Legal “Grinch” almost stole LCT Christmas story

Posted January 2, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Everybody has a favorite Christmas story. For Lynne Hedrick, Lighthouse Children’s Theatre executive director, it is a cold December night in 1964 when she was snuggled under a patchwork quilt with her bothers and sisters eagerly awaiting a televised Christmas special. It would be the first time ever to see the animated film “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

Almost 50 years and many Christmas memories later, Hedrick was searching for a winter production for the Lighthouse Children’s Theatre. She immediately thought of the 1964 classic for not only was it one of her holiday favorites, it was the perfect vehicle to help kick off a new anti-bullying campaign for the Lighthouse, “Shine like a H.E.R.O.,” a program to equip parents with additional tools to teach their children how to Honor and Encourage Respect for themselves and Others.

Finding a script was the first obstacle. Search though she may, Hedrick could not find a script for “Rudolph.” She finally appealed to her mentor, Ronda Verges, who lives in Maine. Verges suggested that possibly the story had passed into the public domain and there would be no royalties to pay and if necessary, Hedrick could create her own script using the movie as her guide.

And that’s what she did.

The fall semester for the Lighthouse Children’s Theatre began as the production ideas fell into place. As the LCT usually does, they advertised auditions for “Rudolph” on their website, Facebook page and in the local newspaper.

The following week, Hedrick received a call from a man representing an LLC in Connecticut that owned the licensing rights to the intellectual property connected to the original version of “Rudolph and Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

It would not be allowed, he said. The LCT couldn’t put on their version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

He told Lynne that the children and grandchildren of the original creators of “Rudolph” owned the licensing rights, and they had formed a company to not only protect all intellectual property associated with the movie, but to create the script for two major production companies already selected to produce the play in 2014, the 50th anniversary of the 1964 film.

Hedrick was pretty sure the LCT was not one of the two production companies already selected.

Drawing a deep breath, and relying on her love for children, theatre and that Christmas memory, she explained why, yes, indeed, the Lighthouse Children’s Theatre wanted and needed to present “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” to the El Dorado Springs community.

She told him how hard she and others had tried to find who owned the rights, royalties and scripts. He told her that he understood, but it was his job to inform LCT that it would be impossible for them to perform the play.

But, she told him about the Lighthouse and the wonderful kids that participate and “why we believe that the story of Rudolph is the perfect play for us to put up at this time.”

She carefully explained the intentions for the H.E.R.O. campaign to him along with her belief that Rudolph’s story was the perfect medium to use to empower these children with the valuable tools needed when addressing bullies.

Hedrick was sure that he not only understood her story, he felt it.

He went on to say he wished he could make a decision allowing the LCT to use the play, but he couldn’t. But what he would do was share the Lighthouse story with the LLC Board of directors.

As Hedrick is wont to do, she decided to believe “yes” until she heard “no.”

And “yes” is it was.

Two days later Hedrick received a call from the licensing company with the wonderful news. The LLC board had unanimously voted to support the Lighthouse Children’s Theatre, giving them licensing rights to ”Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” In addition, they would send LCT the professional adapted script, along with the scratch track of the orchestra with all the music that moves the story forward. LCT would have rights to all of the artwork, the style guide, front, costuming ideas, and the licensing company would be pleased to help LCT with their anti-bullying campaign, as it intend to roll out their own anti-bullying program in 2014.

The Lighthouse Children’s Theatre winter production, that almost wasn’t, was saved by the light that shines so brilliantly through the children that participant in the program, just as in 1964, Christmas was saved by the light of Rudolph’s nose.

Get your tickets now for this heartwarming production that almost didn’t make to the stage. Check out their website at lighthousechildrenstheatre.org or call 417/876-3712.