Playwright Sues Theaters Over Rewrites

     CHICAGO (CN) – A playwright claims in court that the Harold Washington Chicago Cultural Center defrauded her and breached contract by firing her for refusing to approve script changes, but using her work and name in the production.
     La Savine Givens sued Tobacco Road Inc., the Harold Washington Cultural Center and Theater 47 in Cook County Court.
     Givens describes herself in the complaint as “a playwright who has written several plays and is known as a talented artist.”
     She claims that Tobacco Road and the Cultural Center hired her in August 2012 “to create and direct and adaptation of the film ‘Imitation of Life'” for the stage.
     The 1959 movie starring Lana Turner and Sandra Dee was about “a struggling young actress with a 6-year-old daughter, [who] sets up housekeeping with a homeless black widow and her light-skinned 8-year-old daughter who rejects her mother by trying to pass for white,” according to the movie industry website IMDB.com.
     Givens says in the complaint that she “spent countless hours drafting the script, ‘Imitation of Life,’ conducting casting and scheduling rehearsals.”
     Rehearsals began on Nov. 19, 2012. Givens claims she “conducted several rehearsals between then and Dec. 18, and “produced her script to defendant Tobacco Road, Inc. and defendant Harold Washington Cultural Center to their satisfaction.”
     Givens’ attorney Travis Life told Courthouse News in an interview: “Ms. Givens, who has directed and written several plays in the area, had an agreement with Harold Washington and their management company Tobacco Road to direct and present the play. She had done casting, formed the script, done rehearsals, was well into the process of having the play created and produced. What we are arguing is that during that time Harold Washington began conversations with Theatre 47 for them to direct it. They were lured by that and let Ms. Givens go.”
     The complaint states: “Among the exclusive rights granted to plaintiff La Savine Givens is the right to license her work for reproduction and perform.
     “On or about December 15, 2012, defendant Tobacco Road, Inc. and defendant Harold Washington Cultural Center sent plaintiff La Savine Givens’ script to John Ruffin of Theater 47 for his review and rewrites without plaintiff La Savine Givens permission.
     “On or about December 2012, defendant Tobacco Road Inc. and defendant Harold Washington Cultural Center through Jamalita Tillman began discussions with defendant Theater 47 through John Ruffin to take over as the director of the play ‘Imitation of Life.’
     “On or about December 2012, defendant Theater 47, through John Ruffin, offered to take over the director’s role for the play ‘Imitation of Life.’ During this time, defendant Theater 47 had knowledge of the agreement between plaintiff La Savine Givens and defendant Tobacco Road Inc. and defendant Harold Washington Cultural Center.
     “On December 17, 2012, defendant Tobacco Road, Inc. and defendant Harold Washington Cultural Center presented plaintiff La Savine Givens with fliers which listed plaintiff La Savine Givens and Jamalita Tillman as authors of the play, ‘Imitation of Life’ without the plaintiff’s consent. Defendant Tobacco Road Inc. and defendant Harold Washington Cultural Center requested plaintiff La Savine Givens to allow rewrites of her script ‘Imitation of Life.’ Plaintiff La Savine Givens refuse[d] to permit rewrites and defendant Tobacco Road Inc. and Defendant Harold Washington Cultural Center fired plaintiff La Savine Givens.”
     After firing her, the defendants hired Theater 47 to direct the play and rewrite her script, Givens claims. The play is scheduled to open on Feb. 8.
     Attorney Life said in the interview: “They’re taking her direction and even part of her cast, taking her work with a few edits and producing it under her own name.
     “The Harold Washington Cultural Center has and continues to publicize this play, which they are intending to showcase on Feb. 8 under Ms. Givens name. They are having press out there available to the public with her name, drawing in people who are familiar with her work and who will think this is her work when in fact she is no longer associated with it,” Life told Courthouse News.
     The complaint states: “At no time did any of the defendants seek permission to use or alter plaintiff La Savine Givens’ script ‘Imitation of Life’ …
     “Defendants Tobacco Road Inc. and Harold Washington Cultural Center continue to use the plaintiff’s name to promote and sell tickets for the play ‘Imitation of Life’ without the plaintiff’s permission.”
     Givens seeks an injunction forbidding Tobacco Road from performing the play, and damages for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, tortious interference and fraud.
     She is represented by Travis Life.

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