Cleveland Law Group Creates Defense of 'James Franco and Me' Playwright, Who Received Cease/Desist from Franco, With Original Play

click to enlarge Cleveland Law Group Creates Defense of 'James Franco and Me' Playwright, Who Received Cease/Desist from Franco, With Original Play
Wikipedia, Bridget Laudien

Kevin Broccoli's satirical comedy "James Franco and Me" was to be staged by the Peoples Improv Theater in New York in August. The two-man play written by the playwright and actor features Broccoli as himself in a waiting area outside his dying father's hospital room. He's visited by James Franco — well, someone playing James Franco — and the two have conversations on death, life, and art. It has been performed dozens of times in Rhode Island to positive reviews and was to enjoy its New York debut.

Those scheduled performances, however, were put on hold in July when lawyers representing Franco sent a cease and desist letter to the theater over the use of Franco's name in the title and marketing.

“I was a little disappointed,” Broccoli told the New York Times. “I’m not someone who’s trying to get into legal entanglements by any means, but anyone who comes to see the show would see that it’s totally satire and within fair use guidelines.”

Not only did Broccoli firmly believe his play was well within legal bounds, he'd hoped the play would catch the attention of Franco himself at some point, maybe even garnering a tweet or comment of support.

It's unclear whether Franco himself has in fact read the play, but it did catch his representative's attention, who, for some reason, used legal threats to shut it down.

The issue drew the interest of the First Amendment and Arts Project at the Case Western University School of Law, which includes Director Patrick Kabat, Legal Fellow Andrew Geronimo and CWRU law students. The group spoke with Broccoli, though they don't represent him, and they've since inserted themselves into the proceedings. "The Constitution protects the right to receive information as a corollary to the right of free speech," Kabat told Scene. (Broccoli's legal team responded to the cease and desist letter yesterday officially as well. You can read their response here.)

The insertion from the First Amendment group comes in the form of a response letter, sent to Franco's lawyers last night, befitting the matter at the heart of the argument (a play) and the fair use protection that applies to Broccoli's art as it involves Mr. James Franco.

Yes, the answer letter contains a legal defense in the form of an original play. It features Franco's lawyers, a chorus (naturally), and the Ghost of James Franco discussing "James Franco and Me," with the many legal arguments taking center stage, buttressed by actual quotes on the meaning of art and creativity from Franco himself drawn from published interviews the actor has conducted with various media outlets.

One reviewer called it "a riotous and pointed defense of the First Amendment fit for the whole family." (That reviewer was us.)

The group also offered Franco's lawyers the following settlement, in pursuit of an amicable resolution: they retract the cease and desist letter and that Franco himself do one of the follow: 1) Perform the role of Franco's Ghost from their original play Sloane, Offer, Weber and Dern LLP and Us (which will enjoy its world premiere at the Spotted Owl, a cocktail bar in Cleveland, on October 13 at 9 p.m.) 2) Tweet something such as, "Clever, very meta, see it," in connection with the next public performance of "James Franco and Me," or 3) Read Broccoli's script and provide feedback.

The full reply can be read and enjoyed in its entirety below.

20170927184309 by VinceGrzegorek on Scribd

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Vince Grzegorek

Vince Grzegorek has been with Scene since 2007 and editor-in-chief since 2012. He previously worked at Discount Drug Mart and Texas Roadhouse.
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