The other day we got a request to make a change to Lindsay’s adaptation of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow:
I need the character of Icabod to be changed from a school teacher to something else. (Could he be an Honor student, a visiting scientist, poet, writer?)
I pitched it to Lindsay and she didn’t agree with the change. Primarily because the original is a classic and Icabod’s been a teacher for nearly 200 years now.
I started writing my reply but then curiosity got the better of me… Before sending my “no” response I wrote back to the director asking,
Out of curiosity, what’s the reasoning behind the change? He’s a schoolteacher in the original Washington Irving story.
The director’s reply:
There is a relationship between teacher and student which may offend some people.
Ah, I thought, so there is a good reason. Again we decided that the story has held up fine for the past 200 years and again I started to compose my “no” email. When researching my response I started reading the Wikipedia entry on the story. Then it struck me – Katrina isn’t Crane’s student (I had assumed she was, too!). She’s marrying age, well past grade school.
With that, our problem was resolved.
But if the director didn’t ask us first, just changed the text to suit his needs, then the play would have suffered. If I had flatly turned him down without asking more, then the production likely would have been canceled. Questions are more important than answers, especially in the theatre!
Another great example of this happened a few years ago.
We went to see a production of Tuna Fish Eulogy. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a ladder play. The text is read in columns as opposed of the traditional left-to-right format:
The cast did an admiral job with the script, but both Lindsay and I felt that they were a bit staccato with some of the text and for some reason we couldn’t pinpoint, thought there was something missing.
Meeting the cast later, there was endless discussion about the play and how hard they worked on the parts where Lindsay didn’t complete the sentences. When Lindsay asked what they were talking about, they showed her sections of the script where there were blank spaces where there should have been text!
We were both horrified.
It turns out that the software we were using at the time had randomly cut off text at the bottom of random columns.
There had been dozens of productions of the play before this point and nobody ever asked for clarification. Eeks!