Samuel French "Denies Permission to Review" Wooster Group Production of Pinter's "The Room" Opening at REDCAT

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Ari Fliakos in The Room at REDCAT. Photo: Paula Court.

Well this is just bizarre. Take a look at this presser I received today and then I’ll get you on the back end so we can sort this thing out:

MEDIA ADVISORY REGARDING

THE WOOSTER GROUP’S THE ROOM BY HAROLD PINTER AT REDCAT FEBRUARY 4 – 14, 2016 

PERMISSION TO REVIEW THE PRODUCTION DENIED BY SAMUEL FRENCH, INC.CITINGOUTSIDE CIRCUMSTANCES.” 

PERMISSION FOR FUTURE PERFORMANCES IN NEW YORK CITY AND PARIS CURRENTLY WITHHELD

REDCAT and The Wooster Group announce that Samuel French, Inc., which manages the United States rights for Harold Pinter’s work, restricts critics from reviewing the world premiere of the Group’s production of The Room at REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater) February 4 to 14, 2016.

On January 11, 2016, Samuel French instructed the Group that all promotion and reviews of the production would be forbidden. The Group appealed this decision, and Samuel French subsequently lifted the restriction on promoting the production, but informed the Group that the restriction on reviews will remain in place. Samuel French’s licensing agreement states that “There may be absolutely No reviews of this production; e.g. newspaper, website posts etc.” The Group was also informed that they could not currently receive permission for future performances of the production being planned in New York City and Paris.

In an email to the Group, Samuel French Licensing Manager David Kimple did not give a specific reason for the sudden restrictions, only citing “outside circumstances.” Mr. Kimple wrote that “Mr. Pinter’s catalogue is, as you know, world famous; to keep this catalogue afloat, there are many moving pieces and the work of the estate is not limited to any one single person. There is an entire team of professionals who have committed to strategically planning and curating productions in a way that will help to carry this great work even further during today’s constantly changing theatrical landscape. We are elated and honored to have your company investing in a show like this but, unfortunately, outside circumstances require us to maintain this restriction.”

Mark Murphy, Executive Director of REDCAT, called the restrictions “highly unusual and puzzling,” adding that, “This attempt to restrict critical discussion of such an important production in print and online is deeply troubling, with the potential for severe financial impact. It seems strange to me that anyone would think critical discourse about this seminal play could be somehow harmful. And, it would be a shame if these ten performances in Los Angeles were the only chance for people to experience the production. I am proud that REDCAT is presenting the premiere of this production of a seminal play, performed by The Wooster Group, one of the world’s most influential and highly regarded theatrical ensembles. I am stunned that critics would be asked to withhold any commentary in the form of a review, or that it might never be performed again.” 

Prior to premiering The Room at REDCAT, The Wooster Group presented the piece in sold-out advance showings at The Performing Garage, the Group’s home theater in New York City. These performances, which took place October 28 – November 21, were authorized by Samuel French without imposing any limits on press access. 

First of all, I’m not even sure they can do this. I mean, they can certainly NOT invite any of the legit theater critics to the show and that would certainly curtail any coverage that might occur. But one of those critics could just then buy a ticket on their own, go anyway, and write whatever the hell they want about the show. How can Samuel French impede that in any way? And why only in Los Angeles? And why against the wishes of the artists producing the show? Are they afraid that Pinter’s 60 year old play will somehow be tarnished by bad press? Are they not happy with the Wooster Group’s alterations of the script? They already gave them permission to produce, so what the hell is going on?

They can certainly ASK the critics not to review the show, as a favor, I guess, but citing “outside circumstances” as the reason is vague, weak and completely absurd. As a matter of fact, the thing sounds completely unconstitutional. And guess what? I was already slated to go – it’s my birthday next Saturday – and though I wasn’t necessarily going to write anything about the show and since I’m NOT a theater critic, I am absolutely going to write about the show now. With vigor. Not a “review” of course, I don’t write those, but maybe I’ll be inspired to write a haiku, or an essay, or whatever the hell else I decide to write about it. Because that’s how it works in America, folks. As long as I’m not slandering or perpetrating lies, I can write about whatever the fuck I want to write about.

And here’s what I suggest to all the other LA Theater Critics out there: Tell Samuel French to go fuck themselves. Go to the show and write as you please. Let’s flood the LA Media outlets with writing about this show. And I’m talking to you Charles McNulty of the LA Times. And you Bill Raden of Stage Raw. And you Steven Leigh Morris of the LA Weekly and yes, even you, Steven Stanley of StageSceneLA. All of you, here is a chance to actually make a stand for what you do. They have no authority to stop you. None. As a matter of fact, let’s take it a step further. ANYONE who goes to the show should – as an act of defiance to this Orwellian bullshit – write something.

As a matter of fact, I am herby opening up Bitter Lemons for those “somethings”. Let’s not even call them “reviews” let’s call them, “creative responses”.

If you go see the show which runs February 4-14, 2016 at REDCAT, and if you find this type of suppression to be just plain wrong, send us your “creative responses” to the show to [email protected] and we will publish them here. Anyone. Doesn’t matter if you can write or if you can’t, doesn’t matter if you’re a credentialed critic or not, anyone and everyone is welcome to kick this door down and tell Samuel French to go fuck themselves.

Here are the details for showtimes and tickets:

Info and tix: http://www.redcat.org/event/wooster-group-room-harold-pinter 

Dates:

Thurs Feb 4 – Sat Feb 6 at 8:30 pm

Sun Feb 7 at 3 pm

Tues Feb 9 – Sat Feb 13 at 8:30 pm

Sun Feb 14 at 3 pm

Oh, and you’re welcome for the free press. Whatever happens, people are now REALLY going to want to see the show that has been “forbidden” to critical thought. I’m happy to oblige.

Any takers?

Comments (14)

U 63140 t 5120443

I think you’re shooting at the messenger.

U 35088 t 4659361

I think I just gave REDCAT tremendous free press, Jerry. If that’s what you’re referring to? Even if the critics lame-out and abide by this bullshit, this will certainly make the curious audience goer want to go see the show that has been “forbidden,” yes?

U 48170 t 5294524

I just read the article on this at the LA Times, and was about to post something. I don’t see how they can stop bloggers from writing about … well … anything. Since I won’t be able to make the show, I think they are inspiring a meta-blog about their stance :-)

U 35088 t 4659361

A concerned reader emailed me this comment. Name redacted to protect the guilty:

Anyone who abides by French’s “ban” on writing about the Pinter play:

1. Is not a real journalist and probably is friends with Sean Penn.

2. Believes the media need to be controlled and probably is friends with Donald Trump.

3. Thinks the Constitution can be ignored and probably is friends with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who wants a convention to rewrite the Constitution and get rid of the pesky parts.

I am considering booking a trip to LA for the express purpose of writing about the Pinter play.

Default user

The LA Times article is an interesting read. What I gathered is that REDCAT advertised the production in Aug of 2015, but Wooster/REDCAT didn’t ask for the rights until Oct 2015. And it seems S French didn’t like that. Which is maybe a lame excuse… but still.
Yes, Freedom of the press and all, they can’t really stop you from writing about it. BUT. Wooster still does not have the rights to do this show in NY and Paris. If you poke the bull… the bull can lash back at Wooster and stop this production from having any more of a life. I like Wooster Group. I like the work they do. I would hate to see their production stopped because the LA press wanted to “Tell Samuel French to go fuck themselves”

Default user

Per Bruce Lazarus, Executive Director of Samuel French, Inc. “Samuel French is licensing agent representing the wishes of the Harold Pinter estate. The Wooster Group announced the Los Angeles production of Pinter’s “The Room” before securing the rights. Had The Wooster Group attempted to secure the rights to the play prior to announcing the production, the estate would have withheld the rights. Holding The Wooster Group in great esteem, the Pinter Estate decided to accommodate the company in their post-announcement request to present the play, with the provision that the production could not be promoted or reviewed. The Wooster Group appealed this decision. As a further courtesy, the Pinter Estate accommodated by allowing The Wooster Group to promote the production, but maintained their provision for no reviews of the production. As the licensing agent, Samuel French stands by the decisions of the Pinter estate and continues to advocate for authors’ rights to control their property as they see fit.”

U 35088 t 4659361

Thanks for the input, guys, much appreciated. Still have some questions though. Firstly, the people at Wooster are disputing the chronology of how this unfolded, as you can see in the LA Times article; also, why did Samuel French not impose this ban on the NYC production?

U 35088 t 4659361

And lastly, I’m certainly respectful of intellectual property rights, but what I’m not okay with is me being told that I cannot write about something that I go and see. If it’s a workshop or a preview or a dress rehearsal and that is clearly communicated, fine, again, don’t want to impede on the creative process and speak about an “unfinished” production, but that is not the case with this show. It played in NYC and now it’s at REDCAT. Clearly it’s ready for the public, and therefore, the critics. I say let it rip.

Default user

Let there be a thousand reviews… let every person who sees the show write 250-500 words on the production…and it gets posted up. Fuck S. French. Fuck Wooster. Fuck Redcat and Fuck the estate of the quite dead Harold Pinter.

U 48170 t 5294524

As promised: I’m a blogger, not a professional critic (don’t believe me - read what I write :) — plus professional critics take free tickets). And I’m not reviewing the show… but don’t tell me I can’t, because then I’ll post something like this: http://cahighways.org/wordpress/?p=11107

Default user

They had the rights for the “preview” in NYC in Oct. They applied for and received those in July. Which is why there was no ban on the NYC performances. They did not have the rights for the LA production when they announced it in Aug. They applied for the rights to LA in Oct just before the preview in NYC… The Pinter Estate said they wanted to deny the rights for LA, but since Wooster/REDCAT had already promoted it, they didn’t want to be complete assholes and just limited the scope of it. And Wooster currently does not have rights to do the full production in NY or Paris.
Wooster claims it wasn’t a last minute request for rights, but they don’t dispute that they asked in Oct when the first ad for it went out in Aug… Maybe that was REDCAT’s mistake. Maybe REDCAT didn’t realize that the rights hadn’t actually been secured when they announced their season. But it happened. And the estate could have shut the whole production down.
But sure. As Norman so eloquently states Fuck ‘em All. That will sure show them…. be a rebel, who cares. The producers screwed up. Which is too bad, since it’s the artists who will lose out on the opportunity to take this show to more cities.

U 35088 t 4659361

Well it’ll be one hell of a one-off then, Cricket. Some serious promotional work for the REDCAT production that’s for sure…

U 63442 t 3552101

Great press, indeed! Now, I will buy a ticket. ….

U 35088 t 4659361

See, Cricket? Provocative and productive.


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