On Your Published Play Being Performed

A few months ago I get a "Google Alert" e-mail for the words "Oedipus for Kids", which is the title of a musical I wrote that was published earlier this year. A surprising e-mail at that, because it was the e-mail that alerted me that the premiere international production of "Oedipus" was to be performed in Windsor, Ontario. With the first performance starting about... Oh, 5 hours after I received the e-mail.

I'd gone to see Oe4K productions in the past, and I might have gone to see this one; there is no out-of-body experience like watching people you've never met perform songs and dialogue you'd written in a Cosi on 23rd street. Yet two things were keeping me from going:
  • The very very short notice, which is Internet-speak for very very high airfare.
  • Secondarily, how cold I remember Canada being. Because in a few hours I was headed to a friend's aunt's summer house for the weekend. So: hysterical songs in a gut-busting musical that will make you laugh until your ears bleed brain juice? Or the beach? The choice was pretty clear.
There isn't a blame game here. My publisher is a play publisher. And unfortunately, like anything else involving theater, the move into the digital age comes slow. So the custom content-management system with a massive DB-backend that does auto-messaging to opt-in authors when their works are performed? A little too expensive for the theater world, sad but accurate.

And what about the alternative? I might be interested to hear about how your version of Oedipus For Kids' "Sphinxy" puppet had an eyeball that popped out when he contracted the plague. But while I'd love an e-mail from a prospective production, I can't imagine that, say, Jason Robert Brown's response to an "I'm doing Last Five Years" e-mail is more than a "Great, you're production ten billion and seven".

But what I then learned is that even if there was this author-alert system, it isn't that simple. The theater licensing world gets something known as a "Window Shopper", which is somebody who requests a quote, or even a full out license with materials and the like, but at the end may not actually perform the show and could even switch shows entire just a few short weeks beforehand. So I could have received an e-mail, immediately booked my flight nice and early, and then contacted the theater company the week before to let them know that the author was going to show up.

And then promptly received an e-mail back saying, "What? You're not Jason Robert Brown."

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