A Little Brouhaha

A blog can be a sort of bully pulpit.  I don't think I 've really used it as such yet but here we go. A director named Nick A. Olivero requested, paid for and received permission to produce Little Shop of Horrors at the theater he runs, called Boxcar Theatre.  What he didn't request, and would not have received, was permission to adapt Little Shop.

Our reps caught wind of this, went to see the show, decided it was well over the bounds of simply a creative take on a classic and copyrighted production and, in Mr. Olivero's words, "shut it down."  And the brouhaha begins.

I'm putting a link at the end of this post to Olivero's  blog about his take on the event.  It's well-written, well-reasoned and completely misses the mark.

He has confused the right to produce a copyrighted work of art with the right to adapt a work.  Howard and Alan paid Roger Corman for the right to adapt his original film and make it into a musical.  Corman gave permission with the full knowledge that his work would be revised and reworked - material would be added and cut, characters changed and the whole shebang recreated.  He gave permission for just that.

So did Kurt Vonnegut when Howard and Alan created God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.  In fact, Mr. Vonnegut was fully engaged in that production.  I have a letter from him to Howard, with notes and feedback after a performance he caught (lucky me, right?  The note will be part of the Library of Congress collection by end of summer).

Olivero talks about the economics of theater - especially small, creative, off off Broadway, off off West End, theater.  Howard knew that well.  That's where both Rosewater and Little Shop came into existence.  In a tiny theater that existed off the largess of family and friends and the occasional arts grant.  All was done on the cheap, cast parties were cheese and beer in the lobby.  Sets were paid for with overdrawn credit cards.  Nobody starts off a success in the world of theater.

Olivero cites that old canard about Bernstein, Sondheim, et al updating Romeo and Juliet when they created West Side Story.   It's called public domain, happens when copyrights expire.  Not really relevant, I say.

The final thing I want to say is that it's obvious that Mr.  Olivero is committed to theater and to art.  He's clearly a creative man.  Write an adaptation , then - just make sure you get permission to do so, first.

I'm starting a discussion in Feed Me so we can get a discussion going.

Here's a link to Olivero's letter to the arts community:  http://www.tcgcircle.org/2011/06/copyright-or-wrong