Patrick over at Backstage Jobs has an interesting post up about Horton Foote, playwright entitlement and authorial intent (h/t). He makes some interesting points but in the end winds up taking things a bit too far. He builds off of an interview he saw in which Horton Foote:
Horton Foote talks only to the director about the direction and acting of the production. He does not give actor notes to the actors, though he will answer any questions they ask him. If he does not agree with a particular choice, he will mention it to the director. That is as far as he goes. He lets the director make the final decisions about the production.
Mr. Foote said that he is always thrilled when someone wants to produce one of his plays. For him, it is an honor to see his work onstage. He enjoys watching each interpretation of his work, and said that he learns from each performance. It is never about getting an identical audience reaction or response performance after performance, or from all productions. For him, it is wonderful to see all the ways that his words are interpreted by those that read them or watch them performed.
This is placed in counterpoint with what he sees as a growing trend of playwrights taking greater control over their work:
This flies in the face of the current “if you want to do my work you must do it my way” movement that is being heard in the playwright side of the theatre world. So much emphasis on “they cut a line” or “they didn’t do the nude scene” or “they changed this to that” instead of the fact that the work was produced. Out of the thousands of plays available, only a handful are produced in any given year, and some never see the light of stage. Are today’s new playwrights so perfect that changing a single word in a script will throw the play in an entirely different direction? Is every word a work of art, never to be changed regardless of the discovered realities of actually putting it on the stage? Or are these playwrights so insecure about their writing that they fear the intended story will be lost if a single “i” has it’s dot removed?
There's a number of separate issues this raises, and I think it conflates a couple that should be kept separate. The first one is simply the idea of gratitude and humility amongst collaborators. Couldn't agree more. We are lucky to do this, and lucky to work with people who are also lucky to do this, and it's helpful to keep that in mind especially when the stress of, say, a bad Tech rehearsal or whatever threatens to destroy the tenuous bonds we've built with each other over a few weeks in a rehearsal room.