Campus / News / Theater / November 17, 2010

Sources: Additions made to Medea

*Name has been changed because of possible repercussions in the theatre department.

Although the production of “Medea” earlier this term was public, the script for the production has been withheld from the public. A possible reason for this may be that uncredited adaptations to the script were made by director and Visiting Professor of Theatre Jeff Grace.

Grace has declined to be interviewed by The Knox Student (TKS) or to provide a copy of the script; however, he said after opening night, “We did a little bit of adapting just to fit the concept.”

Junior Nellie Ognacevic, the lead role, said that she “was given lines” by Grace and that she did not know the origin of the lines. However, she did state, “What we were presenting to the public is what we wanted to present and what we wanted to communicate to the public.”

Furthermore, Interim Head of the Theater Department at the University of Illinois Tom Mitchell said that failing to identify the addition of lines to a script or any major changes to a script is “ethically improper or ethically questionable, but I wouldn’t say it’s academically dishonest.”

The playbill for “Medea” does not specify anywhere that it is an adaptation of the Robin Robertson version of the script, but no actions were taken that violated the contract with the publisher. The front of the playbill reads that the version of the play used is “Euripides ‘Medea’ A New Translation by Robin Robertson,” which is the title stipulated by the contract.

A source in the production, Pat*, has stated that additions were made to the script. “I don’t think [Jeff] was trying to hide the fact that changes were made or that things were added, whether written by him or otherwise” Pat said.

Pat continued to say, “After productions that I’ve been involved with, a performance script would be available,” and “I don’t fully understand why this instance would be different.”

Another source in the production, Taylor,* stated that “Of course I can’t imagine people would care [to withhold a script from the public].”

Furthermore, Taylor said that “I think directors often take licenses that may not be acceptable, and [the withholding of scripts] may happen more often because of that.”

However, Taylor added that the changes to his or her scene in the script were miniscule.

In regards to the addition of lines to a script, Mitchell said, “Sometimes a director will make that kind of change and identify it that way, saying that ‘this is an adaptation of this work by the director and production team.’ I’d say on the playbill.”

“It [the addition of lines without citation] is probably not kosher. A writer’s words are their work, and the same thing with a translator; what they have written really represents them and changing that is a real violation,” Mitchell continued. It is worth noting that Robertson’s “Medea” is not in fact a translation and is actually a published adaptation written by Robertson.

Pat said, speaking about the process of adaptation, “If certain things didn’t work with a certain view of how things work—there were added lines from Jeff.”

Speaking about the addition of lines to a classical play, Mitchell said, “I’ve been directing for 25 years. I’ve directed classics plays as well as contemporary, and I’ve seen this kind of thing before. I’ve edited things before to move the play along, but not usually inserting.”

Although there are multiple versions of the final stage script that was used, both hard copies belonging to the director, stage manager and other members of the production and an electronic transcription containing all changes made to the script, none of these were made available to TKS.

Professor and Chair of Theater Liz Carlin-Metz that the production of the play was “a public event with many persons sitting there; I think that’s obvious.”

Carlin-Metz said that she could not speculate about why the script was not made publicly available, even though the production was public. She said, “I have no authority to provide [a copy of the script] to you. It is professor Grace’s and [the fact that Carlin-Metz could not provide it] means nothing.”

The contract between the department and the publishing company was made available by Carlin-Metz and there are no contractual restraints regarding the addition of material to the script or the subtraction of lines. “There is no stipulation in the contract regarding the addition or subtraction of lines,” Carlin-Metz said.

Ognacevic said that “As an actor we always turn in our scripts to the department—it is their property, and we are basically borrowing from the department.”

Pat said, “Throughout the process, it was clear to everyone that we would pull from multiple different sources.” However, he said that, “if it’s a question about lifting—the program is a piece of dramaturgy; there are no rules about citing or anything about the text…I’ve been told that every rule was followed regarding contracts and legality, and that there was no wrongdoing.”

Ben Reeves

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