What is a perusal?
Perusal means “the examination or reading of something, paying attention to details.” In the theatrical world, publishers use the term as a noun to describe an advance copy of a script (sometimes with parts of a score) to help producers, teachers, and theater staff decide if the play or musical is the right fit for their audience and company. Stage Rights offers digital perusals online (the fastest way), as well as perusal packs for our musicals, which include a sampling of the score to help music directors get a closer look at orchestrations, vocal ranges, and the skill required for each part.
Do you sell printed books?
Absolutely! Our printed books are beautifully printed with full-color covers, and are available for purchase on the Stage Rights website, as well as through Amazon and other online bookstores.
Can I use the books I bought online for my production?
No. As a part of the licensing agreement, you are required to purchase a specific performance package for production purposes. Perusals and books purchased online or in bookstores cannot be used for performance purposes.
Can I make copies of the script I found online?
Nope. To go further, if you happen to find a script or score online on a “free” website, chances are that the company running that website is acting outside the laws of our country. Some of these sites look legitimate— but do yourselves and the theatre community a big favor by not contributing to these sites. If it seems too good to be true, it’s probably too good to be legal.
What about making copies of the script I bought from a real source?
Now you’re just asking silly questions. Making copies of scripts is illegal, even for classroom use. If you were taught by teachers that making copies is okay, they were mistaken. See the next question and answer for a really good reason to buy books from a legitimate source. There are certain shows in our catalog for which digital performance packages are made available with your production rights. Once the appropriate fees have been paid, your production license grants you the right to make the necessary copies for your production.
Do I have to pay royalties?
Any time a play is performed, royalties have to be paid. Playwrights make a living from the sale of their books and the performance of their works. The work of an author is a pivotal part of the theatrical experience, and the entire theatrical community should work tirelessly to support the work of playwrights so we continue to have great plays and musicals to entertain us for years to come.
What about my classroom? Or competitions? Or festivals?
Yes, classrooms too. There are many instances where royalties are reduced for competitions and festivals, and many classroom presentations only require the proper purchase of scripts. Once you have created an account with Stage Rights, you can ask your account representative for more details about your particular situation.
Can I make changes to the play to fit my needs?
The play must be presented only as published, without any changes, additions, alterations, or deletions to the text or the title. This also includes not altering, updating, or amending the time, locales, or settings of the play in any way, whether these elements are made explicit in the stage directions or are clearly implicit in the text. Furthermore, casting also constitutes a part of the author’s play. As such, if the gender identity, ethnicity and/or race of the characters are made explicit in the stage directions or are clearly implicit in the text, such casting requirements are deemed a business necessity and the characters are to be performed by actors who meet such bona fide occupational qualifications, unless the Author has expressly approved other casting choices.
Wow. That was a long answer to my short question.
Yes, but we’re kind of serious about this. If you do want to make changes, you can submit requests for permission to your account representative for review and consideration by the author or copyright holder. Permission is often granted, especially for competition cuts and sensitive language. Stage Rights will provide a timely and written reply to all such written requests. Stage Rights also carries a variety of plays with clean editions and/or versions edited by the authors themselves for competition purposes.
How and when should I secure performance rights?
To help ensure that rights are available and your license is processed on time, we encourage you to apply for rights well in advance of any planned performances, and always before advertising the show. There are some instances where a particular title may be restricted in some areas, or another group is performing the show nearby. We offer exclusive area rights to professional theaters, but do not have exclusivity for non-professional groups.
Do you own these plays and musicals?
We do not own the plays and musicals. Authors retain ownership of their work, and we act as their agents and collect royalties for the authors. All Stage Rights titles are protected under Federal and International copyright laws and may not be produced without an authorized production license. We are the exclusive agents for plays and musicals in our catalog, and you cannot be granted performance rights by any other company.
CAN I CHANGE THE WORDS OR MUSIC?
A HELPFUL AND
FOR ANYONE PRODUCING
WORK IN THE THEATER
Reprinted by permission of the Dramatists Guild of America
© David Lindsay-Abaire, 2019. All Rights Reserved.
Lights up on a phone conversation between a Drama Teacher and a Dramatists Guild Rep— each at their desk.
TEACHER. Hi, I’ve licensed a show that I love for my students, but there are a few things in the script that I wanted to change for our production. Am I allowed to do that?
DG REP. Nope. Not without permission from the author.
TEACHER. Oh. But I can cut the swears at least, right? Or tone them down maybe? Like, turn the damns to darns?
DG REP. Unfortunately no, not without the author’s permission.
TEACHER. But I’m a teacher at a middle school and parents will call for my head if Junior drops an F-bomb!
DG REP. I get it. But you’re still not allowed to cut or change any of the words, not even the bad ones, without the author’s permission.
TEACHER. Could I just cut that scene out of the play then?
DG REP. What? No, you can’t cut the scene. You can’t cut anything.
TEACHER. But some of the monologues and songs are too hard for young actors. I think the piece can survive without them. And frankly, a few edits would make the show flow better. Don’t worry, I know what I'm doing.
DG REP. Did you not read your license agreement? (Crickets.) You said you love this show, so why not perform it as the author intended? I bet your talented cast is more than capable of pulling it off!
TEACHER. Speaking of my cast, I didn’t get as many actors as I had hoped, so I need to cut some of the characters.
DG REP. I feel like you’re maybe not listening to me.
TEACHER. No, I know, we’re not supposed to “cut anything” but our adjustments actually help the show. One of the actors adlibbed a punch line in rehearsal that was much funnier than what was in the script. I told her to keep it in. We can add lines, right?
DG REP. No, but I love your enthusiasm. The thing is, when you license a play or musical, the licensed script/score is not yours to do with as you please. If you’re looking to channel your great ideas and funny lines into something, maybe you should consider writing your own script.
TEACHER. Write my own script? You mean from scratch? That sounds very difficult.
DG REP. Yes, it is. (More crickets.) Look, most authors will consider reasonable requests if you just ask permission.
TEACHER. Well that sounds promising. How do I do that?
DG REP. Just email your licensor and the request should be forwarded to the author. If that doesn’t work, contact us at email@example.com and if the author is a member, we'll forward your request.
TEACHER. But what if they say no, or I don’t hear back?
DG REP. Then you can’t change the words. If that’s a deal-breaker then you should pick a different script.
TEACHER. But there’s no time to pick a different script! What happens if I make the changes withoutpermission?
DG REP. Then you run the risk of having your show shut down. Also you may be fined. And you and your school may be banned from licensing any shows in the future. #DontChangeTheWords.
TEACHER. All because of a few changes? That’s not fair!
DG REP. You know what isn’t fair? Violating an artist’s intellectual property when you signed a contract promising not to do so.
TEACHER. But the kids worked so hard on this show! You’d actually shut it down? You’d break the hearts of students! Students who love theater!
DG REP. Believe me, no one wants to break anyone’s heart. But you should never alter a script or score in any way without permission. If you do, then you are the one responsible for breaking the hearts of your students– and our writers. So please– don’t change the words or music.
End of dramatization.
TEXT THE ANONYMOUS REPORTING HOTLINE 1-(855)-719-6737
The Dramatists Guild of America is the only trade association of playwrights, librettists, composers, and lyricists writing for the stage in the United States, with over 8000 members worldwide. Since its establishment in 1919, the mission of the Guild has been to provide theatre writers with advocacy, opportunity, and community.
Past presidents have included Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Moss Hart, Alan Jay Lerner, Robert Sherwood, Robert Anderson, Frank Gilroy, Peter Stone, Stephen Sondheim, John Weidman, and Stephen Schwartz.
Past Dramatists Guild members have included Eugene O’Neill, Mae West, Sam Shepard, Langston Hughes, Lanford Wilson, George S. Kaufman, Maya Angelou, Mary Rodgers, Arthur Miller, Lillian Hellman, Frank Loesser, Wendy Wasserstein, Ray Bradbury, Lorraine Hansberry, Frederick Loewe, Alice Childress, Duke Ellington, George M. Cohan, Comden & Green, Donna Summer, Edward Albee, and Tennessee Williams.