The license to "The Normal Heart" has been withdrawn from the Studio Theatre because of a dispute between the playwright, Larry Kramer, and the theater. According to the Samuel French Co., Kramer's New York representative of subsidiary rights for the play, the action was taken at the playwright's request.
Last week the Studio announced that it had secured the rights to Kramer's work, which focuses on the early days of the AIDS crisis in New York, and would stage a Washington premiere May 14.
According to Kramer, rights to "The Normal Heart" were acquired by Joy Zinoman, artistic and managing director for the Studio, with the understanding that Jim Nicola, producing associate for Arena Stage, was to direct the play.
The Studio recently announced that Ben Cameron, literary manager for Playmaker's Repertory Company in Chapel Hill, N.C., was to direct "The Normal Heart."
"The play was given to Jim to direct the Washington production wherever he wanted to do it," Kramer said. "I understood that Studio would honor that. For this woman [Zinoman] to perform this act . . . it's just unconscionable!"
Nicola, who had served as casting assistant in New York for the Public Theatre's production of "The Normal Heart," which closed Sunday after 317 performances, said, "I don't want to say anything on it." Nicola is now directing the Studio Theatre's production of "Landscape of the Body."
"There was no agreement [with Kramer] whatsoever about who the director would be," Zinoman said yesterday. "My deal is with Samuel French."
Zinoman said Kramer telephoned her yesterday, "screaming and yelling at me, saying he was withdrawing the rights."
Zinoman also said she called Alleen Hussung, head of the professional licensing department at Samuel French, to ask, "What protection do I have?" and said that Hussung responded, "The playwright owns the play."
"We were advised to issue a license, and we issued a license," Hussung said. "We were then advised to pull the license, and we are pulling it at his [Kramer's] request."
"What protection does a theater have?" Zinoman said. "The answer was, precious little."
Kramer said there are currently no plans to stage "The Normal Heart" in Washington, adding, "I'm from Washington, and a production in Washington is important to me. I'm hopeful that another production will jell shortly."
"The Normal Heart" is now being presented in Los Angeles and Seattle. It will open at Baltimore's Center Stage Jan. 24.