Thursday, September 22, 2016

Design, Reuse, Adaptation, and Proper Credit.

I was just finishing a meeting about the set design for my next show at Kitchen Dog Theater (Feathers and Teeth), chatting with the director, when the influence of earlier productions came up.  Was it ethical to reuse a brilliant piece of staging an earlier director invented?  No, we agreed.  The same rule holds, of course, for set designs: if an earlier designer has a clever idea, the next designer can't steal it without credit or permission.  (For that reason, I try hard not to look at earlier set designs for my shows until after I have an idea of my own.) 

Credit and permission are important.

I've written about copyright before.  An idea is not copyrightable, but it's specific manifestation is.  For instance, the idea of toasting bread is free for anyone to use... but you can't precisely copy that patented GE toaster.  Right?

Well, there's a complicated question right now in the DFW theater community.  At the end of a show's run part of a set - an absolutely gorgeous tree! - instead of being thrown in the dumpster was sold to another theater company for use in a different show.  The tree's designer was consulted and okayed this reuse.


In fact, more of that set - most of it actually - was saved and reused.  In almost exactly the same way as before, but for a totally different show.  The original designer was credited in the second show's program as "the tree designer" but credit for the set as a whole was given to another name.  A made-up name.


Distressing for the real designer.

Read the details HERE at Theater Jones.

What do you think?  Was this design hijacked?  Was credit fair or misleading?  

Personally, I think the credit was misleading, but the real problem was that, effectively, a set for Midsummer's Night's Dream was twisted into a set for Camelot without proper payment to the designer and without explicit permission from its designer for that zombie-afterlife. Permission which its designer would not have given, thinking that, artistically, it's just bogus to just slap a set onto a text it wasn't meant for.  The - shall we say "adapter"? - seems to think: What's the fuss?

Pretty tangled.

tangled tree limbs - courtesy of

Follow-up post HERE.

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