By ANTHONY CHASE
An informed source at Dramatists Play Service reports that American Repertory Theatre of WNY did not have licenses or pay royalties for this season's productions of Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love and Richard Greenberg’s adaptation of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s,
or last season's presentations of Aaron Posner’s Stupid Fucking Bird and Martin McDonagh’s A Behanding in Spokane. The ART of WNY website, which formerly listed past productions, removed that information some time over the past 48 hours.
In another development, Monday evening I received a telephone call from Michael John LaChiusa, multiple Tony nominated composer and oldest brother of ART of WNY executive director Matthew LaChiusa. “My brother lied to you,” said LaChiusa bluntly. “I never spoke to Jason Robert Brown about [Matthew's] production of Parade. I just want you to know that. I need to distance myself from this situation. Matthew needs to clean this up and atone.” I reached out to Matthew LaChiusa for comment. Matthew did not comment on the issue of rights to the DPS titles but stated that he had asked to be “off the record” when he said his famous brother had related best wishes from Jason Robert Brown. In fact, Matthew had related the story to me on more than one occasion, including to a group of people in the TheaterLoft lounge on the opening night of Parade, and in a telephone conversation subsequent to the controversy. In addition, members of the Parade company report that Matthew has told the story many times. “I requested to you in the lounge to keep our conversation off-record, but I will be more clear next time,” he said in an email. “I truly appreciate all the support you've shown this company throughout the years, and I never meant to put you in a position to be in the middle between family members. As you may have guessed, I am trying to focus on keeping ART solvent and appreciate your understanding the severity your blog may have on my business, and for all the artists who work with us.”
Michael John LaChiusa was entirely unaware of the controversy in Buffalo until he stumbled upon the discussion on Facebook in which the younger of his two brothers (the third brother is Buffalo-based Equity actor Thomas LaChiusa) lamented the embarrassment caused after failing to obtain a license for Parade, a musical written by Jason Robert Brown. Michael John is a close friend of Brown and his wife, composer Georgia Stitt, who is the chair of the Copyright Advocacy Committee of the Dramatists Guild.
Whether or not well-wishes were sent, would seem to be a minor part of this story about failure to obtain legal permissions or to pay royalties for use of copyrighted material.
“I’m a member of the Dramatists Guild, too,” said LaChiusa, “and I am very glad that you wrote such a detailed piece. I am glad you made it clear that this is not just my brother. This is happening all over the country. People perform our work and don’t pay us. Royalties are how artists keep the roof over their heads. It is how we are able to write our next play.” “That’s why we had to fight [music streaming service] Spotify,” said LaChiusa. “And with technology these acts of theft also extend to people watching videos of shows and duplicating the staging. This is a huge issue. You need to keep writing about it.”
The story continues to develop.