Saturday, July 30, 2011

What Edward Einhorn did to my play TAM LIN and why all American authors should be concerned - part 3

So we put out a call for directors for TAM LIN. We saw several but the reason I selected Edward Einhorn was because he had done some work with fairy tales. Sounds reasonable, right?

Unfortunately I didn't Google him thoroughly enough or I would have seen this article in the Village Voice Disobeying the Foreman. If I had, I would not have chosen Einhorn. The fatuous pretentiousness described in the article is an approach to theatre that I really hate.

But I didn't find out about it until the last week of rehearsals. When I mentioned it to Einhorn, he said that Richard Foreman was kidding around about the cease and desist letter. By that time I no longer accepted Einhorn's word for anything and so I emailed Foreman and asked him about the incident. He said that he asked Einhorn not to direct his plays anymore because Einhorn "always made a mess of the plays."

Einhorn suggested that we use black lights for the magic scenes of the show, and I thought that was a good idea. But then he began talking about projecting slides onto scrims to represent the realm of the Queen of the Faeries. Jonathan flat out didn't want to do it because of the hassle and expense of the slides and projector. It was also more tech than was necessary to tell the story. We went around and around and I convinced Jonathan to give it a chance.

I should have listened to Jonathan.

So we sucked up the expense of photography for the slides and the scrim, assuming that Einhorn knew what he was doing, since, as he was constantly reminding us, he had so very much experience in the theatre.

Serious problems with the scrim/projections and set design became apparent during tech rehearsal. Einhorn instructed the set designer to purchase a scrim, which he planned to use for virtually every scene in which the faeries were in, which is almost half the play. He also planned to have black lights on for every scene the faeries were in. It turned out that the black lights lit up the white scrim, causing it to glow, and making it opaque. The point of a scrim is to allow it to be transparent sometimes and opaque others. So basically the white scrim and the black lights could not be used together. And since the black lights were essential to the pivotal magic transformation scene in the play, the black lights had to stay, which meant the scrim had to go.

A rosebush is very important to the story of TAM LIN - whenever Janet summons Tam Lin, first accidentally and then on purpose when she goes to Carterhaugh, she picks a rose. The set designer gave us something that looked like a big green wave, made out of wood, and the roses that Janet picks were to be jammed in-between the wooden waves.
Not only did this look bad, it was dangerous. Einhorn had the actor playing Janet lean right over the wooden points to pick a rose.

Here is a video I made for the trial, although it was never used, to demonstrate the difference between Einhorn's staging and ours.

The set design included a table and chairs, which were only used in a couple
of scenes, but which took up a considerable amount of stage space. The table
was worse than useless, it was an obstacle to the stage fights. So we got rid of it.

When the article in the New York Times (Exit, Pursued by a Lawyer) came out in January 2006, Einhorn sent an email to the TAM LIN 2004 cast members - one of whom forwarded the email to me. One of the things that Einhorn said was:

"And if Nancy truly felt my staging was "incompetent," I doubt she would have then kept it in full."

Clearly I did not keep it in full. But apparently Einhorn doesn't have an eye for such details as a removed scrim, missing furniture and a completely different rosebush set-up.

Of course we only had one night before opening in which to make changes, and so we couldn't do all that we wanted to in the amount of time we had. But we certainly made changes throughout the production's brief run.

And I certainly hope he didn't mean I kept his staging for the 2005 production, which I directed myself from a new, edited version of the script and with a completely new set design. I would say he couldn't possibly be that delusional... but on the other hand, this is the kind of thing he felt he could get a copyright for.

My original script said:

(Dunbar shakes Aberdeen's hand.)

His script read:

D & A shake hands.

I had come to recognize just how obtuse and insensitive Einhorn was to my concerns well before we fired him.

From: Nancy G. McClernan
Sent: Monday, October 04, 2004 4:42 AM
To: 'Edward Einhorn
Subject: RE: Some communication problems

Hey Edward,

I’ll be happy to discuss this by phone. But since you began it by email…

You said:

"Perhaps you feel it is my job to discuss, in detail, every aspect of design before I discuss it with the designers. If you had told me that at the get-go, I would have backed out, because that takes so much extra time for me and delays teh process constantly. It's one thing to come to me early with aprticular concerns. It's another to feel like anything is up for grabs."

I never said I thought it was your job to discuss (with me) every aspect of the design. The problem is that you discussed NOTHING with me before talking to the designers. The first time it happened, with the costume design, I chalked it up to miscommunication – you thought we should talk BEFORE the design meeting, but I thought we were going to talk about it AT the design meeting.

But this weekend I found myself in the same EXACT situation with the mask design. By the time I got in on the design conversation – I had to invite myself by way of an email – I found out that Barry had already started designing.

So in spite of your comment that I am randomly redesigning, what actually happens is that you leave me out of ALL discussions and then I have to scramble to catch up. The fact that it happened twice makes me think there’s more to it than just miscommunications.

I’m aware that Carla blames me for the costume redesign situation – she was very bitchy to me on the phone yesterday. Even though she went ahead and created costumes based on designs that hadn’t been approved. And even though you also wanted the first Tam Lin costume redesigned, in spite of the fact that you apparently approved it – or at least saw the design before she created it.

We’re aware that the designers aren’t being paid much – we’re reminded constantly. And I think we’ve learned our lesson, to spend more on design people in the future. But right now Jonathan is bitching at me about every new expenditure, so this is not a good time to ask for more money for somebody – especially when that person signed a contract that does not specify a limit to the number of design variations, and when the costume redesigns require $400 in leather.

And of course we can’t be responsible for designers creating objects based on designs we haven’t even seen yet.

And FYI - I don’t actually love the new elven or Tam Lin costumes, but at least they won’t totally humilate the actors or make me queasy like the previous batch did. And that’s all I can hope for at this point.


Einhorn also acted as though the big magic scene in TAM LIN was something amazing and original. But other than the use of black lights, most of the transformation of Tam Lin was similar in many ways 2003 production - the one I was so disappointed with.

As I testified on the witness stand:


Now, we have heard a lot of testimony about a shape-shifting scene; do you have that scene in the play in mind?

A. Yes.

Q. Was that scene in the production in 2003 --

A. Yes.

Q. -- of Tam Lin?
Can you briefly summarize that scene for the Court?

A. Yes.
It's a magical scene so it is difficult to do, especially off-off-Broadway.
It is a transformation scene, the queen of fairies is testing Janet, she has to pass
these tests in order to win Tam Lin away. I don't know why, I guess that's how it works in fairy land. So, the queen of fairies transforms Tam Lin while Janet is supposed to hang on to him, into a snake, a lion and an iron rod.

Q. How did you portray those changes in the 2003 production?

A. Well, we had a curtain in the back, a black curtain, and Tam Lin and Janet
were standing in front of the curtain and what we did was we had a puppet,
it was a snake puppet. It was basically two pieces, there was a snake head on one hand
and a snake tail on the other. So, we had something behind the curtain with this on
their hands and when the transition, the first transition was a snake, so a person was
behind the curtain and they reached around and they hugged the Janet
character while the guy playing Tam Lin sort of went behind. Then, an actor had a lion mask on, so Janet is facing the audience and there is the snake puppet. And then, when the transition happens, she turns around, the snake puppet goes away behind the curtain, an actor with a lion mask is now seen with Janet's back to the audience and the lion's face facing the audience.

Q. What happens next?

A. So, the next transition is an iron rod, and so we had a rod and somebody handed it through the curtain. So, the guy playing Tam Lin with the mask slides down behind Janet so you can't see him and somebody hands Janet a rod, and then she brandishes it and she is supposed to stand there holding it for a while as a test, and then she throws it into the well.

Q. This is all what happened in '03?

A. Yes, it is.

Q. Can you please describe how that scene was portrayed in the '04 production?

A. Well, there are many similarities. There was the black curtain in the back.
The snake was different. We had this, like I said, sort of a puppet thing.
The snake in the 2004 version was a painting on Tam Lin's cape but he -- sort of the
same thing where Janet was back -- well, she was holding him from the side, actually,
with the snake and then he, somebody put a lion mask on him and then he turned around
and then she was holding him with the lion mask on. And then, again, somebody passed
her an iron rod and she brandished the iron rod and threw it into the well.

And so the primary reason that we even used Edward Einhorn was because I thought he had experience with this kind of stage tech work. What he ended up giving us was nothing special. The only reason his was a little better than the 2003 production was because of the black lights. And he certainly did not pioneer the use of blacklights.

So we were unhappy with what Edward Einhorn gave us and felt that the fastest way to fix everything was to have him out of the way. Especially since, as Judge Kaplan said during the trial, Einhorn was "sulking."

And so we fired him. And that's when David Einhorn, Edward's brother and an intellectual properties lawyer decided to get, um, "creative" with the law...