University sues Broadway production, claims royalties not paid f - WSMV News 4

University sues Broadway production, claims royalties not paid for Tennessee Williams play

Posted: Updated:
Tennessee Williams' estate made Sewanee the copyright holder of his work. (WSMV) Tennessee Williams' estate made Sewanee the copyright holder of his work. (WSMV)
SEWANEE, TN (WSMV) -

One man brought some of the finest drama ever written to the American stage. Now the handling of his work is bringing drama all its own.

"This is a very nice sprung floor to protect knees and ankles and feet and all the things dancers do," said Dan Backlund, walking through a room surrounded in mirrors.

Teaching at Sewanee: The University of the South, Backlund couldn't be more proud of a spot on campus made possible by one of the all-time great playwrights.

"There you can see our quality control expert," laughed Backlund, pointing to a picture of Tennessee Williams looking over a production room.

Williams is the playwright behind works such as "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and "A Streetcar Named Desire."

"Tennessee Williams is the second-most produced playwright on planet Earth after that English fellow we all know," Backlund smiled.

Williams' grandfather graduated from University of the South. His estate made the university the copyright holder of his work. The money's been going to scholarships, a writer's conference, writers and poets who come teach at the school, and substantial construction and upgrades to a building that became The Tennessee Williams Center.

"It's been a revolutionary change," Backlund said. "That allowed us to build a really tremendous facility for students to learn how to do theater. It's really a huge thing for furthering the arts."

For a space dedicated to creatives, a problem has arrived.

Last year, Rudinplay Inc.'s production of "The Glass Menagerie" opened on Broadway starring Sally Field.

A lawsuit filed in Chattanooga claims Rudinplay Inc. breached their contract by not paying the university a percentage of the show's royalties. The lawsuit said the university is due $305,383.78.

"When you think about it, intellectual property theft is the same thing as someone getting the television out of your house," Backlund said. "This is the first time there's been any kind of violation of that trust. It's just ingrained in anybody who does theater for a living. You want to do that play, you send in your royalty check. That's just the deal. This is so outside normal practice, I'm surprised this has happened."

The lawsuit also claims the contract required Rudinplay Inc. to feature an ad in the production's playbill explaining the relationship between Williams' work and the university. The lawsuit said the ad was not featured.

The lawsuit goes on to list Laurette Broadway LLC as a defendant, saying an assignment having to do with the production may have been made to the company outside of the university's knowledge. The lawsuit said that would go against the contract.

After a call to Rudinplay Inc., News 4 was told no one at the office could comment.

Backlund said agreements have to be upheld, so this place of which he's so proud can continue one man's legacy.

"This is all Tennessee Williams," he said, motioning to the room. "It really is. We had nothing like this before his gift."

Copyright 2018 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly
WSMV
Powered by WorldNow CNN
All content © 2018, WSMV; Nashville, TN. (A Meredith Corporation Station) . All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.