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Rent Appeal: D-Day Nears...


The final day of Decision is now apparently in sight in Lynn Thomson's 16-month legal battle for a well-deserved share of the profits of Rent. Late last week, the Federal Appeals Court denied a motion, filed by the heirs of principal Rent author Jonathan Larson, to further delay Thomson's appeal.

According to court papers, the Larson heirs asked for the delay because Allan Larson, Jonathan's father, "is required to be in London...to assist in the coordination of the rehearsal of the London production of Rent." In rejecting the motion, the Court set March 26 as the firm date for final oral arguments in the lawsuit.

Naturally, the attorneys for Thomson are eager to present their case to the appellate court. As lead counsel Russell Smith explained in an interview today with Talkin' Broadway, "When the Larson Heirs turned down Lynn's extremely modest settlement proposal for only two per cent of the author's share of royalties, one of their lawyers bragged that it would take three years for Lynn to see a dime." Now, sixteen months later, Smith points out that "the lower court already has found that Lynn co-wrote the current version of Rent, and we now are hopeful that the Court of Appeals soon will declare that she has a right to share in the rewards."

Backed by The National Writers Union, playwrights Tony Kushner and Craig Lucas, Professor Mark Bly (the Chairman of the Playwriting Department at the Yale School of Drama), Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, several of Jonathan's closest colleagues and friends, and a host of theater professionals and copyright experts, Thomson's chances look formidable indeed.

Even the lower court judge stated on the record that Jonathan Larson expressly asked Thomson "to write," and that she "may very well have an appealing argument" for the higher court. This came from the judge who reluctantly ruled last July that a controversial higher court precedent seemed to bar him from granting a complete victory for Thomson, despite his finding that she co-wrote the show and "was a significant force" in turning an "unproduceable" script "into the hit that Rent became."

The full transcript of the appeal argument, as well as the appeal decision when it is announced, will be posted promptly on the Rent lawsuit webpage. That site is also the best source for many of the other relevant court documents in the case, some of which make very interesting reading to say the least. Soon to come on the site: the cross-examination of Rent producer Jeffrey Seller, Rent director Michael Greif, and other witnesses who ultimately (if not always intentionally) helped prove Thomson's case.

Stay tuned!

Thursday's Rialto will be a tribute to Laurie Beechman who passed away on March 8, 1998. Our condolences to both her family and friends. She will be missed by all of us here at Talkin' Broadway. The Great White Way just doesn't seem as bright tonight.


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