BY GRACE TATTER I The Daily Tar Heel
There isn’t a class about business contracts in the drama department.
But Clare Shaffer, a sophomore dramatic arts major, said one might be useful.
As producer for Company Carolina, Shaffer has to negotiate contracts for the rights to plays the company performs.
The most recent of these, “Spring Awakening,” opens this weekend.
“It’s a lot of paperwork,” she said. “Doing this has really prepared me to go off and deal with the business things.”
Shaffer first decided to produce “Spring Awakening” after receiving a proposal from junior Katie Moylan, the show’s director.
Moylan saw the play in Charlotte and had a vision before the curtain dropped for intermission for her own production of the show.
“I thought, ‘Wow, this was an incredible thing I was given, and I want to give it to someone else,’” Moylan said.
Moylan immediately wrote an enthusiastic proposal. In it, she said the company could edit some of the more controversial parts, like a graphic sex scene. Shaffer decided to perform the play uncensored.
Shaffer said she could identify with Moylan’s enthusiasm about the show.
“I found that really compelling, because I’m a director and I know there are shows like that, that I just have to direct,” Shaffer said.But in the theater world, artistic passion isn’t always enough to get a show on stage.
In spring 2010, Company Carolina’s production of “Cats” was canceled a week before it was scheduled to open because the group was denied the rights.
Deborah Gerhardt, a UNC law professor who specializes in copyright law, said popular plays like “Spring Awakening” or “Cats” are often difficult because the rights holders don’t want there to be too many productions available to the same audience.
“If every high school in town, and Duke and UNC were doing ‘Spring Awakening,’ it wouldn’t be special to see it,” she said.
Because of these technicalities, Shaffer had to give Music Theatre International (MTI) — which holds the rights to the musical — an extensive list of details about the production.
The rights, royalties and security deposit amounted to $1,700 for the three-performance schedule — a good surprise for Shaffer. She said musicals can cost upward of $3,000.
The most expensive part of the production is actually the use of Historic Playmakers Theatre, Shaffer said.
She said the price was probably so low because Company Carolina is non-professional and non-profit.
“We’re on the cheap end of everything,” she said.
Gerhardt said that despite the cost and time associated with getting rights, theaters rarely violate them.
“The art community respects creative rights because they create intellectual property too,” Gerhardt said.
“People understand these are the rules and they play by them.”
BY DEBORAH STRANGE I The Daily Tar Heel
This is the fourth in a series of stories this week showcasing the student playwrights featured in LAB! Theatre’s “One Acts in the Park,” which begins Saturday at Forest Theatre.
Sophomore Jordan Imbrey had a name for a character — or three.
“The Final Resting Place of Smick Bumley” tells the story of a son, a father and a grandfather — all named Smick Oliver Bumley.
In the play, the son — who goes by Bum — and the grandfather — who goes by Smick — attempt to learn from one another after Oli, the father, abandoned the family.
“It became about two characters learning to sympathize with each other and not blame each other for what someone else did,” Imbrey said.
He said the one-act festival is the first time he has let go of one of his stories’ reins and allowed someone else to direct it.
“I’m trying to take as far a step back as possible,” he said. “It’s more interesting to see how someone interprets the work than try to micromanage and control what they do with it.”
That responsibility goes to sophomore Clare Shaffer, who is directing the play. She said the script’s opportunities for artistic choices appealed to her.
“I pushed really hard to get that play,” she said.
But Imbrey has already directed his story once before.
During winter break, a friend wanted to work on a film project, so Imbrey adapted his work for film and directed it. It is now in post-production.
Shaffer said she didn’t want the film to influence the play.
“I refused to watch the film version until after,” she said.
But Ben Elling, a dramatic arts major, has gotten a taste of both. After playing Bum in the film, he is playing Smick in the festival.
“I kind of relished the opportunity to approach this piece from a new position,” he said.
“Having the opportunity to play Bum and understanding the want for closure at the end helps me play Smick because I know where both characters are coming from.”
And even though the play is one act, Angel Giddens, who plays Bum’s mother Marie, said there is plenty of room to explore the characters.
“I was originally intrigued by the depth you get with the characters in a short amount of time,” she said. “You just have to dive right in and do what you feel.”
Giddens said the reality of the characters and of the theme will allow audience members to connect with the story.
“Nobody has a perfect picture of a family,” she said.
“I think that is something everyone can connect and relate to on a personal level.”
Reviews, previews, and other coverage of Shaffer shows.