What are Production Rights?

Good Afternoon! Here is my Monday Blog, Tuesday edition!

How was your Memorial Day Weekend? Did you take time to honor and remember those who have served our country? I have many family members who have served in the Armed Forces and I took some time to remember each one. I also got some work done around the house to enjoy the fabulous weather we had in Minnesota.

Blogging has taken me on many writing journeys. I enjoy learning about new places and things and when I do research into topics for the blog, I always seem to come up with other new and interesting facts. While I was working on the book review of Taming of the Shrew that I published last week, I learned that the rights to plays have to be purchased before they can be performed in public. Those are called Production Rights.

Paying for Production Rights is the way an author can be paid from groups wanting to perform their works. So, when your kids do those plays at school, church, or acting camp, and want to perform them for others, they have to purchase copies of the script and the rights to perform that particular version of the play. You may wonder, where does one go to purchase the rights to a certain play? The rights are purchased from the publishing house who holds them. The Sixty-Minute Shakespeare versions that I mentioned last week have their rights owned by Dramatic Publishing.

Who is Dramatic Publishing?

Dramatic Publishing holds the rights for over 1500 authors of plays and stories that have been adapted into plays for the stage. Just to give you an idea, through them for this specific version of the play, each script is $9.95 and the minimum royalty paid per performance is $80.00. Here is a link to their website to check out other titles you may be interested in Dramatic Publishing.

According to their website, the company was started by Charles Sergel in 1885. With his interest in the theater, he founded this company to serve authors, artists and educators by managing the production rights of various plays. The company has been handed down through five generations. Christopher, Sr, Charles’ grandnephew, worked with Harper Lee and got the rights and her permission to create a stage adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird. He took over as president of Dramatic Publishing in 1970 which was the same year, he started creating this stage adaptation. He also worked with S.E. Hinton for the rights to create an adaptation of The Outsiders.

With all of the company history of a company kept in the Sergel family, according to an article in the Chicago Tribune on August 2, 1992 called High Drama in Woodstock, after being in the same location for 100 years, in 1983 a fire destroyed their downtown Chicago location. So, in 1985, Dramatic Publishing moved their headquarters to Woodstock, IL, to a location just a few blocks from The Opera House, an historic theater in town. Having the company who owns rights to plays just down the street from a place to perform is a great match. Then I started looking into the story of The Opera House and things got more interesting…

The Opera House in Woodstock, IL was built in 1889 as a multi-purpose city building which housed the administrative offices, police and fire departments. It was later used as a venue for performing arts and receptions.

Many well-known actors got their starts at the Opera House. Paul Newman got some of his training there during summer stock. Other stars where attending the nearby Todd School for Boys, where people like Orson Wells produced full length Shakespeare plays while in his mid-teens and later on his son Christopher attended the school.

The Todd Seminary for Boys was opened in 1848 as a boarding school and later evolved into a seminary. In 1892, Noble Hill purchased the school for $20000 and in 1929 he transferred the school to his son Roger ‘Skippy’ Hill and renamed the school, the Todd School for Boys in 1930.

Here is a description of the school as The NewYorker described it in 1938 from Wikipedia.com

Todd is a preparatory school of considerable antiquity, now run on severely progressive lines. The present headmaster, Roger Hill, a slim white-haired, tweed-bearing man, who looks as if he had been cast for his role by a motion-picture director, has never let the traditional preparatory-school curriculum stand in the way of creative work. All the boys spend as much time as they want in the machine shop, the print shop, the bookbindery, or the school theatre.

With the location of Dramatic Publishing in the Midwest, they focus more on the adaptations of popular books and plays the Woodstock and Rockford, IL locals have read or seen. This move makes the theater more accessible and relatable to the people who would be coming to the Opera Theater to see a show. They chose to cater their business more to the churches and schools with much lower Production Rights fees to pay for the plays to make these plays accessible to them.

With the Opera House for shows and the connection of a few well known actors attending or affiliated with the Todd School for Boys it brings the 135 year old family held company to place with a history in theater. Check out their websites with the links above. I’m so intrigued by the connection between these places that I may have to make a road trip to see them in person.

Books are adapted into movies and onstage productions. What is your favorite? Please let me know in the comments below.

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Have a great week!