Astute readers of the blog might have noted the little Commission Me? link in the right column of my site. (UPDATE: That link is no longer active.) That’s a new idea—inspired by a post I wrote for 2am Theatre a while back, as well as a similar page on David J. Loehr’s site—I’ve been toying with: sharing synopses of plays I’m considering writing as a way of inspiring companies to consider commissioning me to write them for their stages. Might work, might not—we’ll see. Let’s consider it an experiment.
There is, however, one synopsis I didn’t post on that page—and that I won’t post here, either. You see, I’m seriously confused about whether or not I can even legally write the thing. (The play, not the synopsis.) Allow me to explain.
Back in the early 1980s, there was a television show—I won’t name it, at least for the moment—that caused a great deal of controversy and, at the same time, made a great many people laugh. It ran for four seasons—it was cancelled despite good ratings—but it was planned to run for five, which meant that when season four ended, there were at least a half-dozen major cliffhangers that never got resolved.
Now, imagine the outcry if a similar thing had happened to, say, LOST. If it had been cancelled before the last season even began, because somebody somewhere decided the show wasn’t wholesome enough for America? There’d be a hue and cry, a rebellion, a protest, a boycott of the network… and those things happened when the show I’m talking about was cancelled, too.
What we’d also have nowadays that we didn’t have back in the 1980s would be people stepping into the void to create the “missing episode” or episodes that would conclude the series. Some clever fan with movie editing software would piece together scenes from the first five seasons to give the world closure, or at least partial closure, and it would instantly become an internet sensation, even if only for 15 minutes, and we’d all be grateful for it.
Nobody did that for my show. Hell, nobody probably even remembers my show. (If you’ve guessed what it is, email me, or keep it to yourself. Please don’t share it in the comments, though, if you wouldn’t mind. I’ll share when I’m ready. Thanks.) My show—though it is available on DVD—has fallen into the dustbin of history. I could mention its name to anyone younger than 40 and they’d have no idea what it was. They might not even know the name of the only genuinely famous actor who appeared on it.
Anyway… that’s my idea: to write the episode—to write a full-length play, really—that would serve as the end-cap on the series. It wouldn’t provide closure, exactly—in fact, it would really be an investigation of the nature of the incomplete story: the way it can paralyze us. It would be ribald and funny and meta-theatrical and—well, I can see the whole thing in my head at once glance, and I know it would be quite a spectacle.
You know what else? It would have to use the ACTUAL CHARACTERS from the show, or at least some of them. And that’s my problem.
See, I’m pretty sure that somebody, somewhere, owns the rights to those characters. And I have no idea how to reach that person and secure that person’s permission and convince that person I’m not crazy, just an inspired-but-for-real playwright. Hell, there might even be more than one person (or studio) I need to convince. Frankly, it’s disheartening.
Naturally, I’ve considered just going ahead and writing the thing anyway… but I know that the legal questions will only arise again if someone was bold enough—and smart enough, of course :)—to produce it. Best, I think, to settle them up front. (Unless the rights cost me a great deal of money, in which case… can you say Kickstarter?)
So… I’m open to suggestions, people of the internet. Help me out here… and then, if you’re a fan of the show (and you should be—it was great), the resulting play will help you, too. Closure!