Saturday, October 3, 2009

Yes, I Over-Reacted

My last post, "Free Play Free-For-All", resulted in more than the usual amount of discussion, not just in this blog's comment section, but on the 99Seats blog and on the Dramatists Yahoogroup. And while it is always a joy to spark debate, it became very clear to me that despite the legitimacy of some of the concerns I expressed, was none-the-less over-the-top; that my reaction was out of proportion to what was essentially a faux-pas.

Essentially, the story begins when a friend posted a link to an event announcement for a staged reading of Total War to his Facebook page. This results in a discussion thread between a third party and myself:

[Name Withheld] sounds like a fine play to me, i'm searching the net for its script to read

Ian Thal I'm the author and the script shouldn't posted on the net, at least not in the form that will be presented on October 11th.

[Name Withheld] thank you! i was unable to find it, but will continue to this winter, just in case you post it somewhere. the synopsis is quite interesting and itself well-written.

Ian Thal [Name Withheld], I'm not planning on posting it to an open forum at any point in the foreseeable future. There are a lot of issues involved including protecting my intellectual property rights.

[Name Withheld] of course. i'm sorry to have forgotten that issue. best of luck on your opening night.

At this point in time I was still having the hardest time finding an actor for one of the supporting roles for the reading and enduring some of the stresses of being an artist in this economy. So a simple, unintended faux-pas drew an exaggerated response.

99Seats, though misinterpreted me on a number of counts, gave me a well-earned mocking for my excessiveness. (We have since cleared up most areas of misunderstanding; any other issues of disagreement to be of a friendly nature.)

What set me off was the presumption that my work should be found freely available on-line when clearly, since the event was announced as a staged-reading, it was still a work-in-progress, and then by the follow-up in which my interlocutor, instead of making an attempting to start a dialogue with me and asking for a copy, simply stated the intention to keep looking until the play was found somewhere on-line. That my rights as an author still engaged in development were an afterthought added to my feelings of being treated discourteously.

My reaction to what was most certainly an unintended discourtesy was simply overboard. A far more appropriate response would have been along the lines of what I was to later say in the comments section of my previous post:

If Tony Kushner were staging a reading of his next great play, most would understand that the text of this work-in-progress [would] unlikely to be on the web, at least not with Kushner's approval. However, Kushner is famous (and well he deserves to be) so everyone expects to pay for his work, while I am not famous, so my work is expected to be freely available.

Just to clarify: I have distributed various drafts of Total War to actors, some of whom either were or will be readers for my staged readings, were curious about either participating, or, even were unavailable yet still curious. I've distributed copies to theatres, conferences, workshops, and competitions that were seeking submissions.

It's not that I am opposed to sharing my work online; it's a matter that my thoughts as to when, with whom, and by what methods are still open to my own deliberation and debate with others. This isn't an ideological stance (though it may have come across as one, earlier) but rather a stage in the development of this particular piece.

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