Inconceivable: ‘My Princess Bride’ halted after threat of lawsuit

This post has been updated.

There was a lot of love for Joe Brack's one-man show "My Princess Bride" after it debuted at the Fringe Festival this summer -- so much so that Brack and director Matty Griffiths decided to remount the production. But not everyone was a fan of the idea.


Audiences may not be able to see Joe Brack’s carefully-choreographed solo swordfights for "My Princess Bride." (Rachel Klem)

After receiving a cease-and-desist letter (the pair is not ready to say from whom, although people can probably guess), the play has been put on hold until further notice. Griffiths and Brack initially hoped to charge on, given that the play is really about Brack's own upbringing and his love for the book and movie. But, for the moment, the pair is taking the better-safe-than-sorry approach as they examine their options.

Before mounting the show, which the two men subsequently took on the road, Griffiths did some research to ensure they weren’t infringing on copyright, and they were were “comfortable and confident it was fair use,” he says.

“It’s not a ‘Princess Bride’ redux,” Brack says. “That’s why the title is ‘My Princess Bride.’ It’s the journey of my life.”

While Brack does snippets of re-enactments, he intersperses such scenes with commentary. For example, during a solo parody of the iconic swordfight between Inigo Montoya and the man in black, Brack explains some of the history behind the obscure names of fencers that are thrown around in the dialogue.

But there is also plenty of personal material in the show: At one point Brack talks about the death of his grandmother in 2012.

The men are especially confused, because “My Princess Bride” neither shines a negative light on its source material nor constitutes a big-time production. With four performances a week for four weeks, Brack estimates that 1,000 people might have seen the show.

“In that scenario, we would have broken even -- at best,” Brack says.

The law firm that emailed the cease-and-desist letter to Brack, Griffiths and Capital Fringe, which was to host the show, has not yet returned a request for comment.

While Brack and Griffiths stand by their belief that they have done nothing wrong, they had to cancel the show out of a sense of “caution and prudence,” according to Griffiths, but more importantly because venues are understandably frightened by the risk. The men say that if another theater is willing to host them, they will mount the show.

In the meantime, the duo is awaiting word from their own attorney on next steps. Brack (who didn’t realize he was wearing a black T-shirt with a faux nametag that reads “Hello my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die”) has conflicted feelings. After exalting “The Princess Bride” for so many years, he says he feels lost.

“I’m gutted,” Brack says. “The past two days have been so hard. And whenever I’ve been bummed out and sad, I watch ‘The Princess Bride,’ and I can’t even do that now.”

He owns three copies of the book, and he’s reversed them in his bookcase to hide the titles.

“It feels like I’ve lost a friend,” he says.

Washington-area native Stephanie Merry covers movies and pop culture for the Post.

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