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Or just upload it to my head.

OK, a question: why doesn’t Samuel French or The Dramatists Play Service offer electronic editions of plays? I suppose what I actually mean is: why don’t they have, as part of the licensing deal, a requirement that the theater pay, oh, four bucks per cast member for an electronic edition?

It wouldn’t help me at all, as I type in the text as a start to the memorization process. And of course many actors will still for a long time want to have a paper script in hand during blocking—but it’s easy enough to print out sides for the scenes you are in, and for most parts in most plays, that would be easier and less paper-intensive than having a whole script. Or, of course, the licensing publisher can insist on the company purchasing both a paper and an electronic copy for each cast member; I don’t see a problem with that, myself.

I suppose that I am just assuming the demand. Presumably, the two companies have done (or certainly are capable of doing) actual market research. It’s just that the last two shows I have done have been adaptations of public domain works, the adaptations being done by people involved in the show, and so the electronic files were in the hands of the producers, who distributed them via email/download as well as in paper copies. For Rough Crossing, they were compelled to distribute paper copies only, which meant that (due to conflicts arising mostly from my not having quite finished the last show) YHB didn’t get a copy for two weeks after the casting announcement. I mean, I didn’t get a copy of the acting script; my employer has both the version published with On the Razzle and the Collected Works Volume Four, so I was able to begin work without waiting. Still. I would think, at this point, that there’s no need to wait.

It also seems to me that many actors—no, actors are of course different one to another, just like people, but many actors—are quite tech-happy. Not particularly clever or anything, just happy to adopt any new tools that will make our lives easier. Well, as long as they don’t interfere with our superstitions and prejudices, of course; and there’s the argument about microphones, etc, etc, but I can imagine many people finding a tremendous comfort in having a copy of the script on their telephone or netbook or e-reader, to scan while on trains and waiting in lines and even walking down the street.

It’s also possible, once you have the text electronically, to use software to check your memorization; if you don’t mind the typing, any reasonably current word processor will compare two documents and tell you where you have gone wrong. I don’t use a dictation system, but presumably that would be even easier—and if there isn’t a bit of software specifically for the purpose, then once playscripts were regularly distributed to casts, software would appear to fill the market. Right? Again, not that everybody would want it, just that enough people would want it to make it worthwhile, considering how easy it seems to be to implement.

Anyway, I was just wondering. It seems like such an obvious thing to me, and since Samuel French and DPS are making their real money (I assume) on licensing fees, I would imagine they would be in a better position to absorb the downsides of making their product available for easier copying. Of course, it could just be that the Standard Contract doesn’t allow it, and that the really prohibitive cost is rewriting the Standard Contract to make it allowable. And I don’t really know how those companies work; perhaps the individual playscript sales are enough of their product that having more copies around would hurt more than could be covered by the extra licensing money. Or perhaps theater companies would rise up in anger against having to pay for electronic copies of scripts that they neither want nor know how to use. Still. Doesn’t it seem, somehow, not right?

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.

Comments

In my dealings with the two play services, I have found, in general, that their whole operations are rather old fashioned. I would attribute that to a) there not being a whole lot of competition in the field that would force them to innovate, b) there not being enough money in innovation to make it too attractive to pass up, and c) their dealing for the most part with a clientele that does not generally have a great deal of electronic communication technology or knowledge at their disposal.

I am curious. How many people do you think make up the companies of Samuel French and Dramatists' Play Service? I could imagine them being as small as a dozen people each. Do you think I am radically underestimating? I would think that the ratio of small companies to very large play lists would make the production of electronic texts for their full catalogues a very large capital expenditure indeed.


For what it's worth (possibly very little) Samuel French has 12 employees listed on LinkedIn, and is described there as having a company size of "51-200 employees". They do run a couple of bookstores, so presumably there are cashiers and whatnot.

Certainly their website does not inspire the thought that they are up-to-date technologically. I note that they sell cast recordings, which are not available as digital downloads; if they were to take the next technological step I'd think that would be where to put their efforts.


I'm afraid I think of Samuel French as being run by the beardy guy and the mime, which might account for their being slow on the technological update. Also, it's only been a couple of years since I figured out that DPS was not Samuel French, but a different company entirely. So I guess I'm not really the guy to figure this stuff out.

Also, I'm afraid that (a) I assume that publishers are in possession of electronic files of all the works they publish, which isn't actually true I suppose, and (2) I think of the cost of converting those files to distributable files as negligible, which I know isn't true at all. Still.

Thanks,
-V.


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