Thursday, November 16, 2006

Plagiarism 2: Electric Boogaloo

I just found this on Playbill.com:

URINETOWN
Broadway Team Accuses Two Regional Productions of Plagiarism

By Zachary Pincus-Roth
November 15, 2006

The creators and designers of the Broadway production of Urinetown, along with their unions, are accusing two 2006 regional productions of the show of plagiarizing their direction, choreography and design.

A lawyer for the Broadway team, Ronald H. Shechtman, sent a letter on Nov. 13 to representatives of the regional productions — one produced by Blue Dog Entertainment at the Mercury Theater in Chicago and the other at the Carousel Dinner Theatre in Akron, OH — stating that "significant aspects of the Broadway Team's original, creative work were used in your recent production of Urinetown."

The letter states that while the productions did license the musical, the license only entitles them to use the script and the music, and not the Broadway direction, choreography or design. A law suit has not yet been filed.

The Chicago production closed in May, and the Akron production closed Nov. 4. As of the posting time for this article, Playbill.com was not able to reach representatives from either production.

At a press conference held Nov. 15 at the offices of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers (SSDC), Urinetown's Broadway choreographer John Carrafa said that he saw a picture of the Chicago production online, which prompted him to attend the production with the show's Broadway director, John Rando.

"It was replicated in great, phenomenal detail," said Rando, speaking at the press conference via phone, of the Chicago production.

Carrafa attended the Akron production, which was directed by Jennifer Cody, who was in Urinetown's original Broadway cast as Little Becky Two Shoes.

Brian Loeffler was the choreographer of both productions and won a Joseph Jefferson Award for Choreography for the Chicago production. That production also received Jefferson Award nominations for Production - Musical; Director - Musical for Tom Mullen; and three acting categories. Barbara Hauptman, the executive director of the SSDC, sent a letter to the Awards requesting that they conduct a formal investigation.

Though Broadway theatregoers are familiar with Urinetown's spare design elements and Brechtian milieu, Rando said that the show can be interpreted in different ways. "It is basically a playground for any director, choreographer or design team to use their creative imagination," he said.

The press conference also included representatives from the SSDC and the United Scenic Artists Local USA829, along with lighting designer Brian MacDevitt, set designer Scott Pask and costume designer Gregory Gale.

The letters give the recipients ten days to respond and submit "a detailed accounting of all revenues" from the productions so that an "appropriate license fee and damages" can be determined. The letter to the Chicago team called for Loeffler to decline his Jefferson Award.

The Broadway team is also seeking an apology. Hauptman noted that, primarily, "This is not an issue about money. It is about recognizing the creativity that originated with these members."

Hauptman said that in the future, she would like to create "a mechanism by which if people really want to do the Urinetown they saw on Broadway, they can, by licensing the work from the creators and giving them credit."

Similar past controversies involved a Florida production of Love! Valour! Compassion! and an Illinois production of The Most Happy Fella, both in the 1990s.

So, the Broadway choreographer saw a picture of the Chicago production online and was shocked by the blatant similarities. Maybe...just maybe...it was this picture:

URINETOWN Chicago

****

URINETOWN Broadway


Geez, Stephen. What's so similar about that? I mean, the three characters on the upper level are CLEARLY closer together in the picture from the Broadway production. Sure, the group at bottom center looks like "URINETOWN: The Clone Wars," but keep looking at the upper level. The upper level cop is stage LEFT in the Broadway pic and stage RIGHT in the Chicago pic. Duh!

Yeah, yeah, yeah...the rest of the cast is in the same exact stage picture...blah, blah, blah...but when one cop is stage right and one cop is stage left, that clearly shows this wasn't just a carbon copy stolen from Broadway. This Chicago production was completely original.

Who directed Chicago's production of URINETOWN? James Frey?!?!?!?

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

well great, now I'm addicted. Stop writing so much. I have to get some work done eventually today!

Mike said...

Far be it from me to have anything positive to say about James Frey, but at least if he had directed the show, it would have been more original. He couldn't even write about his own life without being creative -- surely he'd have a fake suicide or something to add to Urinetown too.

But back to the cop's positioning, maybe they didn't think it was plagarism if you just did the mirror image of the entire show.

But more importantly, what I noticed (obviously_ was the guy on his knees in front of the Chicago cop, which is ironic because usually it's the Chicago police who are the cocksuckers.

Stephen said...

Kristi - I love that you're my blog fan, but don't let it interfere with your job. You making that showroom at the Merchandise Mart look amazing is how I get to see your cute face so often!

and Mike - You're so right. If James Frey had directed URINETOWN Chicago, it would definitely have been an original effort. And not only would there have been Chicago Police cocksuckers, there would have been a whole 11 o'clock number about Cocksucking Policemen (and the gay men who love them).

jim said...

There is plagerism and plagerism, and this i don't think meets the criteria.

For instance, the Chicago show parodied Wicked... something that the NY show didn't.

Also, the writers of the show Greg Kotis & Mark Hollmann and the Producers of the show (Dodgers Theatricals) both support the Chicago production in the case.

Now, one could be cynical and say that the only reason they are doing this is that they have nothing to gain from lawsuit... but, c'mon, this is one place where at least the writers - as creatives - would want some solidarity.

I'm interested to see how this plays out, but my guess is that it will settled out of court, just like every case of this type has done for the last 10 yrs.

Since there is no precedent, and is unlikely to occur, it seems more to me like a cash grab than actual law.

There is a piece in the Chicago Tribune, "'Urinetown' battle roils the world of musicals", by Chris Jones that pretty much covers the entire case, it's worth a read.

Out of curiosity, you seem very personally pleased with this happening and haven't gone through all of your blog, is there some past Tom Mullen snub that accounts for your schadenfreude?

jim said...

There is plagerism and plagerism, and this i don't think meets the criteria.

For instance, the Chicago show parodied Wicked... something that the NY show didn't.

Also, the writers of the show Greg Kotis & Mark Hollmann and the Producers of the show (Dodgers Theatricals) both support the Chicago production in the case.

Now, one could be cynical and say that the only reason they are doing this is that they have nothing to gain from lawsuit... but, c'mon, this is one place where at least the writers - as creatives - would want some solidarity.

I'm interested to see how this plays out, but my guess is that it will settled out of court, just like every case of this type has done for the last 10 yrs.

Since there is no precedent, and is unlikely to occur, it seems more to me like a cash grab than actual law.

There is a piece in the Chicago Tribune, "'Urinetown' battle roils the world of musicals", by Chris Jones that pretty much covers the entire case, it's worth a read.

Out of curiosity, you seem very personally pleased with this happening and haven't gone through all of your blog, is there some past Tom Mullen snub that accounts for your schadenfreude?

Stephen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Stephen said...

Jim - First off, thank you for the comment, telling me about the Chris Jones article in the Trib, and for my new favorite word: Schadenfreude! I love it!

You bring up so many points that I really want to post a new entry about this later today.

In the meantime, know that I have never worked for Tom Mullen, so I don't have any hard feelings toward him at all. I just believe that (the addition of the WICKED parody outstanding) he copied the show piece by piece for his Chicago production, and while other directors have done this for a long time, it doesn't make this less than plagiarism. I liken it to stealing. So, for me I don't think of my happiness over this lawsuit as schadenfreude - - I see it as me being happy because karma is finally waking up and setting things right.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mike:

I must say that having worked on the Chicago production your statements are false and unfair. There are unbelievable differences in these productions that as a team we worked very hard to create and your attack clearly means to me as an actor that I copied everything as well which is bull shit and a mean statement on your fellow Chicago acting company.

You are also forgetting that this fight is not really about Chicago and Broadway.

The Broadway creative team did not get anything for the work outside of thier pay for hire and now they are looking to set a precedent with a union and get money.

Also check out the latest article about the original director/choreographer Joe McDonnell claiming that these guys copied him.

Interesting? Mullen and Mcdonnell went to the same high school. I can't say for certain but it would seem that know each other and maybe Chicago just plain did it better!

Hmmmm!