I thought to myself, “I need to find a new play that I can get easily procure the full rights to.” A month later, I was at the gym and U2’s song “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” came on the radio. The lyrics spoke to me. As I listened, I realized, “I need to do this play – for myself, for my growth as an actor, and for my spirit.” I conceded.
Upon accepting the non-professional rights from the DPS, I was still determined to get the full rights. We began our 30-day rehearsal and secured a theater, but I continued relentlessly requesting the full rights.
While mounting the production, I was inspired to request letters of recommendation written by the heads of The Actors Studio in an attempt to compel Mr. Shanley – a member of the studio himself – to grant the full rights.
Graciously Martin Landau, Mark Rydell, Barbara Bain, and writer Lyle Kessler wrote personal letters to the DPS for Mr. Shanley on behalf of our production. I thought for sure this would be our break in securing the rights.
Meanwhile, our opening night drew closer. Since we couldn’t charge admission, I chose to turn the production into a charity event for The Big Brothers and Sisters of Los Angeles. A win-win: donations for a good cause and hopefully positive word-of-mouth for audience attendance.
As we rehearsed and dug deeper into the exploration of Danny and The Deep Blue Sea, we waited with baited breath to see if Mr. Shanley would release the professional rights to at least get press to review the play on opening night.
April 20, 2007 – opening night. The moment of truth… and still no word from Mr. Shanley. On a whim, I decided to call the DPS and give it one last shot. They answer and I ask, “Hi, I’m calling for an update about getting the professional rights released from Mr. Shanley?”
I wait with anticipation and nervous excitement. The rep responds with, “No, and stop calling and asking for the rights. Shanley is not going to give them to you, he has not released the rights for that play to Los Angeles in years.” I crumble and politely say, “I’m sorry, I hoped that the letters of recommendation would solidify our legitimacy.” The rep repeats, “No. Sorry – that’s it, no more.” I thanked him and hung up.
“Well, the show must go on!” I think to myself. I must move forward.
And we had a glorious opening night with a sold-out audience supported by friends, family, members of The Actors Studio, and The Big Brothers and Sisters of Los Angeles organization. The audience reception overwhelming – my dream and intuition were spot-on. This production was a true a success… but still no rights. My deeper ambition bore from my deeper truth, my yearning, my knowing. I will get those rights for this is my calling!
The following week, word spread throughout The Actors Studio of the success and praise of our show. To my delight, I learned that Martin Landau and Mark Rydell would attend the upcoming Saturday night performance. At the conclusion of the show that evening, Landau and Rydell were so moved that they offered to have The Actors Studio produce it. This was a huge compliment and further confirmation of my intuition, but I knew in my heart that even if the Studio produced the play for us, as a non-profit organization the same boundaries prevented the professional rights. I thanked them for the offer, however, we were already up and running here so I declined.
Martin Landau looked at me and said, “Well, we have to get Shanley to see this show, it will change his mind.”
Meanwhile, acclaimed writer Lyle Kesler also attended the play and shared, “Shanley – like all writers – is overly sensitive… even more sensitive than actors. It’s likely that he is afraid that if the play were to receive negative press, it could hurt his reputation. And Shanley has the film version of Doubt debuting this year, so he won’t risk it.”
All four weeks of our production played to sold-out audiences – just from word-of-mouth! On the second to the last weekend, I received a phone call at midnight on Sunday just as I was arriving home from the theater. It was our director, Michael.
He said, “I might have some good news. A friend of mine went to see Shanley’s play Doubt at The Pasadena Playhouse this past weekend and found in the play’s program an email for Shanley.” Michael continued, “Shanley offered his email to anyone who had a question or comments about the play to write him personally. If we can get a personal letter from Martin Landau and Mark Rydell directly to Shanley expressing their review of the play, it may finally get him to release the rights!”
Thrilled I exclaimed, “Yes, this is the universe guiding us to the goal!” But then I remembered that we only had one more week left before the show closed. I began to have doubt.