Sunday, January 29, 2006

Exit, Pursued by a Lawyer

From today's New York Times...

FAIRYLAND was in turmoil. During a tech rehearsal for the October 2004 Off Off Broadway production of "Tam Lin" — a play about a clash between mortal and immortal worlds — a real-life clash threatened to derail the show. Exactly what happened has become, literally, a federal case, and the sides agree on very few details. Did the playwright, Nancy McClernan, insist that the director's staging was incompetent? Did the director, Edward Einhorn, refuse to alter it? Did the producer, Jonathan X. Flagg, smash some furniture on the set? One thing's clear: the morning after the tech rehearsal, after two months of unpaid work, Mr. Einhorn was fired.

In the time-honored way of the theater, Ms. McClernan and Mr. Flagg figured the show must go on. With the help of an assistant (who eventually received the program credit for direction), they supervised the remaining rehearsals, either largely restaging the play or retaining most of Mr. Einhorn's contributions, depending on whose side you believe. In any case, "Tam Lin" opened, ran for its scheduled 10 performances and closed. But the drama was not over. Soon playwright and producer were embroiled in a lawsuit that could ruin them personally and has huge implications for directors and playwrights everywhere.

The main interest of that suit, which Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court in Manhattan has scheduled for trial in April, is not whether an artist deserves to be paid for work his employers deem unsatisfactory. What's really at stake is something much larger, because Mr. Einhorn claims in his complaint that his staging contributions to "Tam Lin" — contributions that his former collaborators say they excised — constitute a copyrighted work of intellectual property, owned by him, and that the defendants must therefore pay for infringing the copyright. When the lawsuit was filed, in October 2005, a new run of the play was already in rehearsal, this time directed by Ms. McClernan herself, who had always intended to make "Tam Lin" an annual Halloween event. Because Mr. Einhorn says that even these new performances represented unauthorized use of his work, the potential tab, based on the maximum allowable statutory damage of $150,000 per infringement, is now up around $3 million, not including several other remedies he is requesting — along with his original $1,000 director's fee.
...No wonder playwrights are worried. Even the usually unflappable Paul Rudnick is rethinking his options. "From now on," he said, "I'm only going to have my plays directed by lawyers."

The entire story here.

Our press release on the matter is here.

The article fails to mention that the 2004 production of TAM LIN wasn't the first - the Deptford Players did a staged reading in 2002, directed by Lorree True, and my company, Mergatroyd Productions did the play as an Equity Showcase in 2003, directed by Synge Maher. If Einhorn claims that my work, even when I directed it myself, belongs to him, why can't the other two directors make that claim?

Another thing the article fails to mention is that there's usually very little money to be made off-off Broadway, especially when you have a cast of 10 and you pay the actors, as we have in the last two years. We've never made a dime.

I can't say any more because the trial is pending. But once it's over, I'll have plenty to say about Edward Einhorn.

You can read about his lawyer/brother David Einhorn here and here (PDF)