When Draw The Circle premiered in 2016, the language around gender was less widely known than it is now and I insisted that my contracts include approval of marketing materials—“not to be unreasonably withheld”—so that I could, at the very least, look the press releases over before they went out and catch any accidental pronoun issues. I now make this a standard part of my contracts no matter what the play is about. Mostly, this request for approval is resisted by theatres. Mostly, marketing departments seem glad to have the playwright available as a resource. And occasionally, it has given me leverage when a theatre has seriously mismarketed my play. In one production of Draw The Circle, the theatre used a Pakistani flag as the image with the title written in Arabic script. I am Indian not Pakistani, and the play is not about the summer I learned how to be a Muslim, which is what the image seemed to indicate. Misleading marketing will lead to disappointed audiences and confused reviewers. A thoughtful conversation between the marketing department and the playwright is in everyone’s best interests. I am there to be a resource, not an obstacle.
– Mashuq Mushtaq Deen
Dramatist’s Bill of Rights
1. OWNERSHIP OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
2. OWNERSHIP OF INCIDENTAL CONTRIBUTIONS
3. SUBSIDIARY RIGHTS
4. FUTURE OPTIONS
6. BILLING CREDIT
7. ARTISTIC INTEGRITY
8. APPROVAL OF PRODUCTION ELEMENTS
9. RIGHT TO BE PRESENT
10. AUTHOR’S CONTRACT - The only way to obtain all the rights listed above is through a written contract with the theatre or producer, no matter how large or small the theatre or the production may be. In addition to ensuring these rights, such a contract should also provide a mechanism for arbitrating disputes (rather than incurring the expense of formal court proceedings), and should also prohibit the producer from assigning or licensing the rights granted under the contract (particularly any future options) without your prior written consent.
Playwrights, composers, lyricists, and librettists often struggle professionally in theatres due to the wide-ranging demands and expectations imposed on them by their producers (and other collaborators). It is essential, therefore, that dramatists know their rights, which the Dramatists Guild established in 1926 and has defended ever since.