Theatre Matters

Contemplations on the dramatic arts from a national perspective

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Steven Oxman has contributed to such publications as the Los Angeles Times, American Theatre, Stagebill, and, most frequently, Variety, for which he has written over 300 television and theatre reviews.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Poetics of Plagiarism

Malcolm Gladwell has a wonderful article in "The New Yorker" this week. It's about the plagiarism accusations surrounding Byrony Lavery's serial-killer play, "Frozen."

Lavery has been accused of "stealing" material from Gladwell's "New Yorker" profile on therapist Dorothy Lewis, who's suing Lavery. After a clear contemplation on copyright law in general, the piece moves into a meeting between Gladwell and Lavery, where Lavery apologizes and then discusses all the different fact-based inspirations for her play. It's an insightful look at the creative playwriting process itself, and it certainly counter-acts previous articles about Lewis's lawsuit.

What goes unsaid is that Gladwell has borrowed a bit from the structure of "Frozen," which also climaxes with a scene between a victim and perpertrator. It's a great essay: personal, thoughtful, and moving.