Before You Sign - The Monthly Dramatists Guild Newsletter
July/August 2022
Featured Article
DG Statement on The Door McAllen Church's Unauthorized Production of "Hamilton"
The Dramatists Guild condemns the Door McAllen Church for its unauthorized production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking musical Hamilton, performed on August 5 and August 6, 2022, in McAllen, Texas. In addition to performing the show without a license, the Door McAllen Church changed lyrics and added text without permission.

We hold up the Door McAllen Church's brazen infringement to shine a light on the problematic pattern of some theatrical organizations performing authors’ work without a license and rewriting the text without authorial consent. No organization, professional, amateur, or religious, is exempt from these laws.

No writer’s work, whether they are a student who has just written their first play, or Lin-Manuel Miranda, can be performed without their permission. And it is never okay to change the words, lyrics, or notes, without their express consent.

For more on why you should not change the words or music without the writer's approval, please visit:

To report an unauthorized production in confidence, please call
Call to Action
Hand holding a bullhorn
Are You Getting Produced in Your Area? A Call to Action from the Regional Affairs Committee
Back in January, the Regional Affairs committee hosted three Community Conversations that were open to all DG members. Participants met online to share discoveries, discuss concerns, and work to create meaningful change.

The Regional Affairs Committee is continuing the conversation now with a short questionnaire, based on common themes that emerged from these Community Conversations. The committee is looking to find out how and where your work is getting produced, if theatres in your area are providing new work development initiatives, and if those opportunities are accessible to all writers.

The committee is hoping that this survey will be a step towards creating impactful change in theatre communities across the country. So, please help continue the conversation by filling out the survey (via the button below).
How We Advocate
Another Copyright Infringing Website?
Have you heard of

This website hosts a wealth of scripts, sheet music, and other forms of copyrightable material. Even if you have never posted your work on, someone may have done so without your permission.

The Dramatists Legal Defense Fund (DLDF) is currently collecting information from playwrights, composers, lyricists, and librettists who have had their work published on this site without having authorized it. To be clear, the DLDF is not offering to take any action on your behalf at this time, nor it is establishing any attorney-client relationship by seeking this information. The DLDF is merely trying to assess the scope of this website’s impact on dramatists.

If is making unauthorized use of your dramatic work, please contact Dave Faux at Please be sure to include your name, contact information, and the titles of the implicated songs or shows in the body of your email.

Do you have additional questions about copyright infringement? The Business Affairs Help Desk is DG's support portal that allows us to answer your business related questions more quickly and efficiently. You can submit a query, or request a contract review, via our ticketing system.
Pirated Scripts on eBay:
How DG Defended Your Copyright
Back in April, a Guild member contacted the BA HelpDesk to alert us to what appeared to be pirated libretti and scripts (many of which were written by DG members) that were being sold on eBay by a highly rated seller. The Guild's Business Affairs team investigated the matter; it was determined that many (if not all) of these scripts and libretti were likely being sold without the author's permission, potentially infringing upon the authors' copyrights. 

Upon such determination, the BA team took action on two fronts in an attempt to get the potentially infringing scripts removed. First, we contacted the seller directly, informing them that unless they either received permission from the author(s) or purchased the scripts and libretti from a legitimate retailer, and are subsequently selling these lawfully obtained copies, then selling the scripts and libretti on their eBay page would likely constitute a claim for copyright infringement by the author(s). The message encouraged them to remove any listings that might be infringing and also informed them that we would be contacting our members whose scripts were posted on their page. 

After contacting the seller, we pulled the names of all the members whose scripts and libretti were listed on the seller's eBay page, alerted them of the potential infringement, and encouraged them to either send a takedown notice to eBay or to message the seller directly. We are happy to report that within hours of alerting our impacted members, all of the infringing scripts and libretti had been removed by the seller. 

We want to thank the member who first alerted us to the potential infringement, as well as all of the impacted members who reached out to eBay and the seller. It is because of this collective effort that we were able to successfully defend the copyright of so many of our members.
Writers Win Important Copyright Case with Help of Amicus Brief Co-Signed by the Dramatists Guild
On July 14, the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling in the case Starz v. MGM that is a significant win for writers nationwide. The Court upheld the right of all copyright owners (including dramatists) to sue for damages for copyright infringement beyond the statutory three-year period, when the infringement was -- or reasonably should have been -- discovered by the owner only after the three-year period had expired. 

In the case, MGM had argued that copyright holders should only be allowed to collect damages for the three-year period before a suit is brought, rather than three years from when a copyright holder discovers --- or reasonably should have discovered -- that their work had been infringed. (This principle is called the “discovery rule.”) A federal district court in California initially denied MGM’s motion to dismiss the case based on the discovery rule, but MGM appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Last November, the Dramatists Guild co-signed and supported the Authors Guild in an amicus brief, in support of Starz’s position, recognizing the possibly devastating impact that a ruling in favor of MGM could have had on the rights of playwrights, composers, lyricists, and librettists. Had the Court overturned the California district court’s finding in favor of MGM, dramatists would have been deprived of the ability to collect damages when they, through no fault of their own, had not become aware of the infringement for at least three years.

Such a change in the law would have harmed artists at a time when they are under increasing financial pressure and when their copyrights are increasingly difficult to enforce in a digital world where infringement is already widespread. Happily, the Court upheld the discovery rule, protecting dramatists everywhere. 

The amicus brief was filed at the initial behest of the Authors Guild, joined by the DG and the other artists’ organizations, by pro bono counsel Benjamin H. Diessel, Nathan E. Denning, and Michael Rondon of Wiggin & Dana LLP.
Career Training Events
Business Basics:

A Bridgerton
Too Far?

A Q&A with the DG on Adaptations, Copyright Infringement and Fair Use
Thursday, August 18

Atlantic Time: 4pm
Eastern Time: 3pm
Central Time: 2pm
Mountain Time (D): 1pm
Mountain Time (S): 12pm
Pacific Time: 12pm
Alaska Time: 11am
Hawaii Time: 9am

Join us for an online conversation on the best practices for adapting existing material into a play or musical, in order to avoid infringing on someone else's intellectual property.

There's been a lot of talk about copyright infringement in the news lately; the Guild wants to ensure that you are informed, empowered, and set up for success in your own creative work. To that end, DG Executive Director of Business Affairs Ralph Sevush and DG Director of Business Affairs Jessica Lit will answer your questions pertaining to copyright infringement, adaption, general intellectual property law, and more.

Please send us your questions in advance by emailing our Communications Content Manager Sarah Rebell at
Marketing Tips
and Tricks for Theatre Writers
Thursday, August 17

Atlantic Time: 8pm-9:15pm
Eastern Time: 7pm-8:15pm
Central Time: 6pm-7:15pm
Mountain Time (D): 5pm-6:15pm
Mountain Time (S): 4pm-5:15pm
Pacific Time: 3pm-4:15pm
Alaska Time: 2pm-3:15pm
Hawaii Time: 12pm-1:15pm

On Wednesday, August 17, 2022, please join the Ohio's Regional Rep, Mike London, for an informal evening learning Marketing Tips and Tricks for Playwrights. This event is free and open for all to attend.
Patrick Gabridge, Producing Artistic Director of Plays in Place, will share his "Top Marketing Tips and Tricks" for playwrights. Patrick is the Founder of The Playwrights’ Submission Binge and the author of a wide range of plays, novels and screenplays. His work has been produced across the globe.
Many of us are passionate about our writing but not so much the business of getting it out there for the world to see and hear. For those of us who don’t like the process, don’t know where to start, and would like some encouragement, this evening can be an opportunity to learn about marketing your own work. Patrick will share his best tips; Mike will have a few questions; and then it's on to your questions in a relaxed Q&A.
This event is presented as a collaborative effort of the Ohio Playwrights Circle and the Dramatists Guild, and is available to members and non-members alike.

Please send us your questions in advance by emailing our Communications Content Manager Sarah Rebell at
Member Newsroom
Focus Center Stage

50 Years of the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive
At the heart of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts is a collection of videorecordings which has documented and preserved theatre history, America’s diverse and expansive culture, and revolutionized theatre research. The Theatre on Film and Tape Archive (TOFT) has long been recognized as the foremost collection of videorecorded live theatre performances in the world, and 2020 marked its 50th anniversary. The Library for the Performing Arts is celebrating this landmark collection with an exhibition that opened on July 14, 2022 (delayed due to the pandemic). 

The exhibition, curated by Patrick Hoffman with assistance from Wendy Norris, will highlight various aspects of the archive, including exciting excerpts from its unparalleled video collection, rare photographs of the creatives behind some of these memorable productions, awards presented to TOFT through the years, and images of its founder, staff, and video crews who have worked over the past 50 years to create the collection it is today.

As the TOFT Archive marks its 50th anniversary, it is more determined than ever to fulfill its mission to nurture talent, inspire creativity, encourage participation in the theatre and the performing arts, and preserve a vital cultural heritage for future generations.
Guild of America Awards Night 2022
On July 25, the Dramatists Guild held our annual awards night, celebrating playwrights, composers, lyricists, librettists, and our colleagues in the theatre industry.

The evening was hosted by DG Council President Amanda Green, with special performances by DG Council member Adam Gwon, as well as Darius de Haas (As You Like It), and Alex Vinh (Kimberly Akimbo). Chris Fenwick accompanied on piano. Additional presenters included DG Council members Deborah Zoe Laufer and Kia Corthron, and 2020 DG Lanford Wilson Award winner Madhuri Shekar. 

Jeanine Tesori received the 2022 Frederick Loewe Award for her work on Kimberly Akimbo. Given by the Frederick Loewe Foundation, this award is presented annually by the Dramatists Guild Council to a composer in recognition of their outstanding achievement writing a theatrical score. 

Kirsten Childs received the 2022 Flora Roberts Award. Administered by the Dramatists Guild Foundation, this award is presented to a dramatist in recognition of distinguished work in the theatre and to encourage the continuation of that work.

Sanaz Toossi received the 2022 Horton Foote Award. Sponsored by the Richenthal Foundation, this award is presented to a dramatist whose work seeks to plumb the ineffable nature of being human.

Nancy García Loza and Ren Dara Santiago shared the 2022 Lanford Wilson Award. Established by the estate of Lanford Wilson, the award is presented by the Dramatists Guild Council to a dramatist (or dramatists) based primarily on their work as an early career playwright(s).

Martyna Majok received the 2022 Hull-Warriner Award for her play Sanctuary City.  This award is the only award given by dramatists to dramatists; it is presented annually by the Dramatists Guild Council to an author or team of authors in recognition of their play dealing with controversial subjects involving the fields of political, religious, or social mores of the times. 

Alice Childress posthumously received the 2022 DLDF Defender Award. Presented by the Dramatists Legal Defense Fund, this award recognizes efforts in support of free expression in the dramatic arts.

Pearl Cleage and Tina Howe received 2022 Dramatists Guild Lifetime Achievement Awards. This award is presented by the Dramatists Guild Council in recognition of a distinguished lifetime of achievement in theatrical writing.
DG Resources
DG Guides for Dramatists
Art of Negotiating Theatre Contracts

It can be daunting to negotiate with a producer, theatre, or school that wants to produce your play or musical. But it is important to advocate for yourself so that you receive the treatment that you deserve. 

Our guide on The Art of Negotiating Theatre Contracts will ensure that you know your rights as a dramatist, that you understand the current market, and that you recognize what you get in a negotiation.
Devised Theatre Resource Guide

What happens when a theatrical collaboration expands beyond traditional definitions? Discover resources designed to help you form appropriate relationships with co-authors, devisors, and sponsoring theatres in the context of devised theatre! 

This guide summarizes the ways in which devised theatre is made and offers contractual templates that ensure the equitable participation of the parties involved. 
Broadway Contract Guide

Learn all about the Dramatists Guild's Broadway Approved Production Contract in this APC booklet guide!

Discover when to obtain the APC for First-Class Productions, how to use the APC, and what APC certification means. This guide also includes important information on the rights and responsibilities of DG members when they are produced on Broadway, such as Guild assessments and our Broadway Consultation member benefit.
Best Practices for Contests and Festivals

What should you look out for when trying to decide whether to apply to a contest or festival?

This guide offers best practices that playwrights, composers, lyricists, and librettists can consider when weighing submission opportunities for contests and festivals, so that they will be empowered to make informed submission choices. (Please be advised that these guidelines reflect ideal industry practices, not current minimum standards.) 
Continuing Education Courses for Dramatists
It's back to school season. This fall, retool your craft at the Dramatists Guild Institute.

Registration for the Fall 2022 semester opens Friday, August 12.

Classes begin September 12.

We're offering eleven fall writing courses at the Dramatists Guild Institute. Whether you're looking to develop a new skill like writing theatre for a young audience (TYA), looking to adapt material for the stage, or seeking new ways to tackle challenging topics, you'll find a course that helps you expand your talents and hone your writing!
The Dramatist
The Season of Reemergence Issue
Welcome to The Season in Review! This issue features reports from our representatives and ambassadors and members across the country. In this season of reemergence, we also pay tribute to those members who’ve had world premiere productions between May 1, 2021 – April 30, 2022. Due to limited space and resources, the productions listed in this issue are not comprehensive and all have been self-reported.

Also in this issue, Lisa Rafferty explains “What I’m Teaching Now,” Christine Toy Johnson tells readers “Why I Joined the Guild,” and Donna Hoke crafts the first-ever crossword for The Dramatist.
Contracts and Best Practices
Download a DG Best Practice, Model Contract, or Guide Today!
Dear Business Affairs
We would like you to be informed, educated, and well-equipped when you navigate the business side of theatre. There are so many questions that writers have about this industry; we want to bring those questions and answers directly to you. Dear Business Affairs features DG members' most pressing questions, answered by staff in our BA department. 
Question: When is it appropriate to “pull the rights” to your show? 
We recognize that the theatre industry is not perfect; often theatres and theatre companies that are intended to be safe spaces for collaboration turn into the exact opposite. We are also living through a time in which theatremakers of all kinds are more empowered to speak up than ever before in response to violations of their rights while working in the industry. For the dramatist specifically, this has also brought up the issue of when it is appropriate to pull the rights to your play or musical. 
First, it is important to acknowledge the difference between dramatists and most of the other personnel working on a production: dramatists are not members of a union that can collectively bargain on their behalf. While the Guild has promulgated its Dramatist's Bill of Rights for nearly a century, and its advocacy efforts have certainly helped to make these rights the industry standard, these rights are not guaranteed unless they are part of a written production contract.

Without a contract, which includes provisions safeguarding your authorial rights (such as the right to be present, script and artistic approvals, and the reversion of rights), even if you feel as if those authorial rights have been violated, you are without recourse. To reiterate, you should always make sure that you enter into a written production contract for any production, whether it is a small community theatre or a well-known professional one, because your contract governs your relationship during the process as well as how to get out of that relationship in the event it goes south. 
In order to “pull the rights” to your show (i.e., terminate the production rights that you have granted to a producer), you must have a contractual right to do so or else you face potential liability. A contractual right to pull your show can take many forms; the most common form is when the producer is in breach of a particular provision of the contract and that provision provides for the author’s right to terminate in the event of such a breach.

For instance, in both the DG Model Premiere Production Agreements and the DG Model Licensing Agreements, there is explicit language which provides that any violation of the provisions which safeguard authorial rights shall be deemed sufficient cause for author to immediately terminate all rights granted to the producer without any liability.
Therefore, if you feel that your rights have been violated, your first step is to look to your contract to determine the following:

  • If the producer is in breach of their obligations;
  • If you have the right to terminate the contract based on such breach, or a right to terminate for any other reason;
  • If you are released from any liability if you exercise your termination rights. 

If the producer is not in breach of the contract, and there is no other contractual right on which you can base your termination, yet you choose to terminate the contract and “pull the rights” to your show anyway, then the producer may have a valid breach of contract claim against you. 

Or the producer can simply ignore you and produce the show anyway, because they have a contractual right to do so. If they produce the play without a license, however, they face potential liability for both contractual damages and copyright infringement claims, which can be significant.  
You might think that you are safe to pull a show if you have no written contract with the producer, but that is not so. Contracts don’t have to be in writing; they can be implied by a course of conduct by the parties that indicates a meeting of the minds on the essential terms of a contract. And while you may be able to terminate such an oral or implied agreement, a producer may have raised funds, invested resources (money, staff time, materials, etc.), and entered into contracts with other parties (actors, landlords, directors, etc.) in reasonable reliance on their agreement with you. Should you pull the show without a contractual right to do so (including a release from any liability for doing so), you may be liable for the “reliance damages” suffered by the producer because of your actions.  
Even when there is no breach, can you pull the rights if the producer’s circumstances have changed to such an extent that allowing them to produce the show would damage your own reputation or work?

Production contracts don’t have “morals clauses,” but there may be an argument to nullify a contract because fulfilling it would create greater liability for the author than was originally bargained for, changing an essential term of the contract… the cost to the author. This, however, is a theoretical legal argument you should explore with your own attorney before taking such an action.  
As you can see, the decision to pull production rights that you have granted to a producer is not a simple one. While the BA HelpDesk is not able to review your signed contracts to help determine whether you have a valid claim for termination, the attorneys at the Guild can always review your unsigned contracts to measure them against prevailing industry standards and give you tools to negotiate provisions that include the right to terminate without liability in the event of a breach of the agreement.
For further reading:

Need Business Advice? The Business Affairs Help Desk is DG's support portal that allows us to answer your business related questions more quickly and efficiently. You can submit a query, or request a contract review, via our ticketing system. 
The DG Glossary
We are writers; what we love to do most... is write! Second to that, we love rehearsing in the room with performers and getting to see our work fully realized and produced.

However, as writers, we will inevitably have to deal with the non-creative, not-so-fun, but very essential part of our industry-- the business. We might come across some complicated looking terms, such as subsidiary rights, copyrights, or collaboration agreement.

What do these terms mean, and why do we need to know them? The DG Glossary is your handy go-to guide on important terms that every writer of the theatre should know.
World Premiere

A “world premiere” is the first professional production (not a reading or a workshop) of a theatrical work.

An organization’s request for world premiere rights should only be considered if it is presenting a full professional production (including sets, costumes, lighting, etc.) for at least twenty-one performances, with an official press opening, with tickets sold to the general public (including subscribers), and with no less than standard royalties paid to the author.

Theatres and producers will ask for the right to bill a production as a world premiere in order to help market the work. It also gives a theatre greater visibility and prestige in its community, enabling it to increase its subscriber base and enhancing its fundraising efforts.

A “world premiere” is therefore a valuable commodity for the dramatist, but it is a commodity that can only be used once. In fact, some theatres may not even produce “second productions” of relatively new works, so it is an important subject of negotiation with a theatre.

Dramatists, therefore, may want to withhold world premiere rights if the theatre’s production does not meet the definition stated above, or if they have another production opportunity that might offer greater benefit.

If the play is an older work, the theatre will be able to search online and discover that it has already had a world premiere production, so it is not recommended for a writer to mislead a theatre about their work’s production status. However, in that case, a writer may still negotiate for the work to be billed as a “[City] Premiere” or as a “Regional Premiere.” Similarly, if the play has been significantly rewritten since its last production, but still has the same title, this production could be billed as the world premiere of the new adaptation of [title of play].

If you are a Guild member with questions about world premieres, please visit our HelpDesk online: We will be happy to assist you further.

Related Articles: 

Need Business Advice? The Business Affairs Help Desk is DG's support portal that allows us to answer your business related questions more quickly and efficiently. You can submit a query, or request a contract review, via our ticketing system.