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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

curated: David Mamet doesn’t want you to talk about his plays

Well, okay then.

posted in:
stage buzz | talent buzz

  • Bluejay

    What the hell? How is he even legally able to do this? He controls the rights to his play, not to anything that happens outside of it!

  • Danielm80

    A playwright, or the playwright’s estate, often makes demands before granting performance rights for a show. Sometimes the demands are very demanding. The article provides a link to this story about an Albee play:


    Technically speaking, AFAIK, Mamet can deny or grant performance rights to anyone he likes, for any reason he likes, including the weather outside or the color of the director’s shirt. It’s his licensing revenue to turn down.

    Mamet is not known as the most stable of individuals. He wrote a guide to acting a while back, and his advice for actors seemed to be: You don’t need to emote. Just speak my words and let my dialogue do the work. He’s also expressed many inflammatory political opinions. He seems to enjoy controversy, and he may be thrilled to get caught in the middle of a heated debate.

  • Bluejay

    The demand of the Albee estate seems draconian and possibly racist, but as much as I may disagree with it, it could still be argued that at least the demand had something directly to do with the content of the play. Mamet’s demand to shut down discussion of his play after it’s performed seems illogical and self-defeating. And while he may love controversy, I think it’s bizarre that as a playwright he’s positioning himself as someone who could be painted as being against free speech and open conversation.

    I would have loved to see the production of Jesus Christ Superstar that the director describes in his email.

  • Danielm80

    Most things Mamet does are illogical and self-defeating.

    Esteemed playwrights are known for making outrageous demands. Arthur Miller once insisted on reading every word of Death of a Salesman out loud to the cast, so they’d know exactly how they should say the lines. Maybe Mamet thinks he’s following in the grand theatre tradition.

    I have a certain amount of sympathy for the Albee estate, though, for the same reason I think Steve Rogers should be white in the Marvel films (and Black Panther should be black). Changing the race raises all sorts of historical questions. But I wouldn’t mind seeing Sam Wilson take over as Captain America.

  • Bluejay

    I think Steve Rogers should be white in the Marvel films (and Black Panther should be black).

    I agree with the second half of your sentence, but I’m flexible on the first half (as much as I love Chris Evans in the role). The Panther was written deliberately and consciously as a black character from a black nation, and helps to correct the underrepresentation of a minority group. Rogers and most other white superheroes were written as white not for deliberate, story-relevant reasons, but simply as an unexamined default. Changing Rogers’ race would allow for interesting explorations of untold or underrepresented experiences, like those of the black soldiers who did serve historically in WWII. What if, for instance, he was a skinny African-American kid who was given the supersoldier serum as part of unethical Tuskegee-style medical trials? (See: Isaiah Bradley.)

    To bring it back to Albee: I agree more with the director than with the estate. The new nuances and resonances would have been worth the change in the written character. And this would have been just one production and one interpretation, after all, not a canonical change in the text for all time.

  • Danielm80

    I’d love to see a film version of The Truth, especially if it makes Kyle Baker (who drew the original comics) so filthy rich that he has the freedom to publish any insane idea he comes up with for the rest of his career.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    My understanding about talk backs- and it’s been a long time since I worked in semi-professional theater – is that they usually happen in the theater, essentially as an extended part of the performance. Sometimes, audiences even pay premium ticket price for the privilege. And as Daniel mentions, performance license agreements can be very stringent. It’s not like you fill out a form and write a check and they send you a copy of the script. Rights holders can routinely dictate things like casting, costuming, set design, venue, budget, etc. They also charge different rates for different rights. Now, the more stringent, the less your play will be seen. But that’s the business. That being said, this is a particular churlish move, but I think it’s also Mamet being Mamet.

  • Tonio Kruger

    The fuck you say. :-)

    But seriously, folks. There’s probably a more appropriate response to Mr. Mamet I could come up with but that will do for now…

  • Tonio Kruger



    Latinx? I suspect I know what it means but still it reeks a bit of culturebabble (the cultural equivalent of psychobabble).

  • Bluejay
  • 1. Wow, that’s dumb.

    2. It’s the playwright’s right to demand stupid things, I suppose, but not four hours before the first show is going to start. They had a contract. This wasn’t in it.

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  • Jurgan

    Maybe. It’s supposed to be a gender neutral version of Latino and Latina.

  • Tonio Kruger

    I suspected as much.

    I still find the word to be at best pretentious — especially since there are already two words in the English language that can be used as gender neutral versions of Latino and Latina: Latin and Hispanic. But they obviously did not create that word for me and there’s no law as of yet that says I have to use it. Plus, of course, there are many more important issues I could raise a fuss about….

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