What was Pike to do? People had already bought tickets — the 50-seat theater was sold out. She devised a plan. The show would go on, but to protect Gay City, she would redact all of the lines from Bad Jews.
That evening, 50 people crammed into Gay City's cramped and creaky auditorium. The small room was at capacity. The audience was murmuring and negotiating elbow room until suddenly through the speakers overhead a man's voice cut through the darkness and identified itself as Bruce Lazarus.
They were playing the voicemail he'd left on Pike's phone, the one that said the production we were all about to see was "illegal," and that Samuel French would "go after [their] presenter" if they went ahead with it. After the voicemail, silence filled the room. Then the sound of pages flipping. Then Pike appeared onstage. The spotlight hit her and she held her hands up to block her eyes from the intensity of the light. Then the light cuts out. Then the narrator voiced the first line of the play: “She enters.” She entered. The audience lost their shit.
The show went on. Whenever a line from Bad Jews came up, someone offstage would shout "redacted!" and Pike would go ahead miming the stage directions but not speaking the accompanying lines. The redactions led to moments of drama that hadn't existed before this external pressure from Samuel French.
"We were thrown this hurdle and we jumped it," Pike said after the show. Indeed, she had used a legal obstacle to her creative advantage, turning on its head the irony of silencing a one-woman play whose subject is the silencing of women.
Since that night, the creators of the play received two more cease and desist letters, one for lines it doesn't even contain. But is That’swhatshesaid in fact infringing anyone's copyright? Several parties have pointed out that the manner in which the play uses pre-existing content satisfies all the conditions of fair use: it is critical, transformative, innovative and parodic, and it doesn't hurt the market for Bad Jews or any of the other plays it mines for source material. The play is not infringing, which means the accusations are baseless. Rather, publishing titan Samuel French, and the authors whose plays it publishes, have threatened to shut down a tiny production whose message wrankles, criticizes and parodies them — all forms of expression that are explicitly protected by the First Amendment.
Watch this space for updates.