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Adaptation Q

  • 1.  Adaptation Q

    Posted 10-23-2018 21:00
    Hi everyone--our school has a Christmas-themed arts night in December which will involve all of the fine and performing arts departments. The drama department has about 10 minutes to perform. If we reenacted a shortened version of a movie script, is that illegal? There are play versions already in existence, but they're too long.

    Also, in general, if you write an adaptation of a novel with no intention of publishing it (you're writing it to suit the cast you have because the published versions call for too many males, for example), is that also illegal? 

    Thanks! :\

    Maralie Medlin
    Theatre Arts Educator
    Gastonia, NC

  • 2.  RE: Adaptation Q

    Posted 10-24-2018 10:19
    While you could probably get away with doing a direct reading from a screenplay in a school assembly or adapting that screenplay, a play or a novel for a public performance without the intent to publish, both of these things are not legal.  Its a slippery slope into copyright violation.
    I haven't done it in a while, but a movie or novel parody play is not only fun, a good genre study and a great creative exploration for students, but it is also totally legal and protected under fair use because you are transforming the original work using humor to imitate, comment on, or criticize.  Weird Al and SNL can be great tools for teaching students about parody and its artistic and societal uses.

    Elana Kepner
    Theatre Instructor
    The Oakwood School
    Greenville NC

  • 3.  RE: Adaptation Q

    Posted 10-24-2018 14:46
    Also, if you choose something in the public domain, you can do pretty much whatever you want with it. Adapt it, cut it, modernize it. That could be really fun for your students!

    Cassy Maxton-Whitacre
    Theatre Department Coordinator
    Fishersville VA

  • 4.  RE: Adaptation Q

    Posted 10-24-2018 18:36
    Screenplays are VERY copywritten and it is difficult to acquire permission to perform them.  Warner Brothers, as an example, does not allow any of their scripts to be used without permission from the Studio, the Producers and the screenwriter(s).  In some cases you also need to acquire permission from whomever originally registered the property with WGA. (Writer's Guild of America). 

    Kathleen Conner
    California State Thespians CFO

    Sent from my BlackBerry Smartphone on the Verizon 4G LTE Network

  • 5.  RE: Adaptation Q

    Posted 10-24-2018 19:11

    Performing an adaptation of a film isn't legal, though it's possible that if you wrote the production company, they might give you permission for a one-off performance of it at school.

    You are welcome to write a stage adaptation of a long as it stays on your hard drive or in a drawer somewhere. ;-) But for any performance or public sharing of the material, you need permission. Again, it's possible that they may give you permission to do a one-off version of it at school, but you have to ask first.

    Parody is indeed an exception, and, as was noted previously on the thread, if you use something in the public domain, you can do whatever you want with it.


    Jonathan Dorf
    Playwright/ Co-founder of YouthPLAYS/ Co-chair of The Alliance Of Los Angeles Playwrights
    Los Angeles CA

  • 6.  RE: Adaptation Q

    Posted 10-25-2018 08:25
    Regarding adapting a novel or a play--

    It all depends upon copyright. If the work is old enough, you may do what you want without asking anyone's permission.

    Shakespeare and the Bible come to mind, as well as Dickens and other writers who are more recent. Ten minutes is a short time.

    Then you can have the gender of character or actor that works for you and your group.

    You can also update the public domain material in any other way that works for you.

    Nathan Rosen
    Baltimore MD

  • 7.  RE: Adaptation Q

    Posted 10-24-2018 21:38
    Write yourself an all-female Christmas Carol. Dickens is in the public domain. Adapting a film without permission is a really bad idea, but I suspect you already knew that.
    Billy Houck
    Theatre Teacher, Retired
    Carmichael, CA

  • 8.  RE: Adaptation Q

    Posted 10-25-2018 10:48
    I am in the same situation.

    The past 2 years- I did an adaptation of The Gift of the Magi, and an adaptation of a children's book  Seven Spools of Thread  ( about Kwanzaa).  I would be happy to pass either along to you.  This year I'm adapting A Christmas Carol... it will be a comedy.

    Gina Minyard
    Theatre Magnet Director
    Dayton, OH

  • 9.  RE: Adaptation Q

    Posted 10-25-2018 11:53

    It depends on the work on both cases.  If the novel is in public domain- knock yourself out.  If not,  you need permission from the publisher and/or author.  If the movie script is available for use for free, again- knock yourself out. Otherwise you need permission. 



    Break a leg and may all your theatre seats be filled,


    Kelly M. Thomas

    Department of Theatre

    Dr. Ralph H. Poteet High School

    3300 Poteet Drive

    Mesquite, Texas 75150




  • 10.  RE: Adaptation Q

    Posted 10-25-2018 13:07
    What about "scenes from..."? Can you ever do a presentation of student work (no admission/no profit) that's a compilation of scenes from various sources and/or excerpts from larger works?

    Maralie Medlin
    Theatre Arts Educator
    Gastonia, NC

  • 11.  RE: Adaptation Q

    Posted 10-25-2018 13:21
    Not without permission/royalty.

    I know it's 'done' all the time by groups that don't follow due diligence, and if there's no publicity it's hard to "get caught,' and school theater doing a free production isn't exactly a high priority target. 

    All that said, it's still unethical/illegal, and I think it's important to set a strong example for the students.

    Josh Kauffman
    Winfield AL

  • 12.  RE: Adaptation Q

    Posted 10-27-2018 11:39
    What Josh said. People do "scenes nights," but it's not legal, and it sends completely the wrong message to students, who should be taught respect for their fellow artists, the creators of the work.


    Jonathan Dorf
    Playwright/ Co-founder of YouthPLAYS/ Co-chair of The Alliance Of Los Angeles Playwrights
    Los Angeles CA