What follows are a series of letters reflecting the controversy between Samuel French, the play licensing company, and Delray Square Performing Arts about the theater’s production of the musical Shenandoah presented this winter by Producing Artistic Director Gary Waldman and Producing Executive Director Jamison Troutman.
The first is a letter to the editor of Florida Theater On Stage that Samuel French officials asked us to print. While we reserve the right to reject and edit any letters, we have a general policy of trying to print any communications sent to us on local arts issues. We are merely a platform and do not endorse, vouch for nor accept responsibility for comments made here.
Attached to the Samuel French letter is a cease and desist letter issued by its legal department.
Following that is a copy of a letter sent by Waldman and Troutman to Samuel French but given to us by Waldman and Troutman. All of the letters reference previous communications between the two that we also have copies of, but were not part of this exchange.
A few items of context: Waldman and Troutman have run companies in the region previously including the 26th Street Theater in Wilton Manors and the Atlantis Playhouse in West Palm Beach. They opened the Delray Square mainstage in a shopping center at 4809 W. Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach in January 2014 with the musical revue The Sounds of Simon and presented the musical Piaf late last year. They opened Shenandoah on New Year’s Eve. They planned to run it through March 1, according to printed material. Jamison told Florida Theater On Stage Monday afternoon that the theater had shut the production and were dismantling the set.
Letter To The Editor from Samuel French Inc. — Feb. 2, 2015
Are pirates in your town? You may be aware that there are individuals who pirate various forms of media – movies, music, games – and by doing so deprive companies and artists of the rightful share for their work. But did you know this piracy is also happening on your local performing arts stages?
The common justification when someone downloads movies or music illegally is “Who am I hurting? It is just some nameless corporation. But unlike movies or games where the creators sell their rights to a studio, composers, lyricists and playwrights do not sell their properties. Instead they rely on organizations such as ours to act as their agents for collection of royalties.
Samuel French, the 185-year-old licensor of plays and musicals, would like to draw your attention to the organization in Delray Beach called “Delray Square Performing Arts.” This company is currently presenting a production of the musical Shenandoah. Samuel French is the representative for the authors of this musical. Delray Square is presenting Shenandoah without a license. They have also refused to obtain a license when contacted and have refused to pay the author for their work. They are stealing money directly from artists.
To say it another way, the money our artists receive goes to pay their rent. It funds college for their children. It allows these authors to keep working and creating, which is becoming increasingly difficult. And Delray Square is stealing this livelihood from those that deserve it most. Without them, they would have no show to perform.
Please do not support this production. Do not support Delray Square. To the actors and designers working on Shenandoah, know that you are working on an illegal, unlicensed, unethical production.
Help us draw attention to this piracy happening in your town.
The Official Cease And Desist Letter (which followed earlier communications)
January 8, 2015
DELRAY SQUARE PERFORMING ARTS
Attn: Mr. Gary Waldman, Producing Artistic Director; Mr. Phil Hinton, Resident Music Director; Mr. Jamison Troutman, Producing Executive Director; Mr. Ben Solmor, Resident Choreographer; Mr. Joseph Long, Production Manager
Sent Via E-Mail
RE: SHENANDOAH (CEASE AND DESIST NOTIFICATION)
Mr. Waldman, Mr. Troutman, Mr. Long, Mr. Hinton and Mr. Solmor:
On behalf of our authors, James Lee Barrett, Gary Geld, Phillip Rose, and Peter Udell, we must call your immediate attention to the following critical matter.
Samuel French, Inc. is the agent of the copyright owners of SHENANDOAH in the United States and Canada. It has come to our attention that Delray Square Performing Arts is advertising, promoting, and running a production of SHENANDOAH, which is not authorized. As announced and advertised this production opened on January 2, 2015 in the 219 seat main stage Delray Square Performing Arts Theatre located at 4809 W. Atlantic Avenue, Delray Beach, FL.
Be advised that no productions or presentations of SHENANDOAH in any form, whether in part or in its entirety, and no derivative works based on SHENANDOAH may be mounted without the prior written permission of the owners and the prior signing of a formal licensing agreement by Samuel French. Since you obtained no such permission, and no such licensing agreement for your production of SHENANDOAH has been validated, this production is wholly unauthorized and illegal.
Accordingly, demand is hereby made that you immediately cease and desist from the advertising, promotion, presentation and performance of any production of SHENANDOAH, cancel all remaining performances and confirm your compliance with this demand in writing to the undersigned no later than close of business today, Thursday, January 8, 2015.
Failure to do so will expose Delray Square Performing Arts and all individuals acting in concert with these parties, to an action for willful copyright and trademark infringement and other legal claims.
Finally, as agent for Messrs. Barrett, Geld, Rose and Udell we reserve all of his rights in law and equity including but not limited to pursuit of all available federal statutory damages under The Copyright Act of 1976 (Title 17 of the United States Code) against you, Delray Square Performing Arts Theatre and your and their assigns, licensees, licensors, employees, partners, sponsors, collaborators, producers and investors.
Lori Thimsen|Director of Licensing Compliance
Response from Gary Waldman: Letter Sent To Samuel French Inc., on Feb. 9
Our production of SHENANDOAH is closed. We are in the process of removing all traces of it from wherever it is being promoted (as you know not an easy task…. I have no idea who picked up our publicity), it has been removed from our website. I will hide all references to it on our Facebook page immediately after I hit “send” on this email, and beginning midday today, all customer with tickets to future performances will be contacted, told that the production is no longer running and arranged for a refund.
We have a new box office representative starting today… he is being instructed, for now, to tell anyone who calls or walks up requesting tickets for SHENANDOAH that our system is down and we will contact them as soon as it is up and running. He is nowhere yet enough trained to intelligently handle instructing customers of the cancellation of a production AND most important … my partner Jamison will spend the entire day and night today calling ticket holders himself as in this part of the world (South Florida “condo-land”), word travels faster than in a High School cafeteria and it will cause mass hysteria if we handle it in any other way. But please, rest assured, it is over. If you make any phone calls to confirm that we have stopped selling tickets, rest assured, we HAVE. If the young man makes an error and says something incorrectly, a subsequent telephone call will be made later today and the truth will be told. Tickets to SHENANDOAH are not for sale. The production is closed. The set is coming down this afternoon.
We, of course, owe royalties based upon the terms of the license agreement … as soon as we handle the customers first, we will prepare box office statements for you, determine the amount owed and arrange for payment.
PLEASE UNDERSTAND, and this is extremely important … we never, ever, ever, ever planned on committing the act of “deliberate theft” you accuse us of, although, looking back, we do agree that we could have handled the situation far better than we did and for that, there are not enough apologies and, I guess, they are meaningless at this point anyway. Let’s just clean up this mess and move on … we are all adults here.
I know you contend that using the excuse that “illness and major medical issues created these serious violations is patently absurd” and I guess if I were in your shoes I would feel exactly the same. But it was the truth. I suffered a minor stroke last July and all seemed to be ok thereafter. In early December, just prior to the onset of rehearsals and production for SHENANDOAH I suffered another one. Worse than the first. As both director of the show and the man playing the massive lead role in the show, it was highly, highly doubtful that this production was going to happen at all. It would have meant an absolute financial and reputation disaster for us but we had to stop everything in its tracks… including sending you the advance royalty and fully executed license agreement. About 8 or 9 days (and I’m just guessing here) before our first performance I decided that I was going to do it come hell or high water and we threw the production together using whatever materials we had on hand. WRONG THING TO DO WITHOUT CONTACTING SAMUEL FRENCH first! Looking back, we could not agree more. But it was never, ever our intention to mount the production illegally, not execute the license and certainly not to avoid paying royalties.
The New Year’s Eve performance happened, with a thoroughly under-rehearsed cast and half a set, but it happened.
The following afternoon, New Year’s Day I was rushed to the hospital by ambulance with a third stroke. It appeared, for sure, SHENANDOAH was a lost cause. I had lost the entire right side of my body including speech and the sight in my right eye. We began cancelling performances a week at a time. Off the top of my head, it was a total of 10 performances that were cancelled but I cannot say for sure without access to the box office which I don’t have right now. We will, of course, tell you exactly when we compile box office reports to settle up with you.
By the time my symptoms seemed to have totally improved and we are able to resume performances, we were past the point of receiving emails with Cease & Desist Orders from Samuel French. My partner Jamison did attempt to call a few times but couldn’t get Lori on the phone. Then of course, the emails got worse and they did eventually speak. That’s your job ladies and gentlemen, we know that.
The trouble at this point was that after we had already issued so many refunds and lost any possibility of having any actual “net” sales from the production due to all the cancelled performances… it was still insisted that we send the entire nearly $15,000 advance to you before you would release the Cease & Desist. On top of that, we DID comply with your order to stop actively publicizing the show in any manner that wasn’t previously arranged. Well, that sure stopped ticket sales dead in their tracks.
I am a professionally published writer of nine musicals myself… and though I have had some success producing some of these shows, if I were to find out that someone were presenting my work without both my permission and paying me the royalties I were due, I cannot imagine the fury I would feel. Yes, I should have known better.
Then this past Friday, when we had already decided to inform the cast that this was to be the final weekend (both because of our seemingly unresolvable situation with Samuel French & Co and the sheer financial impossibility of moving forward with already too few performances to sell, too many refunds to run and the ability to do any aggressive marketing)… I received a telephone call from Bill Hirschman, editor of the website, Florida Theatre on Stage, informing me of the letter to the editor you sent him, how he felt compelled to run it and how he invited us to write a counter response. We agreed to send him one by this morning.
But last night … it dawned upon me that it would be far, far, far better to use this first business day since to wave the proverbial white flag and make peace with Samuel French instead and perhaps convince you to rescind your letter to Mr. Hirschman (and Lord knows whomever else you sent it to). The show and the situation are over.
We are the first to admit that we handled this situation poorly, but I hope this letter does at least convince you that we did not commit the atrocities you believed we committed (tho we do understand why).
If our online reputation is completely decimated over this … I honestly don’t know how we will survive it. We are already in such poor financial shape due to this mess. Plus, in all honestly, if we don’t survive … how are we to ever make financial amends with you?
Please, please, please accept our apologies for everything we messed up even though so much of it was just from being in pure “freak-out” mode.
Please rescind your letters. It is over, we admit we were wrong, and, most important, we want to clean up the mess we caused.