It's a Via Dolorosa That Leads to Court Another Play, Another Lawsuit. and First-Time Dramatists End Up Suffer Ing the Most
Butler, Robert, The Independent (London, England)
A t an Oscars party earlier this year Sir Tom Stoppard was asked about a lawsuit that accuses him of stealing the plot of Shakespeare in Love from a novel called The Quality of Mercy. "I've never heard of it," Stoppard said. "But I regard any lawsuit as an accolade."
In New York last week Sir David Hare failed to win a Tony award for The Judas Kiss, Amy's View or Via Dolorosa. But the last of these three plays has now received its own back-handed tribute. Steven Greenstein, a Los Angeles-based actor and playwright, is seeking unspecified damages in the Federal District Court in Manhattan against The Royal Court, the original producers of Via Dolorosa.
In late 1996, Greenstein, aged 39, submitted a play called Voices from the Holy ... And Not So Holy Land to the Royal Court. The suit accuses that theatre of commissioning Sir David to write a play that "incorporated central elements, ideas, themes, structures and even some dialogue from the plaintiff's play", which has since been performed in small theatres in San Diego, Los Angeles, New Jersey and Antwerp. Both plays are one-man monologues which explore the Arab-Israeli conflict. Both plays are performed by the playwrights themselves, who take on the roles of the people they meet. Both plays begin outside Israel and examine the Middle East from a visitor's perspective. Neil Adleman, from Harbottle and Lewis, media and entertainment lawyers, says: "It's an interesting one: having a go at the company for commissioning something similar rather than having a punt at the playwright himself." The Royal Court has records of its correspondence with David Hare. It also keeps a log of when all unsolicited scripts arrive. The Hare correspondence predates the arrival of Greenstein's play. "The idea that Stephen Daldry used the idea in commissioning David Hare is entirely false," says Vikki Heywood, the executive director of the Royal Court. "The case has no merit, and we are convinced that it will be dismissed." The issue has wider implications for the Royal Court. The costs are already damaging. "It is alarming that by exposing our work to the American litigious environment," says Heywood, "we have fallen foul of something which I understand to be fairly common practice now in the USA. I was in New York last weekend and had several conversations with American producers who assured me that they will no longer read unsolicited scripts." This is a blow to the Court's open play-reading policy. "We undertake to read any script sent to us by any writer. In America this service is almost unheard of because it is too dangerous in terms of copyright litigation." But the law in this area is unpredictable. In this country …
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Publication information: Article title: It's a Via Dolorosa That Leads to Court Another Play, Another Lawsuit. and First-Time Dramatists End Up Suffer Ing the Most. Contributors: Butler, Robert - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: June 13, 1999. Page number: 4. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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