Time to Act
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Typography by Bekka Lindström for The Dramatist

Dear friends of free expression,

From cuts in arts funding and art education to proposed legislation by many states to restrict the content of our history and arts curricula in the furtherance of a racist and homophobic political agenda, the attack on free expression has not reached such a fevered pitch in recent memory. One step we urge you to take right now to fight back is to support the Dramatists Legal Defense Fund. Among its efforts in the past year, the DLDF has:

Published the College Cancellation Toolkit to help universities, students, and playwrights present controversial plays on campus and avoid, defuse and overcome attempts to cancel them;

Authored letters and public statements in support of individuals and institutions which have been the targets of attacks on free speech at universities and high schools, including cancelations of such plays as Down in Mississippi by Carlyle Brown (Texas Wesleyan University); Perfect Arrangement by Topher Payne (Quinnipiac College); Watermelon Hill by Lily Coyle (East Ridge HS, MN ), Be More Chill by Joe Iconis (Turlock HS, Modesto,CA), as well as our efforts to intervene in the recent cancelation of Paula Vogel’s Indecent (Anderson HS, Jacksonville FL), 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee by William Finn and Rachel Sheinkin (Cardinal HS, Middlefield OH), and Marian by Adam Szymkowicz (Carroll HS, Fort Wayne IN);

Arranged with our expanding network of law firms across the country for the pro bono representation of indigent dramatists dealing with legal issues related to their work, including issues of free expression, as well as organizing a legal clinic for playwrights with copyright concerns;

Established a quarterly DLDF newsletter to update donors, attorneys, and the public at large on our activities and about legal matters with particular impact on the theater industry;

Engaged in other educational activities, including a copyright registration demo with the Copyright Office and a joint statement with the Educational Theater Association to establish standards for protecting free expression when theatrical works are taught or presented at educational institutions;

Presented the 2022 DLDF’s “Defender Award” to playwright Alice Childress, upon the occasion of the Broadway premiere of Childress’ 1955 play, Trouble In Mind, the debut of which was delayed for nearly 70 years due to her refusal to rewrite her anti-lynching play at the request of the producers to render it a less challenging experience for the white Broadway audiences of the period;

Updated the Defender Database, which includes incidents of censorship of dramatic works and a mechanism for people to send us reports for future updates; and

Produced the first-ever Banned Together anti-censorship podcast in 2022, featuring performances of scenes and songs from banned and challenged theatrical works, with the upcoming 2023 podcast to be produced and directed by Raul Esparza and featuring performances by many other notable talents.

In addition to the new Banned Together podcast, the DLDF will continue these types of efforts and expand them to include such other activities as a presentation of the College Cancellation Toolkit at the ATHE conference this summer, production of a playwrights legal clinic in the fall in coordination with Columbia University, adaptation of the College Cancellation toolkit for use in high schools, and creation of a database to track “anti-drag” and “don’t say gay” legislation that is winding its way through state governments across the country.

Now, more than ever, it’s time to act. So, join the fight and make a tax-deductible donation to the Dramatists Legal Defense Fund … because words matter. thedldf.org

Ralph Sevush, Esq.
Ralph Sevush, Esq.

is an entertainment attorney. He’s been with the Dramatists Guild of America since 1997, and their Co-Executive Director and general counsel since June 2005. He is the Treasurer for the Dramatists Legal Defense Fund.