on the production team.

But people in the theater community aren’t complaining about lack of opportunities. They aren’t jealous. Instead, they believe Broadway puts economics over artistry.
In order to make money, a Broadway show must appeal to the largest amount of people. It is unlikely that you will see an obscure play on the Great White Way. Producers usually want shows that will entertain audiences and make them feel good. They also tend to pick shows that have done well in the past, such as “Annie,” or “Jesus Christ Superstar.” This selection tends to be conservative and unadventurous. Investors want to recoup their money, and maybe even make a profit. Can anyone blame them for wanting to invest in a show that has the best rate of return?
If a show makes a profit, that means it reached an audience. Perhaps they didn’t come away wondering about the state of the world. Rather, they escaped the world for a few hours. Is that so wrong?
The Tony Awards celebrate one kind of theater. But in promoting the form, aren’t they shining a light on all of us?

Flashdance, Tom Hanks and Zooey Deschanel Coming to Broadway

Familiar face and storylines for the 2012-2013 season

If you are planning a trip to New York for later this year, you are in luck. The upcoming Broadway season has lots to offer. Expect to see a few Hollywood actors and familiar storylines. Tom Hanks, Zooey Deschanel and an adaptation of the movie, “Flashdance” will headlining the 2012-2013 Broadway season.

Everyone knows that movie adaptations tend to draw crowds to the theater. While purists will bemoan the commercialism of these ventures, sometimes you have to give the people want they want. Apparently, they like seeing live versions of their favorite movies. The live version of the 1983 film “Flashdance” is expected to open on Broadway in spring of 2013.  Yes, it will include songs from the movie’s award-winning soundtrack.

Wouldn’t you want to see a famous movie actor live on stage? Theater producers love casting Hollywood movie actors. While onlookers refer to it as stunt-casting, the bottom line is that the public loves it.

Tom Hanks will make his Broadway debut in “Lucky Guy.” Written by Nora Ephron, this play tracks the life of award-winning newspaper columnist, Mike McAlary. He covered some of New York’s most infamous stories, including the Abner Louima case. Renowned director George C. Wolfe will direct the show. It is set to open in January 2013.

Zooey Deschanel will play country singer Loretta Lynn in “The Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Based on Lynn’s 1980 movie of the same name, the show looks at Lynn’s rise to fame.  She alleged that she first got married when she was 13 years old. The singer made headlines last weekend with the news that she may have lied about her age. Investors are betting that Deschanel’s name will draw hip, younger audiences to the box office.


Diversity in theater: does it matter?

Is there a "war on women" in theater?

While reports of a “War on Women” have percolated through this election cycle, American theater appears to have its own controversy about gender and race. When The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis announced its 2012-2013 season, there were hardly any women or people of color in the season. Critics and the theater community alike were also aghast at the safe selections of classics and crowd-pleasers. Was the mostly male and white season another symbol of safety?


American theater has long had problems with race and gender. Since the early 2000s, the community has discussed how female playwrights seem to have a difficult time getting productions. In 2009, Princeton graduate student Emily Glassman Sands conducted a study about gender bias in theater. She found that it was, indeed, harder for female playwrights to receive productions. African-Americans and Asian-Americans have also openly discussed problems around stereotypes and bias.

While many people agree that there are diversity problems in theater, others believe that the issue doesn’t exist. They say that there is no conscious effort to exclude women and people of color. Instead, artistic directors are simply picking the best stories. Those plays just happen to be written by men who are white.

In the past few weeks, there has been discussion about boycotting theaters that have excluded women and people of color from their seasons. Guerrilla Girls, an arts advocacy group, has created a list of theaters not producing plays written or directed by women. They are also organizing protests in New York around this issue.

Ultimately, the general public will have to decide whether they value diversity. Does it matter who creates the shows you see on stage? Many people say no. Others would like to see characters more like them onstage. They would also like to see stories that resonate within their communities. After all, we all don’t see the world the same way. Why should American theater reflect only one perspective?


On Moving to New York City for a Career in Theater

The Downsides Can Be Daunting

It is a question that every actress, writer or director asks herself. Should I move to New York City to pursue a theater career? While there are many advantages to making the big move, there are also significant downsides to living in the Big Apple. If you aren’t careful, these disadvantages can get in the way of your career.

New York City is one of the world’s most expensive places to live. Struggling theater makers have to work long hours to pay for rent and other essentials. Even people who are pursuing conventional careers often find it difficult to make ends meet. Actors, writers and directors may start out working for free in Lower East Side theaters. These performances give agents and others the chance to discover new talent. They also allow you to practice your craft. Unfortunately, these opportunities will not help you pay the rent.

In order to pursue their craft, theater workers usually take a low-level office job or service position. These jobs will cover your rent, but very little else. Headshots, classes and mailings cost money. You will need them in order to make progress in your career.

While the city gives you the chance for wide exposure, you will also find that there is plenty of competition for the spotlight. Thousands of people come to New York each year because they want to be on Broadway. There may be only a handful of roles available. How you handle the intense competition will figure prominently into your success or failure in New York.

Pursing a theater career in the Big Apple can be stressful. If you can manage your money and keep your confidence in check, New York City might be the right spot for you. It will depend on your personality. But whatever you decide, remember that you can always go home again. 

Do you have to live in New York City to have a career in theater?

Some advantages to living in The Big Apple


Aspiring theater artists often ask, “Do you have to live in New York City to have a career in theater?”

There are advantages and disadvantages to living in New York. Playwrights, directors, actors and designers can meet like-minded people. These networking opportunities will inevitably lead to jobs, learning experiences and long-lasting relationships. You will understand what it takes to work professionally in the field. Experienced people may take you under their wings and help you make good career decisions. It is a fantastic place to find a mentor in your field.

Living in the Big Apple will also give you exposure to the stage. Styles of theater vary, from kitchen-sink realism to Dadaism. Artists are constantly searching for new ways to create stories and meaning. Many cellar studios throughout the city serve as a laboratory for experimentation. Theater makers in New York view failure as a rest stop on the road to success.

Since New York City is the theater center in the country, you will have a wide choice for training. Actors will find world-famous schools, such as HB Studios, Stella Adler Studio of Acting and The Actors Studio. Writers can apply to the Cherry Lane Theatre’s Mentor Project. These places give you the opportunity to become better in your study. They are also fabulous credits for your resume.

Other cities throughout the country can rightfully claim that they give you similar chances for training, exposure and networking. Other people may thrive in the smaller environment of Minneapolis, Boston and Chicago. While these cities have plenty to offer, they do not have the wide spectrum of theater that you will find in New York City.

So does that mean you should move to New York? Not so fast. Next, we’ll explore the downsides to pursuing a theater career in the Big Apple.


Free theatre resources on the net

You may not have to pay for classes, plays or training


Every theatre person knows that saving money is key to career-longevity. Actors, playwrights, directors and producers need to cut corners in order to bring a show to the stage. Free copies of new plays, classes and other resources will keep your career on track.

If you are looking for free copies of plays, look no further than Original Works Publishing. Every Monday, they provide free Kindle editions of a selected play from their catalogue. They specialize in bold plays that push the boundaries of theatre. People who don’t have a Kindle device can download plays into Amazon’s online reader. You can find out about Original Work’s Free Play Days by liking their Facebook page.

Aspiring and experienced playwrights can benefit from free classes through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Their OpenCourseWare site publishes course content from classes. Selections include content from playwriting and theatre arts courses. Materials include notes, video, audio and reading lists. You do not have to register to take the courses, nor can you use it for college credit. These classes will help plug any knowledge gaps you may have about theatre history, performance, design and script analysis.

Playwrights who would like to do adaptations often use stories in the public domain. Project Gutenberg is a fantastic resource for discovering books that have expired copyrights. This site offers free downloads of novels and short stories. Many of them are in the public domain. You can find long forgotten books from Robert Barr, G.K. Chesterton and Charles Dickens. They also have classics from Agatha Christie and Mark Twain. Their content comes in a variety of forms, including mp3, Kindle, HTML, Plain Text, Plucker, and QiOO Mobile. Visit their site to view their catalog. 

The Mike Daisey debacle

What is the fallout?


Many people are still discussing the fallout over Mike Daisey’s fabrications in his hit play, “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.” Several weeks ago, Public Radio International’s “This American Life” covered Daisey’s play, which investigated labor conditions in Apple’s manufacturing facilities in China. They followed that episode with a lengthy show retracting Daisey’s claim that his play was non-fiction. The monologist revealed several aspects of his show were fictionalized, throwing into question its entire premise.

The irony is the New York Times and other media outlets have documented questionable labor practices at Foxconn, the manufacturing plant in question. Daisey alleges that his show put pressure on media outlets to look further into Foxconn’s labor practices. Other journalists, however, dispute that claim.

Going forward, one of the biggest challenges theater artists face is around credibility. The Daisey debacle was a national story that captivated the country for several days. Critics and commentators in the tech, media and art worlds tried to understand the relationship between reality and theater.  Artists who venture into journalistic theater will likely face questions about sources. Theaters may begin to fact-check scripts, or steer clear of the genre altogether.

As well, this incident will undoubtedly have an effect on audiences. Rather than being engrossed in a play, they may wonder how much of the story is fictionalized. If a monologist or playwright says a work is non-fiction or a memoir, will they remain skeptical? Will they abandon the genre?

No one wants to see a theater artist get taken down by the media. Daisey’s work brought positive attention to theater. Many experts believed that nonfiction theater was the wave of the future. Some people even thought that the form could replace newspapers and corporate media. It is difficult to know the long-term effects of the Daisey debacle. But it has likely made a theater’s job a whole lot harder.