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Fair Use

Fair Use



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Fair Use
February 24-March 13

Sexual politics collide with legal brinksmanship in this whip-smart romantic comedy. While attorneys at a Chicago law firm take on a high-profile plagiarism case, their after-hours romantic triangle echoes Cyrano de Bergerac. “The play savors the pleasures of language, sensuality and rich debate over such elusive concepts as intellectual property.” – Creative Loafing/Atlanta, Top 10 Plays of 2009

By Sarah Gubbins.

Directed by James Vasquez.

Featuring Amanda Sitton, Jacque Wilke, Wendy Maples, Wyatt Ellison, Stephen Schmitz.

Production Sponsor: Underwritten in part by Ree & Maurice Miller.


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Sarah Gubbins is a Chicago playwright. Her play Fair Use was developed and produced at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company as part of their First Look Repertory of New Plays during the summer of 2008 and was produced in by Actor’s Express Theatre in Atlanta last fall where it was nominated for a Suzi Bass Award for Best New Play and was named by Creative Loafing “Number One Production of 2009” and by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as one of the “Top Ten Productions of 2009.”

Fair Use was also one of four Finalists in the Alliance Theatre’s Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition and won Northwestern’s 2007 Agnes Nixon Playwriting Award. Her plays have been read or developed at the Public Theater, About Face Theatre, Chicago Dramatists, Next Theatre Company, and Collaboraction.  Her play The Kid Thing was read as part of Steppenwolf Theater’s First Look Repertory of New Work this fall.  Her play In Loco Parentis will be part of the What’s Next Lab at the Next Theater of Evanston and was developed by Rivendell Theatre Ensemble as part of their Fresh Produce festival and by About Face Theater as part of their XYZ Festival.  She developed The Water Play during a summer residency at Bard College’s Voice & Vision in collaboration with Rivendell Theater Ensemble.  Her short plays Out of Order and Mea Culpa were finalists for the Heideman Award at the Actors Theatre of Louisville in 2007 & 2008 respectively. She wrote the book for the musical Fatty Arbuckle’s Spectacular Musical Revue which was produced by Second City Theatricals.

Sarah is the recipient of two City of Chicago CAAP Individual Artist Grants and is a Resident Playwright at Chicago Dramatists.  She is the 2010-2011 Carl J. Djerassi Playwriting Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  She recently collaborated with the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange on A Matter of Origins, a project which will tour nationally this year.  She holds an M.F.A. in Writing for the Screen + Stage from Northwestern University.



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January 14, 2011

Diversionary Theatre continues 25th Anniversary Year with
West Coast Premiere of “Fair Use” by Sarah Gubbins

Laws of Attraction! Sexual politics and legal brinksmanship collide in this whip-smart romantic comedy making its West Coast Premiere at Diversionary Theatre.  Directed by James Vasquez (2010 Craig Noel Award Winner for Best Direction) and featuring Amanda Sitton, Jacque Wilke, Wendy Maples, Wyatt Ellison and Stephen Schmitz, FAIR USE  will run from February 26 through March 13.  Sy (Amanda Sitton) is in love with her co-counsel Madi (Jacque Wilke), who in turn is involved with Chris (Wyatt Ellison). While in the midst of a high-profile legal case, with echos of Cyrano de Bergerac, the love triangle gets complicated by a series of seductive, eloquent love letters.

FAIR USE was developed at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company as part of their First Look Repertory of New Plays during the summer of 2008 and had its world premiere at Actor’s Express in Atlanta, Georgia.  “The play savors the pleasures of language, sensuality and rich debate over such elusive concepts as intellectual property.” – Creative Loafing/Atlanta, Top 10 Plays of 2009.

SARAH GUBBINS has previously worked at Steppenwolf as a dramaturg, including new plays We All Went Down to Amsterdam, Men of Tortuga, The Butcher of Baraboo, and Gary. Sarah recently completed an MFA in Writing for the Screen and Stage at Northwestern University. Fair Use is a Finalist in the Kendeda Graduate Playwriting Competition and won the Agnes Nixon Playwriting Award at Northwestern.

 FAIR USE previews Thursday and Friday, February 24 and 25, opens on Saturday, February 26 and runs through Sunday, March 13.  Food for the opening night party will be provided by Soltan Banoo.  Performance times are: Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday at 8:00pm, Saturday at 3:00 and 8:00pm, Sunday at 2:00pm, with a pay-what-you-can performance on Monday, March 7 at 7:30pm.  Single tickets are $31-$33 with discounts available for students, seniors (60+), military and groups (10 or more).  Three show Winter/Spring season subscriptions are also available for the remaining main stage season.  For information, call the box office at 619.220.0097 or log on to The featured neighborhood restaurant during the run is Soltan Banoo.  The play is underwritten in part by Ree & Maurice Miller.

Diversionary Theatre was started in 1986.  The mission of the theatre is to produce plays with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender themes that portray characters in their complexity and diversity both historically and contemporarily.

– END –



Posted on Access Atlanta, 10:52 am November 17, 2009, by Suzanne Van Atten

Excepts of Theater review for “Fair Use”
Grade: B+
By Bert Osborne

Sarah Gubbins’ “Fair Use” takes place at a Chicago law firm, where Sy, a clever lesbian lawyer, and Chris, a dim male colleague, both fall for the same woman, Madi, another attorney who’s assisting them on a big case.

Madi rejects Sy’s advances, Chris makes a move, and before you know it, Sy’s writing the love letters that Madi thinks are coming from Chris.

That synopsis may make the comedy sound like little more than a rip-off of “Cyrano de Bergerac” — but it’s part of the joke. Does this “expression of a similar idea” make Gubbins a plagiarist? Where does she draw the line between “creative reinterpretation” and “intellectual theft”? Does any author “own his influence” over people? Aren’t all writers “subconsciously informed” by the work of others?

These become questions for the three lawyers as they defend the hot, young novelist of an aptly titled best seller (“Transgressions”), who’s accused of stealing thoughts, if not words, from the unpublished manuscript of a casual acquaintance.

However deliberately she borrows from Edmond Rostand …. it’s a genuine testament to Gubbins’ keen writing that “Fair Use” finds its own unique voice when it could’ve felt simply unoriginal or redundant. A 2007 finalist in the Alliance’s annual Kendeda graduate playwriting competition, the comedy now receives its world premiere in a classy, sparkling production from Actor’s Express and artistic director Freddie Ashley.



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Lobby art exhibition for Fair Use:

: Unreal Art of Stacy D’Aguiar
: illusory : fantastic : surreal
: 619.278.8172

Show times:
Thursday at 7:30pm
Friday at 8:00pm
Saturday at 3:00 & 8:00pm
Sunday at 2:00pm
Monday, March 7 at 7:30pm
(There is no 3pm performance on February 26)

Thursday, Sunday, Monday performances: $31
Friday  & Saturday performances: $33
Students/Seniors 60+/Military: $4 off

Previews: Thursday, February 24 at 7:30pm & Friday, February 25 at 8pm (all tickets $20)

Opening night: Saturday, February 26, 2011 at 8pm.

Super Sunday subscribers: Sunday, February 27 at 2:00pm

First Nighter subscribers: February 24-25, 27-March 7

Student Rush: $12.00 tickets for students w/ID starting one hour before curtain.

Pay-what-you-can performance (tickets available at the door starting one hour prior to performance): Monday, March 7 at 7:30pm

Please ask for the discount at time of purchase.

Bring a Group and Save! Groups of 10+ /$4.00 off each ticket Groups of 30+/$8.00 off each ticket


[tab title=”Video”]Meet the cast and hear the five words they each use to describe the play in this videoOn a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your gaydar?? See how the cast responds in this video!



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San Diego Reader
February 27, 2011
Capsule Review of “Fair Use” by Jeff Smith. Worth a try.

Nothing new under the sun? Don, a novelist, may have plagiarized a third of his book. Don’s lawyers, Sy and Chris, claim it was “influence” not “intellectual theft.” Both are in love with Madi. When Sy writes her a love letter, Chris pilfers it. Step back, and just about everything in Sarah Gubbins’ funny romantic comedy is a “borrowing” (including Sy becoming Cyrano-like). And in James Vasquez’ smart staging, scenes morph into film noir movies (suggesting they’ve been played before, even though the emotions are live). In effect Gubbins artfully deconstructs notions of influence. The play has lulls, when legalities take centerstage, but the Diversionary production boasts quality performances by Amanda Sitton (Sy), Jacque Wilke (Madi), and Wendy Maples (Bec), and smart design work, especially when Michelle Caron’s lighting and the uncredited music convert the office into a film – not noir but rusty-orange.

FAIR USE At Diversionary Theatre
A love triangle with a twist
By David Coddon • Sun, Feb 27th, 2011

There’s no small amount of time traveling going on in Diversionary Theatre’s production of Sarah Gubbins’ Fair Use,a winning romantic comedy that opened over the weekend in University Heights. Even though the two-year-old play, dealing simultaneously with a bi-gender love triangle and the sticky question of creative license, is set in the present, its nods to the past are many: a subplot (more like the proto-plot) that borrows “Cyrano de Bergerac’s” love-letters device; a recorded music soundtrack that echoes the noir romance of the ‘40s (including the use of the seductive title track from the film “Laura”); the early-‘70s plagiarism battle between the Chiffons and George Harrison over “My Sweet Lord” and its similarity to the girl group’s “She’s So Fine”; and, for sheer anachronistic visual impact, how about the sight of an old manual typewriter on the otherwise contemporary Chicago law-office set?

But if director James Vasquez messes with our heads a little, he also elicits smart and likable performances from Fair Use’s solid cast (led by Amanda Sitton) and moves Gubbins’ story along at a crisp clip. If the ending feels abrupt – and it does – we can’t really complain, because we’ve had a ball almost all of the way getting there. Credit not only the statuesque and sympathetic Sitton, but the sharp comic turns by the rest of the tightly woven ensemble: Wyatt Ellison, Jacque Wilke, Wendy Maples and Stephen Schmitz.

Sy (Sitton) and Chris (Ellison) are fellow attorneys (she’s gay, he’s straight), and they have something in common besides working for the same law office: They’ve both got it bad for legal colleague Madi (Wilke). Chris is more interested in Madi’s physical attributes, which are impressive, while Sy admits to confidante Bec (Maples), a lesbian case researcher with a wisecracking mouth, that she’s been in love with the straight but (she believes) curious Madi for 10 years. Nodding to “Cyrano” and many other stories, written and filmed since, Sy begins writing (on that manual typewriter) love letters to Madi for the smitten Chris. The ensuing reaction, and discovery, are inevitable. It may not have been Gubbins’ intention to reinvent the wheel here, but she does have the gay-or-straight dynamic going for her.

Then there’s the side story, about a novelist (Schmitz) who’s being sued by a hack mystery writer who believes his manuscript has been plagiarized. Sy, Chris and Madi take his case. While the converging questions of copyright, creative inspiration and, yes, fair use, are thought-provoking (particularly in parallel with Chris using letters written by Sy, at first without her consent, to woo Madi), the legalese all kind of runs together and the culminating conclusion, that everyone’s a plagiarist, isn’t as startling as it is meant to be.

The three-sided triangle is the fun of Fair Use, and director Vasquez allows his actors some excusable over-emoting and moments of physicality that keep the proceedings light and make this a story without either a bad guy or a fall guy. It’s feel good for all – even for the nerdy, panic attack-prone novelist.

While the music is atmospheric, it’s also intrusive in spots. But the various props that bolster the action on an otherwise static set (an office basketball hoop, a bicycle upside down and under repair) are effective and the use of darkness and light well conceived.

This is not a message show, but don’t be surprised if this thought occurs to you at some point: All’s fair – in love and in literature.


San Diego Union-Tribune
Online at
Imitation as the sincerest form of creative laughs
By James Hebert
Sunday, February 27, 2011 at 5:35pm

As the artist Pablo Picasso once said, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”

Or maybe he didn’t. Turns out that quip likely was lifted from T.S. Eliot, who actually said (in part): “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.”

That citation, by the way, itself borrows from the Internet scholarship of an intellectual-property lawyer named Nancy Prager. And this is a review of a play that deals with intellectual property, and takes place in a law office. (See how that works?)

Sarah Gubbins’ romantic comedy “Fair Use,” now getting a smart West Coast premiere at Diversionary Theatre, revels in just that kind of layering-on of its borrowing motif.

The plot centers on a lawsuit against a famous novelist named Don (Stephen Schmitz) for allegedly plagiarizing another writer’s work. But at the Chicago law firm defending him, another sort of re-appropriation is going on: Attorney Chris (Wyatt Ellison) is using the words of his far more eloquent colleague Sy (Amanda Sitton) to woo the object of their mutual affection, fellow lawyer Madi (Jacque Wilke).

And yes, that does in fact sound a lot like the plot from “Cyrano de Bergerac,” Edmond Rostand’s classic story of a large-nosed nobleman who courts the gorgeous Roxane through a pretty-boy proxy. It’s a clever gambit by Gubbins to underline her ideas about the elusive nature of “original” thought by actually incorporating someone else’s story herself.

Director James Vasquez, a top local talent staging his first nonmusical play, adds yet another layer of imitation: The production breaks into frequent interludes, signaled by sultry sax music and lighting designer Michelle Caron’s crimson tones, that pay homage to ’40s detective flicks.

While those scenes of heightened reality don’t always nestle perfectly with the rest of the piece, they still add plenty of comic texture. They also give Sitton a chance to indulge her matchless talent for characters of that era, as seen before in New Village Arts’ “Golden Boy,” North Coast Rep’s “The Voice of the Prairie” and other shows.

Her portrayal of the articulate, smitten Sy is full of color, even if Sitton is the kind of actress you see these days only in black-and-white.

The rest of the cast, including Wendy Maples as Sy’s tart friend and literary expert Bec, likewise has a deft feel for the play’s light yet slyly probing tone (though some of the first-act exchanges felt too rushed to let lines land on opening night).

Credit Jeannie Galioto with costumes that wittily (and wisely) peg the characters — particularly Schmitz with his fashion-ad look as the meticulously hip, self-involved novelist, and Sy in her sleek, almost predatory sharkskin pantsuit.

Gubbins asks the audience to buy a few contrivances, including one comical but absurdly misinterpreted phone conversation. She does have a way with a sharp line, though (Sy belittles one of Chris’ romantic sentiments as “a Netflix rating”).

Not to mention the good sense to borrow from some of the best.


Theater preview: Laws of attraction in Diversionary’s “Fair Use”
By James Hebert , UNION-TRIBUNE
Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 12:53 p.m.

The play “Fair Use” borrows from the romantic epic “Cyrano de Bergerac.” It also borrows from a legal doctrine about borrowing.

It would be ironic (and yet pretty good theater, in a way) if a stage show that meditates on the violation of copyright got hauled into court for that very offense. But not to worry: “Cyrano” is long since in the public domain. And anyway, James Vasquez, who is directing the Diversionary Theatre staging of “Fair Use” that opens next week, says the show is much more about love than the law.

“We’re really exploring and heightening the emotions of first love, of attraction, of getting your heart broken,” he says. “The way that ‘Cyrano’ has a heightened romanticism to it, we’re taking these very emotional situations and (emphasizing) them as well.”

The title of Sarah Gubbins’ modern-day “Cyrano” spinoff refers to the section of law that permits limited use of copyrighted material for certain purposes: satire or commentary, for example. It becomes a plot point in “Fair Use” when an author is sued for supposedly appropriating the work of another writer without permission. The “Cyrano” angle comes in when a love triangle sprouts at the Chicago law firm representing the writer. (The original Edmond Rostand tale is about a brave but large-nosed nobleman who woos a woman by having a more handsome proxy recite his words.) “The playwright has done a really nice job of bringing the legal story and the ‘Cyrano’ story into that love triangle,” Vasquez says. “(But) I think the play works best when you do get to the romance of it. I think that’s where it really takes off, and that’s what we’re grabbing onto.”

Diversionary was probably wise to grab onto Vasquez while it can; the actor-turned-director has become a hot property in town of late, starting with his directing debut on Cygnet Theatre’s production of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” two and a half years ago.

Vasquez also directed the Old Globe’s holiday favorite “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” this season, after serving that show as an actor and dance captain for several years. And he has made a splash with productions as diverse as Diversionary’s “[title of show],” New Village Arts’ “Into the Woods” and Cygnet’s “Sweeney Todd,” which he codirected.

“Fair Use” is Vasquez’s first try at directing a nonmusical play, although the Escondido High alum and Juilliard School drama grad says that “ultimately it’s not any different. The storytelling is still the same.”

His cast for the production, a West Coast premiere, includes Amanda Sitton, Jacque Wilke, Wendy Maples, Wyatt Ellison and Stephen Schmitz. Although he started his theater life as an actor, Vasquez says he realizes now that he might’ve been destined for a directing career all along. He tells of how his kindergarten class held a “Future Day,” encouraging the kids to dress as whatever they wanted to be as grown-ups.

“And my mom actually reminded of this recently: I had taken my grandfather’s robe, and some construction paper, and cut out (the word) ‘director,’ and glued it to the back of the robe. And I wore a scarf, sunglasses and a beret to school. “So, I don’t know — I guess (it was meant to be).”

That doesn’t mean he’s confining that work to theater, though. Vasquez runs a movie production company called Daisy 3 Pictures with his life partner, Mark Holmes, and Carrie Preston, a Juilliard classmate who has earned renown as a cast member of the HBO series “True Blood.”

After scoring festival successes with the films “29th and Gay” (which starred Vasquez and was based on his own life) and “Ready? OK!,” the team is now in postproduction on a higher-profile film titled “That’s What She Said.” Directed by Preston, the movie includes Anne Heche and Alia Shawkat (“Arrested Development”) in its cast.

Vasquez admits that the abundance of work heading his way of late has “made me wonder what’s beyond” the local scene. But, he adds: “This is my home. I’ll always come back.” And in terms of appreciating those opportunities, the self-described “reality-TV addict” takes a cue from one of his favorite shows.

“As they say on ‘Top Chef,’ you’re only as good as your last meal. I’m just enjoying the ride while it’s here, and hoping to do good work.”




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