and lecturer. Since 1950 she has written some 15 plays, many of which have been produced on the stage or for television, and several novels, one of which was adapted as a television movie. She has received academic and non-academic awards.
For the past 35 years plaintiff has been represented by Flora Roberts, Inc. Flora Roberts, the principal of that agency, has been a literary agent specializing in dramatic literature for 40 years. Roberts has negotiated contracts for a number of significant Broadway productions, including "West Side Story," "A Chorus Line," and "Sunday in the Park with George." Since Roberts began to represent Childress, she has negotiated all of Childress's contracts for plays and books.
Defendant Clarice Taylor is a prominent African-American actress. She and Childress first met when they were both acting in the American Negro Theatre in the 1940's.
The idea for a play based on the life of Moms Mabley originated with Taylor. Taylor's interest in Mabley borders upon an obsession. Taylor testified that she "grew up" on Moms Mabley in Harlem. In 1982 Taylor had portrayed Mabley in a skit which was included in a stage production based on the story of the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, where Mabley had appeared. Preparing for that role, Taylor listened to her collection of Moms Mabley recordings, talked to anyone who might have met her, and became familiar with Mabley's walk and demeanor.
While she was appearing in the Apollo Theatre production, Taylor communicated with her friend Childress about doing a play on the life of Moms Mabley. Childress turned her down at that time.
Taylor's interest in Mabley was sufficiently well known that in late 1985 or early 1986 the producers at the Green Plays Theatre in Lexington, New York contacted Taylor and advised they had an opening for a play in their August 1986 season. The Green Plays producers asked Taylor if she could become involved in a play about Mabley.
Taylor again approached Childress, who this time agreed to work on a script of a play about Moms Mabley. Working against a tight six-week schedule, Childress wrote her play. She filed for and received a copyright for the play in her name.
Childress's play opened at Green Plays in August 1986. Prior to that time, Childress and Taylor had not entered into any firm arrangements. They had not exchanged draft contracts, although Taylor had paid Childress $ 2,500 before the play was produced at the Green Plays Theatre.
After the Green Plays production had run its course, Childress was approached by Stevie Phillips, who was employed by Universal Pictures, had previously produced stage plays (including "The Greatest Little Whorehouse in Texas"), and was related to Steven Foreman, the director of the Green Plays production. Phillips expressed interest in producing Childress's play. Childress said she was interested and referred Phillips to Flora Roberts, her agent. A meeting thereafter occurred involving Phillips, Childress and Taylor. Roberts testified (Tr. 11), and I find, that at that meeting Phillips refused to agree that Taylor play the leading part of Moms Mabley. Phillips also rejected a director that Taylor preferred. Phillips said to Roberts that she wanted to option the Childress play and go ahead with it. However, Childress preferred not to pursue this possibility with Phillips and Foreman, but rather to defer to Taylor's preferences, since, as Childress explained in her testimony, she had written The Moms Mabley play for Taylor to star in and produce.
Childress, represented by her agent Roberts, and Taylor, represented by her agent Scott Yoselow and an attorney, Jay Kramer, entered into prolonged and ultimately fruitless efforts to agree on the terms of a contract. No contract had been agreed upon when, in February 1987, with both parties' consent, the Childress play was produced with Taylor playing the role of Moms Mabley at the Hudson Guild Theatre. Childress added some new material to the script, for which she also received a copyright. The Hudson Guild production of the Childress play ran from the beginning of February through the end of the first week in March, 1987. The playbill credited Childress as the author of the play. The play and Taylor's performance received favorable reviews from critics including those writing in the New York Times and the New Yorker. Taylor was awarded an "Obie."
Following the Hudson Guild run of the play, Childress, Taylor and their representatives were interested in further commercial productions. But the inability of Childress and Taylor to come to terms with each other presented obstacles. The differences between the parties were longstanding. On May 9, 1986, even before the Green Plays production, Taylor's agent Yoselow had written to Childress's agent Roberts, suggesting an agreement that "the finished play shall be equally owned and be the property of both Clarice Taylor and Alice Childress." Childress never agreed to that concept of joint ownership. Taylor seemingly retreated from it when in March 1987, as the Hudson Guild Production was drawing to a close, Kramer as Taylor's attorney submitted to Childress and Roberts a draft agreement whose preamble stated:
The Producer [Taylor] wishes to acquire from the Author [Childress] the rights to produce and present a dramatic play written by Author and heretofore presented at the Hudson Guild Theatre based on the life and career of Moms Mabley. . . .
Taylor's proposed contract provided for a 4% royalty to Childress as author which Roberts testified was unacceptable to Childress, as were other terms of the proposed contract. Tr. 9-10. Childress, Taylor and their representatives met at Roberts' office in March 1987 to discuss the matter, but no agreement could be reached. Taylor, who Roberts described as "very emotional" at the meeting (Tr. 48), read aloud a six-page handwritten statement she had prepared (DX III) and departed. The first paragraph of that statement said:
Alice Childress claims she is the sole owner of the "Moms" script. I will agree to this only after she pays me $ 67,250 for my concept, my research, my expenses and input to the script of "Moms."