The LaGrande, Oregon High School drama department was planning on mounting a school production of Steve Martin’s play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, but the school board banned the production because parents objected to what they called "adult content." After this, the drama department decided to hold the play at an alternate site, Eastern Oregon University, and a Student Democrats group was helping to raise money for the production. Steve Martin read about this online, and contacted the community, offering to pay for an off-campus production of his play. The play is about a fictional meeting between Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein in a Paris bar right before they astound the world with their achievements in painting and physics. This story about little old LaGrande has made it all the way to BBC News!

We have had a similar situation in a nearby small town where a professional theatre company did some shows certain people felt were not in keeping with "family values." We’re talking about prize-winning authors such as Eugene O’Neill and Nobel-prize-winning Harold Pinter. Letters to the editor in support of the theatre for presenting uncensored and engaging plays ensued. Some theatres actually cut words that they fear their audience might find objectionable. Legally speaking, if you have purchased rights to perform a playwright’s play, you must produce it word for word as written in its entirety, or you can have a lawsuit on your hands. Samuel Beckett has sued for this very reason. This is a very big difference between stage plays and screenplays. Once a producer buys a screenplay, they buy it outright and own it, and they can therefore change it anyway they want–this often happens. Not the case with stage plays. The playwright or the estate of the playwright and publishing company hold the rights for a length of time, usually the author’s life plus 70 years. If you pay royalties to use the play, you are obligated to produce the play the way it is written, not the way you wish it was written. The playwright still owns the play; you have simply paid for the right to produce the play as written for a certain number of performances over a certain length of time. After the run of the show is done, the playwright still owns all the rights to the play.

I love it when censorship takes a hit and free speech reigns!

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