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The WTFs: Director Bruce Lumpkin Completely Rearranges Hands on a Hardbody — Without Consulting the Writers

TheaterMania dives into the age-old conflict between creative liberties and the law while remembering this bizarre episode.

As 2014 draws to a close, TheaterMania looks back on some of the most jaw-dropping stories of the year with the 2014 WTFs.

The Broadway cast of Doug Wright, Trey Anastasio, and Amanda Green's Hands on a Hardbody, directed by Neil Pepe, at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.
(© Chad Batka)

Composer Amanda Green got a big surprise when she attended the June 12 Texas premiere of her 2013 Broadway musical, Hands on a Hardbody (co-composed by Trey Anastasio of Phish): The show she saw on the stage of Houston's Hobby Center (under the production of Theater Under the Stars, or TUTS) was not the one she remembered creating. The order of the songs and scenes had been rearranged, with characters swapping lines and lyrics.

According to Green, director Bruce Lumpkin approached her following the show and said, "You've got to admit, it works better." Green begged to differ and immediately contacted her collaborators, as well as Samuel French (the company that issues the license to Hardbody on behalf of the creative team).

"I live with the assurance that my scripts won't be altered in any way without my blessing. That's the one reward the theater can truly offer writers," Hardbody book writer Doug Wright told producer Howard Sherman, after explaining that his film scripts are not nearly as sacred. (Hollywood studios offer different rewards: They pay top dollar to hold the copyright to screenplays, ensuring their prerogative to cut, rewrite, and rearrange as they see fit.)

Whatever one's personal feelings about where the role of the playwright ends and that of the director begins (and how much money has to do with it), few people can deny one fact: Lumpkin egregiously violated the terms of the contract TUTS signed with Samuel French. On June 20, they sent Lumpkin and TUTS a cease and desist letter, shuttering the production for the remainder of its run.

Lumpkin is set to return to TUTS to direct Brooke Wilson in the world premiere one-woman musical Waiting for Johnny Depp (January 22-31). Unlike with Hardbody, he'll have to speak with the writers before he makes any changes. They'll be on hand.