Theatre is Territory

The importance of being burnished

More on theatrical discourse
By Scott Walters

Recently, there’s been a buzz of international discussion on anonymity and criticism: in the US (Theatre Ideas Jumps the Pond and What Do You Think About Anonymous Reviews?), Canada (Mike Daisy on Theatrical Discourse), and England (Noises Off: Unnamed and Unashamed). The focus of these posts were on anonymous reviews, but in the midst of the discussion Ian Mackenzie (Theatre is Territory) came through with a thought that stopped me in my tracks:

“Our community has been living under the tyranny of the mainstream media review system for so long, we have forgotten how to criticize each other. It’s criticism by proxy: “I can’t risk standing up and calling bullshit on a peer because it’ll hurt my career. So I’ll just wait until the newspapers cut them down.” Is this our model? How is our industry supposed to prosper under conditions that forbid peer review? It’s insane! It doesn’t mean we should be “reviewing” each other’s work. That’s probably a bad idea. Many critics already do a fine job of that. But surely there’s a way to talk openly and critically about each other’s work without it being the career suicide Mike has suggested it is.”

A few comments later, he went on:

“Criticism does not equal standing on a soapbox slagging peoples work. Critical participation can be simply asking questions. Or participating in discussion. Or putting forward a point of view. These are all things that our community is already doing to some degree.”

The question is: to what degree? How many of us really risk providing a respectful but honest discussion of what we saw and thought? Or are we like this anonymous commenter on Matt Freeman’s blog during a similar discussion in October 2006:

“. . . partially I think we are all trying to do something and pointing out where (I think) someone is failing is rarely helpful and also is completely subjective. So even artists whose work I hate are people trying to do something and usually have good intentions . . .”

These two topics – anonymity and shared criticism – came together for me over the days from Saturday April 26th through Monday, April 28th. On the first date, Don Hall of Angry White Guy in Chicago, posted Why Nylachi(dc)?.

In this post, Don explained his reasons for living in Chicago, and why he doesn’t live in a smaller town. I responded to his post with my own entitled Lot Full, in which I drew an analogy between full parking lots and the major metropolitan area theatre scenes. In the comments for that post, Don wrote something that led me to comment Monday in a full post entitled On Small Town Audiences (A Reply to Don Hall), which took issue with his generalizations about small town tastes.

As I noted in my opening paragraph:

“My initial reaction was to do what Jess did [in my comments] and write a post that said, in essence, ‘That is the kind of provincial bullshit that makes my blood boil.’ But because it was Don, whose thoughts I often admire, I decided to step away from the keyboard and think about what was behind his comments.”

In response, my comments section exploded in a fierce debate between Don Hall, Bob Fisher (Don’s Chicago friend, aka devilvet), and me. The debate got pretty heated:

“I see we’ve crossed the line from argument to being an asshole,” I wrote.

Bob wrote, “It is always the other guy who is selfish, auteuristic and subsumed in a selfish vision . . . never oneself . . . what’s that I smell? Self-deception sir . . . self-deception. That is provincial. It borders on xenophobic. – Asshole signing off!!!”

And so on for 29 comments. My hit count soared t0 423 as people logged on to follow the “dust-up.” And for most of the readers, I suspect this sounded like three Tyrannosaurus Rex’s tearing each other apart.

Here is what was happening in emails behind the scenes.

Me: “By the way, in mid-May my wife and I will be taking the train into Chicago and then flying out the next day. Maybe we and dv and whomever can get together finally…”

Don: “When in May? I’m outta town (going to Wichita) May 8-11, but will clear a
day of scheduling to have some “sit down and chow down” time.”

Don: “May 24th – on my calendar!”

Meanwhile, Bob, in an email entitled Who Is Siskel and Which One is Ebert, sent me a link to a hilarious YouTube video of the two movie critics reaming each other while trying to film a promo for their show.

Me: “LOL – Brutal, huh? By the way, I just told Don that my wife and I will be in Chicago sometime in the evening of May 24th just overnight, and then we will be flying out to Raleigh. But maybe we can get together, huh? You dick!”

Bob: “We can get together but only if you are willing to sit through a command performance of my one-man show entitled I’m OK, You . . . Not So Much! Let me know, Are you guys flying into O’Hare or Midway? Are you staying downtown or closer to the airport?”

And in another email, Don wrote: “I come from the school of thought that says that vigorous discourse is the road to enlightenment and take on every idea as an opportunity to smack it around a bit to knock the glitter off and see it for what it really is. None of my questioning is meant to be a personal attack or is it to dismiss the ideas you put out there.”

And Don has just devoted another blogpost to doing just that, entitled More Nylachi(dc), which I will no doubt have to respond to.

The point is that Don, Bob, and I all take each other seriously enough to commit considerable personal time smacking an idea around a bit so we can “see it for what it really is.” This process strengthens and sharpens the ideas. For me, I can see just which portions of my ideas cause confusion or rejection, and I can weigh whether there is a way to express them more clearly, or change them to address the attacks. For Don or Bob, perhaps putting into words their objections to my ideas, and looking at their own practices in the process, might lead to more personal understanding as well.

Would I have been so open to reflection if the same identical comments were anonymous? I doubt it. I suspect I would have engaged once or twice, and then tuned out.

Instead, we are, in Ian’s words, learning “how to criticize each other.” We are “simply asking questions. Or participating in discussion. Or putting forward a point of view.” And we are growing as a result. Or at least I am (Don and Bob can speak for themselves – and I have no doubt they will).

For over two years now, I have participated in any number of debates on the theatrical blogosphere, and I know that as a result my ideas are clearer and more defined. I am in the midst of writing a book based on the ideas I have developed, and I know that the book is clearer, deeper, and more effective because of the exchanges I have engaged in.

The art form is best served by being populated with thoughtful artists who have thought deeply and critically about their own work. What passes for “being supportive” – focusing on the vague and general positive and not speaking criticism – doesn’t allow artists to grow and deepen. Artistic creativity benefits from being burnished, polished to a luster through friction. Without it, the result is rust.

To those who fear about their careers, who are afraid that speaking a critical word might lead to diminished job opportunities, I can only respond from my own perspective: if I lived in Chicago and was starting a company, Bob and Don are two guys I would call first, because I would know that the honesty and rigor that is required for the creation of an ongoing artistic relationship has already been established. So when Bob said, “Let’s do a Richard Foreman show!” I could say, “Are you crazy? That stuff is the worst!” And then we’d have a great, great time.


Scott Walters is a theatre blogger and University of North Carlonia drama professor.

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29 Responses to “The importance of being burnished”

  1. Don Hall says:

    I agree! That was well written and thoughtful!

    (…boy. That response was fucking boring, huh…)

    I’m known in a regular Sunday improv workshop I teach for being absolutely brutal in my opinion of suck. If you sucked, I’ll tell you and sometimes beat the dead horse a bit because I got riled up. The flipside is that, if I’m wrong and the suckhole convinces me I’m wrong, I’ll admit it and do some self examination as to why I didn’t see it in the first place.

    The folks that come regularly (some for three years now) do so in part because the current system is not honest about their performances and gives shitty work a pass out of politeness.

    I say art is not polite and when it is, it’s a fucking drag.

    As for it hurting my chances for further employment or collaboration, I figure if you’re not looking for straight forward, aggressive opinions from those you work with, good luck with that weakass shit your putting out there with your crew of ‘yes men’ and enjoy.

    But seriously. Nice post.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Wait…wait dont drink that Scott…I’m sorry I just dropped a roofie in that beer…if I knew we were going to be so damn friendly today…well you know…

    -dv

  3. Scott Walters says:

    Don’t get used to it!

  4. nick@ says:

    The theatrosphere right now is mostly flattery of one another and self-promotion. Challenge that with any approaching truth speak and you risk being ostracized. I had hope that the Chicago kids would lead us a new openness.

    http://donhall.blogspot.com/2008/04/review-skriker.html

    But where is GreyZelda after the Angry White Guy gave his considered opinion? More importantly, where is the rest of the Chicago bloggers and the theatrosphere on this issue? Everyone is just silent, too conflicted to speak.

    A few can go punk in their attitude, but theatre people are generally prissier than most about how they talk and behave. They will gossip like old fishwives in private, but then speak all polite and duplicitous in public.

    If you are going to speak honestly you need to be reconciled to the fact that you will often be all alone with your big stink pile of candor. So I appreciate the Three Musketeers here in their solidarity for roughhouse honesty. You know I’ll be around.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Ahhhh Nick doesnt even give us a moments restbit!

    Well…as another Chicago blogger…let me say that I would gladly have leaned in with my position on the Skriker if I thought it would have added something constructive to the mix.
    Regardless of which side of the fence I was on…it would have just turned into the value equivilent of “He said…She Said…and he said”

    Too conflicted to speak…well yeah maybe…maybe I’ll save my commentary for Ms Greyzelda herself on a given occasion like an upcoming bar-b-que.

    Maybe the point is that it easier to be harsh in the virtual world when there is enough miles between me, Don, and Scott…that I don’t have to worry about him jumping into his pick up drunk driving over to my duplex and using a crowbar to break down my door and ticle the mitts?

    Well…maybe…but if that is the case then I’ll try to look at it as a beer mug half full sort of thing.

    I might not like Don’s next show (it could happen)…and he aint one to even worry about it…but if it isnt going further the case of value or betterment or whatever…maybe I’ll leave the public declarations of whether or not the “Baby” is cute to the “critics”…while telling Don over a burger he burnt to a crisp why the only thing worse than his cooking was that last show (wink)

    Don and I have on many occasion shown each other our molars over things like Dada and Avant and Mr. Walter’s latest hair cut.

    The truth is if Scott and We lived in the same town, the conversations might possibly even get more heated but less virtual and therefore less heard globally.

    -dv

  6. nick@ says:

    DV will meet GreyZelda at the BBQ to share beer and conversation. Likely all will be sociable, any aesthetic disagreements couched in such a conciliatory manner that they end up not even being real differences. There will be no argument unless DV or Zelda drinks too much and starts blurting out “how they really feel” about this or that. Nothing wrong and everything right with that social interaction. But is that what we want our statements on our art aesthetics to become? Mushy little feel good niceties about one another’s work. A sweet little kiss and hug hello and goodbye. I have been cutting and pasting the following statement as my comment for what I hope happens in the theatrosphere among peers.

    “If an artist has a practice, he has an aesthetic stake to defend or explain or propagandize. His criticism of others’ work will necessarily have both the bias and the integrity of this practice as its foundation. The artist/critic is able to speak from this specific base of aesthetic knowledge – to define and delineate borders between his practice and others’. This kind of criticism creates a venue and an ethic for an exchange of ideas outside the market, a discourse about the art form itself.”

  7. Anonymous says:

    So Nick, I’m confused. R U saying that that sort of niceties is what Scott, Don, and I are engaging in?

    Or that you wanted more drama with the whole Greyzelda thing becuase it would have made for a more specific a more interesting read?

    What about this idea? Have the balls to the walls dialogue about the show or the appraoch or the dramaturgy, but maybe have it right after the show closes…

    The notion being that if someone comes up to me after the show opens with any sort of negative criticism, I am not going to be the right sort of head/heartspace to deal with it with anything other that silence and a nod or a big middle finger.

    If Greyzelda responds to Don (which she did) how can that come off other than as sour grapes, or hurt feelings…

    Maybe honesty is the best policy, but the question for me then is…When…?

    -dv

  8. Don Hall says:

    nick -

    You’ve obviously never been to one of my BBQs. Polite discourse is only available when I’m not stirring up shit and artistic debates and heady, in-yer-face discussions abound (drunk or not). My kind of grill.

    As I’ve said, if it ain’t worth getting a punch in the face for, it ain’t worth a whole helluva lot, now is it?

  9. nick@ says:

    WHEN and HOW are the big questions.

    This is where GreyZelda needs to take issue with Don’s review, not about WHAT he said.

    I can appreciate Don’s bravado in doing what he did. I see no one else seems willing risk such honesty. But this was a very clumsy review with ambiguous motives.

    Does Don fancy himself a theatre reviewer now with a readership that he has to protect from paying good money for bad theatre? Or, is he a peer trying to offer some dramaturgical advise on how to improve the play? In this critique he is trying to wear both hats at the same time.

    I would think one type of “review” should be public at the beginning of the run and the other private until after the run was complete. Is this a consumer report to potential ticket buyers, or a piece of dramaturgical advise to the artists?

    I have always considered critics and art journalists my artistic peers. I am friends with a few. So they will often write pre-show features for me if they believe in the work I am attempting. But if they happen to not like a particular show of mine, they likely will excuse themselves from writing about it. No dishonesty or compromise in such an action. And there are always plenty of negatives from the other camp of journalists. The “objective review” is nothing more than a genre of journalism. It has no special access to truth.

    I would want to find a similar relationship with my artistic peers in the theatrosphere. If my peers share my aesthetic and support my work, I would hope they would promote it unabashedly before and during the run. But that’s an easy thing to do. You can be clumsy and unspecific in such propaganda. But to do the other more critical analysis and dramaturgy is a more important function. So GreyZelda should be honored that Don took the time to critically analyze, write, and edit his review, but also completely pissed that he published it as if it was “his job” to be a theatre reviewer. (If Don is sabotaging my PR, you can bet I will graffiti and wheat-paste over his poster every time I happen on it. It’s war, baby!) So we need to take on the awesome responsibility of publicly critiquing one another’s work but also learn how to separate that critique from the marketing.

  10. Don Hall says:

    HOW, not so much. How I (or any else) critiques theater is their business.

    WHEN? I completely agree. It is rare that I see a show on opening night and, given my personal policy of reviewing everything I see on my blog, equally rare that my critiques have any impact on the marketing of a theatrical peer.

    As for wearing two hats, I claim neither. I’m not a consumer advocate as a policy nor am I a dramaturgical resource. I’m a guy with a blog who writes about what happens to be on my mind at the time. If I see a movie, I write out my response to it. If I see a play, the same goes. If I read an article about poverty or the war or pop culture…you get the picture.

    After thinking about the review of The Skriker, I’m pretty certain that if I see something opening night, I’ll wait to post it until the run is in it’s final week or has closed.

    And I don’t really see it as any kind of sabotage to express an honest opinion of the work you see. Nick, you seem to call for a more honest dialogue but only under more polite circumstances and I’m just not a very polite guy. As for it is dishonest to write a fluff piece for your show if I like it but refrain from writing anything if I don’t, that’s horseshit. If I commit to writing about your show, you get the blunt subjective AWG truth. If you don’t want that, don’t invite me to write about it in the first place.

    Interestingly enough, I’ve been invited to plenty of shows and have been asked up front to not write about it on my blog. No sweat – I then choose whether or not I’m really that interested and if I am, I go and don’t write about it. If I’m not, I blow it off.

    If, however, I pay to see the show, the choice to write about is mine and mine alone. An exchange has been made and I have paid the admission to see and be as critical as I want to be.

    Finally, you write:

    So we need to take on the awesome responsibility of publicly critiquing one another’s work but also learn how to separate that critique from the marketing.

    Yup, but marketing your show is your gig, not mine. I market my own shows and don’t expect anyone else to market it for me. That word of mouth thing plays both ways and if I offer up a sucky piece, that WoM is going to bury it just as positive WoM will bolster it.

  11. nick@ says:

    Don says
    How I (or any else) critiques theater is their business.

    True. But AWG writing in the “objective” genre of the review format is mediocre at best. (Rat Sass’ opinion; others may differ.) It would be more interesting if AWG invented his own subjective unique way of approaching and writing the critique as he has done with the rest of his blog.

    Don says
    Nick, you seem to call for a more honest dialogue but only under more polite circumstances and I’m just not a very polite guy. As for it is dishonest to write a fluff piece for your show if I like it but refrain from writing anything if I don’t, that’s horseshit.

    I ask for no dishonest or even polite dialogue, just something more examined than a bravado act of honesty. I am asking for contracts between peers where there are none now. I still hold grudges against a few critics who years ago I felt betrayed my trust. I felt they had been dishonest or misleading in what they were going to write. If I cross paths with these critics today, I look for ways to sabotage their work as they have done mine. Some would call these grudges of mine petty. Well, then all my art is petty because I generally have a similar grudge against many aspects of society and its betrayals of certain members. So I continually attempt to disrupt and frustrate the status quo inequities I perceive, even when it would be easier and more beneficial just to “play the game.” I hate the game in its dishonesty and secret handshakes. Art and how it gets represented, how the story gets told, has been in the sole hands of the critics in the past. That has been the game that needed disruption. Now a new game and power structure is developing.

    With advent of the Internet, listserves, and the written exchanges between peers since the early ‘90’s, the bunkers that once protected critics have eroded. Critics once were able to broadcast their opinions without repercussions or counters. As yet that broadcast power structure hasn’t totally disappeared, but its wane has been continual, and now especially with the blogosphere, it’s end is visible. But what I see developing is another power structure that will be even more impenetrable because it will include the artists’ participation.

    PR Cliques are developing in the theatrosphere where artists are saying “Go read Joe Schmoe’s blog post, he has something interesting to say.” “Go see Joe Schmoe’s great new play. Congrats Joe on your Times review.” Essentially saying “I recommend Joe Schmoe because he recommends me.”

    I was hopeful that when you put out your review of The Skriker, a debate would develop on it. Now I am discouraged because no one (except for you, Bob, and me in this hidden little comment section here at Praxis) is discussing the ramifications of artists reviewing other artists. The PR Cliques of our FaceBook Nation likely will continue growing into the new dominant power. And the PR Cliques will ostracize any and all bloggers attempting anything other than fluff recommendations of its members.

    Don says
    …marketing your show is your gig, not mine. I market my own shows and don’t expect anyone else to market it for me. That word of mouth thing plays both ways…

    Blogging is not simply “word of mouth.” It is a more deliberate and meditated act. And if you are out wheat-pasting your theatre posters and the other theatre’s poster is on that precious piece of wall you need, you have to decide what you are going to do. Do you simply wheat-paste The Mammals poster over The Shirker poster without any thought in a bravado act of selfish honesty?

    Honesty may be able to deliver us a truth. But there is often more than one truth. How do we negotiate that wall space so that it can accommodate equally valid wheat-pasted truths?

  12. Don Hall says:

    I was hopeful that when you put out your review of The Skriker, a debate would develop on it

    Brother, I’m always hopeful for that, regardless of what I write. I do like the challenge of finding a more AWG-centric approach to reviewing the shows I see – I’m going to think on that one a while.

    The blogging PR Cliques you refer to are no more interesting or effective that “fake” testimonials. I like to think that if I write a glowing review, it’s because it is deserved and that because I am willing to commit the act of “bravado honesty” those who read it know that while they may disagree with me, at least I’m not sugarcoating anything.

    Interesting sidenote: I realized after posting it that if I had switched the order of my thoughts – starting with the bad acting and ending with the vibrant visuals – it would have been perceived differently. I find that rather curious and bears some thought.

    How do we negotiate that wall space so that it can accommodate equally valid wheat-pasted truths?

    This is the internet, Nick. It is essentially infinite wallspace. There is never an end to the amount of room we have on it so all the wheatpaste in the world isn’t sufficient.

    Finally, while I understand that you (and others) take the criticism as a personal affirmation or betrayal (this is art we speak of and it is a highly personal thing), there is a difference between “You’re sucky” and “Your show is sucky.” I suppose you and I differ on that angle because while I’ve had my fair share of critics (some whom I consider friendly acquaintances) bag the shit out of my work, I rarely have taken it personally for longer than the next night’s sleep.

  13. nick@ says:

    I’m just pondering on all this. I have no clear proposals, just some observations.

    Don said:
    I realized after posting it that if I had switched the order of my thoughts – starting with the bad acting and ending with the vibrant visuals – it would have been perceived differently.

    Of course such reordering is not “sugarcoating,” but it is softening the impact, thus becoming not so AngryWhiteGuy. We make editorial decisions like this in writing all the time. But when we force ourselves to do this in the “theatre review” format, we are seeking balance within a thumbs up/thumbs down simplicity. “I liked the play, but not the production.” “I liked the visuals, but not the acting.” There has to be a million other imaginative ways to critique one another’s work than in this consumer report manner.

    I was using that wheatpasted wall as a metaphor for what is always limited, that is, the audience. Negative reviews, negative word of mouth, and negative blogging can work to “negate” a production. So some PR Clique of Bloggers could potentially “wheatpaste” over GreyZelda’s poster with a competing production that they support. This could be done with negative blogging, but most effectively probably by silence, not blogging or linking at all to the production or its blog. (I was thinking how for many years now wheatpasting here in NYC is a business being run by the “wheatpaste mafia.”)

    On the subject of artist/ critic relationship, I wasn’t really talking about theatre reviewers per se, but art journalism. The theatre reviewer is on one of the lower rungs of journalism, especially when restricted to creating the “capsule reviews” and “star rating” that are becoming more and more prevalent in print. This is a species of service journalism more similar to Zagat’s Guide to Restaurants than to art journalism or theatre criticism. These reviews are generally unimportant to the artist except as a function of PR. One would usually not dwell too long on them except in their capacity as “pull quote” provider. Positive pull-quotes ads are even being culled from negative reviews now.

    The history and nature of our theatre’s work has given us a more storied relationship to the press and journalists than most. In dealing with polemics and controversy, journalists and news publications necessarily often align within camps. In such an environment of hot news or scandal, some journalists will misconstrue statements or exploit personal or inside knowledge of subjects in service of “the story.” That is situation where the few instances betrayal have occurred for which I hold grudges.

    The artist/critic/blogger building the story of theatre in tandem with one another, without the pretense of “objective journalism,” is the model I would like to see developed. Perhaps this is no more than just truthful, transparent PR Cliques. Think Tanks with a clear mission or aesthetic to propagandize.

  14. Don Hall says:

    Sounds reasonable.

    I just read this this morning and it occurred to me – there isn’t anything “objective” about my written pieces on theater, whether it’s theory, commentary or reviews.

  15. Scott Walters says:

    As a theatre prof, I’d like to interject a distinction that might be useful: the difference between summative and formative grading. Summative is what happens at the end of the semester or after you turn in the final draft of a project: you are given a final evaluation of your work. Formative assessment is feedback given as part of a growth process. You might receive a formative assessment when you turn in a first draft of a paper that isn’t due until later.

    A review is summative: here’s what you did, here’s what I thought about how well you did it.

    I’d propose that what the blogosphere might be useful for is formative assessment, in which we, as artists, gave feedback about what was seen, what seemed to work or what might be improved AND WHY AND HOW. This could happen during the run or after the closing, but the discussion would be artist-to-artist, and be formed in such a way as to be useful to the artist’s growth. So: this scene didn’t seem to be effective. Why? What caused that reaction? And what might we, as theatre artists, learn from it that might be applied to future productions.

    So often, there is a sense that what happens in one show is sui generis and has no application to a future show. I beg to differ. I think if we look a level or two beneath the immediate reaction, we might find some general principles that are portable.

  16. nick@ says:

    Scott,

    I think theatre does this often pre-production, the negative being Richard Nelson’s “developmental hell.” But once its a “product,” it’s difficult to talk about it as if it were still a process. I’d have to reread for specifics, but I think that approach was at least partially attempted in Don’s review.

  17. Scott Walters says:

    Nick — That’s because we seem to think that it is the end of the line when the show closes, when in fact that ought to be the point where artists are most active. We should be mining every moment for anything we could take away and recycle. It isn’t just the throwing away of scenery that makes theatre wasteful, but thew throwing away of experience as well.

  18. Don Hall says:

    Scott -

    I couldn’t agree more with that last statement. Amen.

  19. nick@ says:

    Scott,

    Well, yeah, exactly. But between “what ought to be” and “what is” is the habit and convention of a theatre culture that is difficult to change. With some difficulty, I can change myself. But as for the rest of the culture, I feel much as you do now. I have grown weary of the argument. Yet, *sigh*, I will carry on.

    You have closed the tribe and regional theatre argument at Theatre Ideas, even as it has also been co-opted into Mike Daisey’s PR package for his production. A Sunday theatre tea and soirée on “the failure of regional theatre” held in a New York Off-Broadway theatre is such an ironic comment on itself that nothing more has to be said about it. So I’ll retire from that talk for now. The argument was there 15 years ago when we began the Regional Alternative Theatre confederacy, and it will be there long after Mike moves on from the subject to his next show. By the way, Scott my friend, the argument will be there long after your Tribe book is published as well. I am not claiming some holier-than-thou place, but I have been walking this walk as long as anyone, and longer than most. Your two-and-half years of blog posts are a piss in the bucket on this argument. I dragged David Cote, John Clancy, and many others to the mat on this subject ten years ago. I often had to play Andre, the motherfucking Giant, as many New York artists and critics tag-teamed me on my stance against a New York centric agenda and commercialization of alternative and fringe theatre in this country. This fight is not something you win; it’s just something you continue on with. You just keep getting into the ring with these little punks. Yeah, you get tired. I closed the rat-list down because the punks were non-stop with their empty-headed billboard promotion of themselves. Once the “shameless plug” apology in their posts was no longer an apology but a badge of honor, the game there was essentially over. I continue the arguments I had hosted at the rat-list at the LMDA listserv now, which has the ear of many artistic directors and others working in regional theatre. I make these debates public as blog posts when I have the time to compose them and I think they can have some further effect beyond that private audience. Writing Rat Sass is a lonely ass occupation. I have been ostracized by the NYC bloggers. But I thought I was finding a home with Don, Scott, Bob, and others at Theatre Ideas and its extension into the theatrosphere. I had gifts planned for all at our first face-to-face gathering.

    http://www.bswatch.com/

    *sigh* Carry on, friends.

  20. Scott Walters says:

    Ah, yes, Nick, I’ve lost my NYC cherry by possibly participating in the Daisey post-show discussion. All our hereoes are sullied. I have no attachment to being marginalized. If appearing with Mike Daisey raises the profile of this argument, so be it. I’ll do what needs to be done. But I personally don’t need no stinking badge of honor for staying on the margin. I believe I can hold on to the ideas while I join the conversation.

    I respect what you have and continue to do with the RAT conference and Ratsass, while at the same time I find your tired resignation a bit disconcerting. If I held your philosophy, I would simply stop doing anything and instead would enjoy my golden years in sleepy comfort. Instead, I am trying to put my knowledge to good use.

    I believe change is possible and tipping points are reached. Scientists had been talking for years about global warming, but suddenly the conversation tipped because Al Gore was there at the right place with the right message. There are probably a lot of environmentalists who are burning over Johnny-come-lately Gore getting the Nobel Prize for popularizing their science, but there you are. Maybe Mike Daisey is the tipping point, maybe somebody else down the road is, but the process has to continue, the ball has to roll.

    After two and a half years, I am not tired of the fight. But what I am tired of is having the same damn fight over and over with a small group of people who are never going to budge. Most of my readers are from NYC and Chicago, which is absurd given that everything I write is to develop theatre outside those cities. So I am constantly being challenged to address that group, who stubbornly refuse to budge. Don is always going to think that humanity is mostly comprised of stupid cretins, you are always going to complain that my stated focus on regional diversity creates an us/them paradigm, dv is always going to insist on immediate practical actions, and I am certainly not going to abandon my ideas either. Stalemate. I have some important things to get done that are being untracked by the constant bickering.

  21. Ian Mackenzie says:

    Great discussion guys.

    “Don is always going to think that humanity is mostly comprised of stupid cretins, you are always going to complain that my stated focus on regional diversity creates an us/them paradigm, dv is always going to insist on immediate practical actions, and I am certainly not going to abandon my ideas either.”

    Stalemate, indeed.

    Scott, I’ll hope you’ll get back to blogging with renewed spirit when the time is right. We’ll always keep your guest post spot open here!

  22. Scott Walters says:

    Thanks, Ian — I will likely take you up on that offer.

  23. GreyZelda Land says:

    Wow … you start looking at other blogs in hope of finding some new ground and look what you find!

    I’m glad you’ve all worked it out for yourselves. =) And, thanks Nick … you spoke where my mind has been the last few days.

    Yeah, we’re actually having a celebratory BBQ for The Skriker and A View from the Bridge on May 24th. I feel DV and I are able to have pretty honest conversation without the assistance of alcohol … I’m about the same in person as I am in the comments. But, I won’t be getting liquored up this time around because I’m “knocked up” as they call it. So … Scott, you’re more than welcome to come by. Don … I cannot speak for the reception you might receive from the actors and my assistant director, and I’ve got this creature in my belly that I don’t want to get too riled up, but, if your balls are as big as you say they are, you’re welcome to come, too. DV’s got the info.

    RZ

  24. Don Hall says:

    Nick/Scott,

    I still think we should get together, get a coupla hotel rooms and get drunk in the hot tub, solving theater’s problems one bottle of Scotch at a time.

    I think this communicating via pronouncements and instant dissent is both addictive and productive and is a tipping point in and of itself. Sort of like a cyber-Algonquin Round Table with lots and lots of chairs.

    RZ,

    I’m not sure it would take a lot of balls to come to your BBQ and be given the cold shoulder or told what a dick I am. Thus far, your wounded bird/protective mother act hasn’t demonstrated that you have any interest at all in discussing the merits and flaws in your work so why, oh, why would I waste my time?

    Bottom line, my advice is to give it a rest.

  25. Scott Walters says:

    Yikes! Don, buddy, drain a little of that testosterone, friend. Breathe a little, and use your inside voice.

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