A Little Little Shop Brouhaha

edited July 2011 in Theater
I posted a blog about a copyright brouhaha with the Boxcar Theater. I'd love to hear your comments.


  • Sarah, you're absolutely right - he did miss the mark.

    While I respect his interpretation of the facts as an artist, his assertion that this is something new: "Our art will now be subject to the rules and regulations set forth by congress, a select group of artists who lived long before me, and politicians and other organizations with pockets much deeper than mine" (will NOW be subject...?) is bizarre. This isn't something new laid at his door. These rules have been in place for quite some time.

    Some authors and playwrights are much more protective of their work than others. Yes, Charles Mee is willing to work with artists to fuse productions around his works, making them stronger. His attitude is very much like Vonnegut's in that way. Sam Shepard and Samuel Beckett (the estate of) on the other hand are VERY specific, and rely on the absolute wisdom of the playwright as-written. You have to respect that, and you have to move on.

    I think that Mr. Olivero et al. is very brave in his artistic vision. But he claims to "know" one thing, and then preaches another. He says he feels victimized and, in the next instant, says he knowingly broke the terms of his contract. He agrees that he was shut down for the right reasons, and then claims that the right to adapt is the SAME as the right to create, only the "pieces of paper" don't get it.

    He says "If ‘we’ can collectively agree that William Shakespeare was the greatest playwright of all time, yet every producer, director, actor, and playwright deems it appropriate to cut and revise his work, then who is to say that any other writer shouldn’t be edited as well?" Answer: The writer and the writer's representation, that's who.

    *throws arms up in frustration*
  • Estates have a particularly difficult time with this issue. Bill and I see our charge as protecting Howard's work since he's not here to protect it himself. We interpret that as ensuring that his work remains the way he envisioned it.
  • edited July 2011
    I can see both sides of the issue. As an amateur writer, who started out writing a fan-script of Family Guy, I see, and know, the appeal of adapting an established work. Everything's already all there, all laid out, and all the hard work is basically done; you just have to go in either "polish it", or use it as a launching point for something else. And, really, I see no problem with it, as long as it doesn't destroy the original work. (I.E., a techno version of The Sound of Music.) And I, myself, see no artistic problem with what he did.

    However, he was still only given permission to JUST stage Little Shop. Nothing else.
  • edited July 2011
    These kind of stories absolutely make my blood. boil. A similar situation happened recently with a college production of Rent that changed the ending to have Mimi die as in Boheme. It inspired a similar brouhaha and similar inane director response in which there was much complaining about the stifling of artists blah blah blah.

    He talks a lot about creating art and being an artist--does he have no respect for the artists who created the work he has chosen to present? There are ways to go about incorporating changes into works, and theatre companies do it all the time. But the fact of the matter is when you endeavor to do other people's work, you have to respect the creators' wishes because it is THEIR artwork and THEIR name underneath the title as writer. If you want to make changes, go through the proper avenues and take whatever answer you get back.

    The fact that this was done with Little Shop, which, in my opinion, is an airtight perfect script as it is, only incenses me more.

    I feel like there are too many directors out there these days that approach every project like they are they to "fix" it. There's a difference between interpretation and adaptation, people and if you feel you need to adapt, then you should ask for permission or move on. You certainly can't cry about artistic stifling when your choices are stifling the artistic vision of the artists who created the work you liked enough to produce.
  • Oo just look at the comments on the director's blog. Jason Robert Brown's response is really really wonderful.
  • The worst part of this whole mess is that there is already a system in place for making changes to the show, you simply must get written permission from the rights-holders. Though some of his, err, stranger changes probably would have been denied, quite a few of his decisions likely would have been approved.
  • "I feel like there are too many directors out there these days that approach every project like they are they to "fix" it. There's a difference between interpretation and adaptation."

    I came from a college that staged The Threepenny Opera in modern-day Washington, D.C. in the days leading up to Obama's inauguration. The book and the lyrics (which were the 1990 Donmar Warehouse translation by Jeremy Sams that wasn't even available to license in the United States and was used completely illegally) were modernized, Americanized, and bastardized practically beyond recognition. The director's vision was essentially, "Let's take this classic play, which was written at a completely different time and place in history almost irrelevant to ours, and use it to offend as many people as possible and alienate every remotely conservative person on campus and Make A Contemporary Political Statement to display how ~*Socially Aware*~ and ~*Innovative*~ we are."

    Despite all of that, was still an okay and decently-executed production, but I swear I could FEEL Brecht and Weill tossing and turning in their graves. My one consolation was that it could have been worse: originally, this director was going to do South Pacific...and set it in modern-day Baghdad.

    Let me say that again: South Pacific. IN BAGHDAD. WHICH...aside from complete irrelevance to the plot of the play...IS NOWHERE NEAR ANY OCEAN, LET ALONE THE PACIFIC. *facepalm*

    Yeah. So long story short...I FEEL YOUR PAIN.

    And JustinKudwa, as for "a techno version of The Sound of Music," Gwen Stefani already came dangerously close to that:
  • I'm curious as to what changes were made for this production.
  • edited July 2014
    I read this article. Scroll down to the comment by Alex Shafer on January 30th, 2014. He shares his story, as he was in the production. Very long and detailed response but interesting.


    "He changed dialogue, entire scenes, scene order, fundamental plot lines, characters, songs, song lyrics and more. It would take too long to list all the changes, additions, subtractions he made, all without permission."

    I cringed when he wrote that some had the attitude of 'F--- Alan Menken'. Did they forget about the obvious 'F--- Howard Ashman', too? UGH.
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