11 Apr 2004 wardv   » (Journeyer)

Theatre and hypocracy

Went to see Othello tonight, in the Cutler Majestic Theatre in the Boston 'limo district' - aka the theatre district. This performance was part of "Shakespeare in American Communities, the largest tour of Shakespeare in U.S. history". It was excellent.

The playbill proudly mentioned that Mrs. Laura Bush and Jack Valenti - MPAA president and CEO - are honorary co-chairs of the tour.

Curiously enough, the playbill also described how Shakespeare based Othello on a collection of Renaissance 'novellas' dating back to 1565, by Giraldi Cinthio. The collection was entitled Hecatommithi. Shakespeare wrote Othello before 1606 - in other words, at most 50 years after Giraldi Cinthio created his work.

If Hecatommithi were to be written today, a future Shakespeare 50 years from now will not be able to use it - thanks to the latest extension (1998) of copyright duration, works are now locked up for the life of the author plus 70 years. Guess who was a great proponent of that extension, and continues to fight for expansion of copyright most vigorously? Guess who fought hard to deprive future great artists the building blocks for their works?

Of course, MPAA president and CEO, Jack Valenti.

Yet at the same time, still according to the playbill, the members of Mr. Valenti's organization have produced more than a dozen movies based on Othello. Of course, without payment of royalties no works will be allowed based on these movies for a long, long time...

Am I the only one who finds it slightly hypocritical that Mr. Valenti is now 'co-chairing' this tour of Shakespeare's great works?

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