Critics Respond to Ban on Reviews for Pinter Production

News   Critics Respond to Ban on Reviews for Pinter Production
The American Theatre Critics Association has released a statement in response to the restriction on all press reviews for The Wooster Group's Los Angeles production of Harold Pinter's The Room.

"We do not recognize the right of any group, including the licensing company, author or estate, to restrict coverage of a public event," reads the announcement.

As previously reported, Samuel French, Inc., representing the wishes of the Harold Pinter estate, has placed a restriction on all press reviews for The Room, scheduled to run Feb. 4-14 at Redcat. The Pinter work made its New York debut in October last year without the restrictions.

"The American Theatre Critics Association strongly reaffirms our bedrock tenet that arts criticism is journalism," stated Wm. F. Hirschman, chair of the ATCA executive committee, in a statement published Jan. 31 on the ATCA website. "Therefore, the decision to review a production to which the public is invited with admission charged is at the discretion and judgment of journalists and their editors."

In speaking of the ban, Hirschman goes on to say: "This is objectionable behavior that tries to restrict not only artistic freedom of expression, but also freedom of the press. Second, it is foolish in its futility in this cyber world in which anyone’s opinion can go viral seconds after the curtain goes down."

Mark Murphy, executive director of Redcat, has similarly called the restrictions "highly unusual and puzzling." "This attempt to restrict critical discussion of such an important production in print and online is deeply troubling, with the potential for severe financial impact," he said in press statement. The Wooster Group was also informed that it did not have permission for a planned return engagement in New York or subsequent Paris run. Bruce Lazarus, executive director of Samuel French, commented, "Samuel French is a licensing agent representing the wishes of the Harold Pinter estate. The Wooster Group announced the Los Angeles production of Pinter’s The Room before securing the rights. Had The Wooster Group attempted to secure the rights to the play prior to announcing the production, the estate would have withheld the rights. Holding The Wooster Group in great esteem, the Pinter Estate decided to accommodate the company in their post-announcement request to present the play, with the provision that the production could not be promoted or reviewed. The Wooster Group appealed this decision. As a further courtesy, the Pinter Estate accommodated by allowing The Wooster Group to promote the production, but maintained their provision for no reviews of the production. As the licensing agent, Samuel French stands by the decisions of the Pinter estate and continues to advocate for authors’ rights to control their property as they see fit."

Prior to premiering at Redcat, The Wooster Group presented The Room in sold-out, advanced showings at The Performing Garage in New York, Oct. 28-Nov. 21, 2015. The production is helmed by Wooster's director Elizabeth LeCompte. Billed as a "comedy of menace," it is the playwright's first play, penned when he was just 27 years old.

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