Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What Edward Einhorn did to my play TAM LIN and why all American authors should be concerned

The first in a series.

It's been over five years since the strange case of Edward Einhorn v. Mergatroyd Productions. I'm only now getting around to writing this series, which I hope to turn into an article for some media outlet.

What Edward Einhorn did was outrageous - he registered an unauthorized derivative copyright for his unsubstantial "blocking and choreography" script based on my play TAM LIN and then a year later used that as grounds to sue me for producing my play.

The NYTimes ran an article about the case before we went to trial which addresses the theatre issues involved. I adore the title of the article because it recalls a stage direction from Shakespeare's THE WINTER'S TALE: "Exit, pursued by a bear." The article is Exit, Pursued by a Lawyer.

But there's more to it - this isn't just about theatre because what Edward Einhorn did to me, anybody could do to any American author, because the US Copyright Office is in serious need of reform.

But in spite of the fact that I wrote an article for the Dramatists Guild about the case, I've never told the entire story and I think now is the time. For several reasons - for one, because the Dramatists Guild has been taking steps to get the Copyright Office to cancel the Einhorn registration; because a recent episode of This American Life demonstrated that the Patents Office is also in need of reform; and finally because the New York Innovative Theatre Awards saw fit to allow Edward Einhorn, the one single person who has done the most, in my opinion, to attempt to destroy American theater, to write a piece on "independent theatre" for its Full of It web site. The fact that the piece is much more about the career of Edward Einhorn than independent theatre doesn't negate the fact that he was asked to write about independent theatre.

Our story begins with the song "Tam Lin" a traditional Scottish folk song. I first heard the song in a folk-rock version by Fairport Convention which, believe it or not, used to get fairly frequent airplay on Philadelphia rock stations in the 1970s - especially around Halloween, since the big dramatic showdown of the play takes place on Halloween. There's a web site devoted to the song Tam Lin.

Here is a video of Fairport Convention performing the song - just the audio unfortunately. This is from their album Liege and Leaf. It's been years since I listened to this song - I forgot how compelling it is.

I forbid you maidens all that wear gold in your hair
To travel to Carterhaugh for young Tam Lin is there
None that go by Carterhaugh but they leave him a pledge
Either their mantles of green or else their maidenhead
Janet tied her kirtle green a bit above her knee
And she's gone to Carterhaugh as fast as go can she
She'd not pulled a double rose, a rose but only two
When up there came young Tam Lin, says "Lady, pull no more"
"And why come you to Carterhaugh without command from me?"
"I'll come and go," young Janet said, "and ask no leave of thee"

Janet tied her kirtle green a bit above her knee
And she's gone to her father as fast as go can she
Well, up then spoke her father dear and he spoke meek and mild
"Oh, and alas, Janet," he said, "I think you go with child"
"Well, if that be so," Janet said, "myself shall bear the blame
There's not a knight in all your hall shall get the baby's name
For if my love were an earthly knight as he is an elfin grey
I'd not change my own true love for any knight you have"

Janet tied her kirtle green a bit above her knee
And she's gone to Carterhaugh as fast as go can she
"Oh, tell to me, Tam Lin," she said, "why came you here to dwell?"
"The Queen of Faeries caught me when from my horse I fell

And at the end of seven years she pays a tithe to Hell
I so fair and full of flesh and feared it be myself
But tonight is Hallowe'en and the faerie folk ride
Those that would their true love win at Miles Cross they must bide
First let past the horses black and then let past the brown
Quickly run to the white steed and pull the rider down
For I'll ride on the white steed, the nearest to the town
For I was an earthly knight, they give me that renown
Oh, they will turn me in your arms to a newt or a snake
But hold me tight and fear not, I am your baby's father
And they will turn me in your arms into a lion bold
But hold me tight and fear not and you will love your child
And they will turn me in your arms into a naked knight
But cloak me in your mantle and keep me out of sight"

In the middle of the night she heard the bridle ring
She heeded what he did say and young Tam Lin did win
Then up spoke the Faerie Queen, an angry queen was she
Woe betide her ill-fard face, an ill death may she die
"Oh, had I known, Tam Lin," she said, "what this night I did see
I'd have looked him in the eyes and turned him to a tree?