Thursday, February 09, 2006

"Can't Touch This"

Don Hall, over at "An Angry White Guy in Chicago" (see blogroll), in a section of a post entitled "Critique the Critique," chides Chicago Sun-Times theatre critic Hedi Weiss for her review of "A Child's History of Bombing" because she takes issue with what the play says. "In other words," Hall writes, "she criticizes the play, not for the acting, the set design, the quality of the written text, but because she disagrees with the point Allen and Sherman are making. She turns her review into an OpEd on those who would criticize war in general rather than just the wars she dislikes. This type of critique goes to heart of Scott's treatise on An Ethics of Theatre but focuses upon the role of the arts journalist in the equation of In-Yer-Face type topics. When the critic of a major newspaper turns a theater review into a political OpEd it no longer serves the art but blurs the line between responsible arts journalism and punditry."

I respectfully (and perhaps predictably) disagree that the content of a play should be ignored. What if there was a well-acted, beautifully-designed, stunningly-directed production of a brilliantly-written play that was a racist diatribe -- would it be OK to simply ignore the fact that the play was about something, to not condemn the content of the play? So many theatre people seem to expect critics to remain mired in the formalist New Criticism of the 1950s, which examined poems and novels as if they existed in a vacuum with no social, political, or psychological context. It is as if, when I was grading a student essay, I only graded on the font choice, paragraph layout, ink color, and quality of paper, but not what the essay was about.

A play is not simply a form on a stage -- a work of art in the theatre says something, and that is as much a part of the production as the interpretation. In my labyrinthan mind, this connects to the current expressions of opinion concerning the Muslim protests of the Danish cartoons portraying the prophet Mohammed. Isaac over at Parbasis (see blogroll) states an opinion that it is difficult to argue with: "I am staunchly for the freedom of expression, and that comics are art and art should be protected." Hear! Hear! Me too! Me too! By all means artists should be free to say what they think, but that is not the same as saying that people who view the art should not be allowed to react to it, to protest it with vigor.

For some reason, artists think that they should be given a free pass -- they can confront people, provoke people, make people "uncomfortable," invade their space, grab them by the scruff of the neck and shake them, but they expect that people should just shut up and accept the assault quietly and passively. Artists can hand out the assaults, but scream like babies when they are assaulted themselves. Yes, the Danish cartoonist should be allowed self-expression, and so should Muslims. To expect them to simply look the other way when their prophet is attacked is unreasonable. The same is true of the Christian reaction to Terrence McNally's Corpus Christi . That said, the form these protests have taken should be strongly condemned -- violence, or the threat of violence, is never an acceptable reaction to a work of art. However, non-violent protests should be seen as acceptable, and perhaps even welcome -- they might be seen as proof that the artist has succeeded in his goal of provocation. What's the point of provoking if everybody remains unprovoked? But to be surprised that there should be a negative reaction at all is naive.

If your slogan as an artist is "Sacred cows make the best burgers," then you should expect to get gored by a bull now and then. It is part of the game you've chosen to play. If you see your role as an artist being to provoke, then don't be surprised when people are outraged and let you know it. And don't whine when they take actions that provoke you. Goose, gander.

23 comments:

Alison Croggon said...

For some reason, artists think that they should be given a free pass -- they can confront people, provoke people, make people "uncomfortable," invade their space, grab them by the scruff of the neck and shake them, but they expect that people should just shut up and accept the assault quietly and passively.

Erm - I have to ask this: which artists are you talking about? Real provocateurs - people like Howard Barker, say - want people to react, and the last thing they want or expect is a passive and quiet audience. The quiet, passive audience is for them a reason to despair. Their theatre is all about an audience being something more than force-fed consumers: having, in fact, faith in them as human beings.

Don R. Hall said...

Scott,

For the most part, I agree with you. As a proponent of provocative art, I look for a reaction - both in agreement and disagreement - with the content of the plays I write, direct and produce.

The role of the theater critic, however, becomes murky on this point. What percentage of a review needs to be dedicated to the content of the play versus the quality of the presentation? Furthermore, how does the criticism of the content of a play "inform" the artist involved?

I may be a bit touchy on this point. In the early days of WNEP Theater we had a number of printed reviews that boiled down to the same two points: 1) The acting, writing, and direction was excellent but 2) why would anyone do a play about ___?

These reviews would then spend 75% of the text in OpEd mode, decrying the content. I then dealt with a portion of my company backing off of 'touchy' subject matter, avoiding anything that might seem too weird or provocative in the fear that we would continue to get blasted in the press (which, for a tiny non-profit theater, can equal death).

When someone not involved in a production, who pays no admission, wields the power that theater critics do, shouldn't the critique be primarily about the quality of the experience rather than the personal politics of the critic?

I believe that this sort of political opinion reviewing practice is a deadly sort of pressure that creates, in part, the mediocrity of content of popular theater in America.

Scott Walters said...

Allison -- I am talking about those who think take umbrage when someone takes issue with a play, and then does something about it -- like contacting board members, or complaining in the press, or writing a letter to a funding agency. These are perfectly legitimate responses, and artists need to be able to make a case for the value of their work in the face of such actions, and not fall back on the "freedom of speech" argument, which is a non sequitir.

Don: Theatre critics are not in service of the arts, they are journalists who serve the public. They are an outside eye, not a member of the team. Those critics who say otherwise, who say they are trying the help the artist, have missed the point of their job. That said, the critic does advance the art by drawing attention to things that ought to be noticed, and drawing it away from things that deserve to be forgotten.

If your company members backed off of touchy subjects because of the critical reaction, then they must not have believed very fully in those subjects, or else they were cowards. To me, being an artist requires courage, and determination in the face of apathy and hostility. (It also requires a self-directed crap detector, so as to know what in your own work deserves courage and determination, and what deserves to be abandoned as a bad job, but that might be asking a bit too much.)

In answer to your question, "When someone not involved in a production, who pays no admission, wields the power that theater critics do, shouldn't the critique be primarily about the quality of the experience rather than the personal politics of the critic?" The answer is: yes! But part of the quality of the experience is the content conveyed.

I think we need artists with a bit more backbone, who don't expect approbation for everything they do. Courage and determination aren't necessary if there are no challenges.

Justin Kownacki said...

I'm not entirely certain that a critique of a stage play that denounces the subject matter for not sharing the critic's political views is the same as an artist being taken to task for their choices and being asked to justify them, aesthetically or otherwise. As you'd said earlier, a beautifully realized stage play that glorifies racism would be a horrible thing to unleash upon the world without the merits of its content being questioned, but does that mean artists should be obligated to create only works that serve the political and social mores of the majority? What about the artistic lessons to be learned in understanding why, for example, that racist play works so well as an upsetting piece of art?

It's difficult for a critic to keep himself out of the critique, and perhaps unnecessary, since it's impossible to provide a useful objective review of art if you're serving the role of Public Filter. But when you pass along your political or social opinion as an artistic judgment, you've just crossed the line from Evaluator to Pundit, and then it's the credibility of the critic, not the artist or the work, that should be questioned.

Don R. Hall said...

"...when you pass along your political or social opinion as an artistic judgment, you've just crossed the line from Evaluator to Pundit, and then it's the credibility of the critic, not the artist or the work, that should be questioned.

My point exactly.

Alison Croggon said...

If you think an audience is part of the theatre, then a theatre critic - as a member of the audience, albeit a privileged one - is also part of the theatre. I have never had much time for the idea of the "objective" critic who hands out elephant stamps or black crosses and a mark out of ten - this is a fiction usually translated by media outlets into a consumer guide and by critics into an excuse for ignorance. And I know, first hand, how ignorant journalists can be. Personally, I'm all for theatre artists arguing back, even to me; most don't in fact because they fear being seen as whining complainers.

A true sense of commitment to theatre in an abstract sense sharpens the critical faculties. Of course critique should always be honest, or it's worthless: and it should also be informed. I don't always agree with things I consider fine criticism; that isn't the point. The point is the quality of response and expression, its ability to spark further thinking. It's probably worth remembering that the best critics, without exception, from Kenneth Tynan to Jann Kott, have always been advocates.

I was a critic for a weekly magazine, the Australian version of Time, for three years. I got a lot of hate mail, and even made it to 60 Minutes as an archetypal "bitch critic" when I was banned by a company here. A caricature of what I aimed to do, btw, but that is what often passes for cultural discourse here, and even then as now I had a lot of support among theatre artists who recognised the value of what I was doing. So I know what it's like to be on both sides of the fence. In my experience, both as artist and critic, what a serious artist desires above all from critique is for what he is attempting to do to be perceived. Whether that is then perceived as success or failure doesn't matter as much as the feeling that it has actually been seen and considered. This is much rarer than you might think.

I am always in the theatre as an audience member, yes, and I write critique in the service of theatre, yes. These don't seem to me to be at all mutually exclusive.

Devilvet said...

In today's paradigm, criticism has more to do with contributing to marketing than the "art".

I'm speaking or most weeklies.

In the end, aren't we talking about matters of personal taste?

Devilvet said...

In today's paradigm, criticism has more to do with contributing to marketing than the "art".

I'm speaking or most weeklies.

In the end, aren't we talking about matters of personal taste?

Don R. Hall said...

Bob,

Allow me to rephrase the above:

"...when you pass along your personal taste in politics or social morality as an artistic judgment, you've just crossed the line from Evaluator to Pundit, and then it's the credibility of the critic, not the artist or the work, that should be questioned."

I'm certainly not suggesting either critics should not be critical, brutally so, about the work they are paid to evaluate or that critics should somehow shed their own subjectivity. I am suggesting that an art critic has a responsibility to critique the art, not inject his/her political or social leanings to a greater degree and pass it off as a critique of the art.

As for today's paradigm, see if this fits: critics consistently reward "pretty" art; a good time is of higher value than the quality of the work; the higher publicity for tepid, middle-of-the-road art increases the liklihood of more of this banal nonsense thus stufling the possibilities of more challenging work. Marketing and it's success or lack thereof does contribute to the "art."

Alison Croggon said...

Devilvet, yes of course personal taste is part of aesthetic response (how could it not be?) But I have come to the view that opinion is the least of it; mere opinion is very boring to read. A critic is someone, I suppose, who has professionalised their personal taste.

Ideally a critic should be informed: they should know something about the artform they are critiquing, its histories and techniques. And be open enough to recognise when her perceptions and prejudices are challenged, and to examine those challenges on their own merits. I like reading those critics best whose aesthetic is on the table.

George Hunka said...

It's true that the critic, especially today (and this is a fairly recent development, I think), isn't expected to offer an aesthetic sense, or even to have one, where theater is concerned. There was a time when critics like William Archer, or Shaw, or certainly Jan Kott and Ken Tynan affected artists, and even audiences: not to say that they set the aesthetic direction of the theater, but that they were as key to the possibilities and renaissance of a dessicated theater as the practitioners of it. A critic's perception of his role in the theatrical experience says a great deal about the health of the theater, and if the critic believes that his sole responsibility is to the audience and especially to the audience's wallets, then true, theater artists should not look to these critics for validation.

Here I find myself somewhat in agreement with Scott, for once: that certainly the content of a play (so far as it can be divorced from its form, which as you know I think is an impossible divorce) is grist for a critic's mill. Politics integrates with aesthetics if only because these both are human pursuits, and Shaw and Kott and Bentley--one could list almost every significant critic of the past and the present--all had rather sharp political axes to grind. One can say the same thing of artists and playwrights, even playwrights who have erroneously been identified as "apolitical" like Beckett. If a critic leaves this behind at home he's not being entirely honest with either the artist or with the audience he presumably serves in Scott's conception of the role.

Even an assumption like "Political activity can provide no redemption for the soul, for the soul's realm is not solely that of the quotidian world" is a political assumption, of course, but it can be read not only as an end point but as an origin of a theater that explores why this would be true. It also introduces the issue of what the role of politics is in the life of the soul, for few of us are apart from the world entirely, and redemption is not our sole aim, though it may be the prize upon which we have our eye.

Marketing and advertising are poor foundations upon which to base an aesthetic as well, so I must disagree with Don here, and say that marketing is an ancillary issue to the art, as necessary as it might be to getting audiences into the theater, as it always was. So long as it doesn't affect what the artist wishes to place on her stage.

Anonymous said...

I think Alison makes a good point when she writes that, "A critic is someone, I suppose, who has professionalised their personal taste." I think it is impossible and unethical for a critic to attempt to divorce his or her political beliefs from his or her personal taste. After all, such beliefs play a large role in defining each individual! A critic's FIRST obligation is to maintain a level of honesty with his or her readers.

As a former critic myself, the reviews that I consistently find uninteresting are the ones that are laundry lists (i.e. good acting, mediocre script, fabulous production design and direction, etc...). As a reader, all I ask from the critic is an honest reaction- whatever that might be. If that means an entire discussion of the political ideas, that's fine.

Stanley Kauffmann, my favorite critic, was asked a similar question some years ago in an interview, which I have included portions of below:

Interviewer: Do your political ideas have an impact on your work as a critic?

SK: Of course. May I tell you a quick, related story? About fifteen or sixteen years ago, there happened to come along a cluster of works which politically I loathed. They weren't terribly good anyway, in my view; but it was mainly their reactionary political views that I detested. I wrote reviews of these pictures, and, after the reviews were published, I got a letter from Martin Peretz saying that he disagreed completely with my political views. Now who could ask for a better job than that? Your boss writes to say he disagrees with you after he publishes your review.

The late Susan Sontag is another of my favorite critics (though her theater writings were far less prolific). Even when I disagreed with her, I found it impossible to ever put down one of her reviews- precisely because I recognized the honesty of her voice, and respected her deep engagement with difficult ideas that offer no easy solution.

I'll refrain from writing out a laundry lists of important critics who used their position and reviews to advance their political ideas. Both George and Alison have already sufficiently this area.

I will say that the notion of the "laundry list" critic is responsible for the great decline in American criticism. It has lead to a proliferation of what Robert Brustein calls "Himalaya criticism," after a famous Danny Kaye joke.

Brian

Don R. Hall said...

So long as it doesn't affect what the artist wishes to place on her stage.

And here is where I think things get sticky.

The majority of plays in Chicago are produced by small companies with little budgets. Given that securing a venue for these plays will eat up app. 60% of their meager budget, the question of whether or not it gets reviewed by a major publication becomes critical to whether or not the production can afford to produce a second or third show.

The trend that I see in Chicago theater is that specific critics dismiss plays about certain subject matter. After a period of some time, it becomes extremely difficult to produce plays that it is apparent will not be covered by one of the two major papers in town.

When a critic with significant influence makes it consistently apparent that she will either pan or ignore plays about, let's say religious intolerance, the side effect is that producers begin to avoid plays that deal with religious intolerance because it has become financially unfavorable to produce them.

If the producers are avoiding works that deal with religious intolerance, after a while, playwrights (who want their work actually seen by people) focus their plays on other, more commercially viable, subjects. Thus, a subtle and slow form of self-censorship becomes the norm.

I agree with Scott in that it takes courage and determination. It also takes money. And an audience.

A critic's perception of his role in the theatrical experience says a great deal about the health of the theater...

I agree completely.

I am not suggesting that theater critic's suddenly ignore their own opinions concerning subject matter. An avidly pro-choice critic shouldn't ignore the subject matter when reviewing a pro-life play. She should, however, suggest a certain degree of objectivity when approaching it.

EX: I hate farce. Hate it. I'm not a published theater critic. When I was invited to see a production in Chicago last year of a farce, I let my friend (who was in the cast) know that I hate farce and it would likely color my reaction.

It did. I hated the show. When asked (by the director and playwright, as well as by friends who were thinking of seeing the show) what my 'review' was, I was honest.

"I don't care for farce. I hate it. This production, however, has an excellent cast, is directed very well, and the audience around me loved it. If you enjoy farce, this will not disappoint."

If I spent my time explaining why I think farce is like having my eyeballs torn out by weasels, and how anyone who produces farce is a rube, my 'review' is irresponsible in spite of it being my honest opinion.

Likewise, for a theater critic to spend ink panning a play because of it's content in spite of the qualities of the production is irresponsible.

Would we be so relaxed about this issue if the trend were critics publicly raving about poorly performed plays because they dealt in political issues the critics' found appropriate or affirming?

YS said...

John Heilpern, (Can anybody tell me where he is writing these days?,) in his review of How I Learned to Drive asked the very logical question: Do we really have to have a play that treats pedophilia in anything other than a negative light?

In other words, Heilpern stated, some things are just wrong and artists are off the mark in trying to examine it from another angle.

I have heard Paula Vogel speak on more than one occasion, and it is clear to me that she is not so misguided as Helprin might be presenting. Also, Ms. Vogel is smart enough to have anticipated responses like this in her conception and execution of the play. While Heilpern's view appears to be in the small minority it is still, in a strange way, an integral part of the overall fabric of Vogel's project.

All of this brings me to a question that has been raised before on some these blogs, does an artist need to defend himself?

My answer is Yes. An artist needs to defend himself or herself during the entire process of creating something. In conception, formation, development and execution the artist must rigorously defend his or her ideas and aesthetics internally and with peers.

A high profile example of this as of late is Tony Kushner and Steven Speilberg having to defend Munich. I do not believe that they anticipated the amount of conservative blowback they would get, and Kushner finally wrote a defense in the LA Times.

A playwright doesn't even have to be political or racial to warrant an incisive criticism from an intelligent critic. A play that has got some notoriety of late, The Ruby Sunrise, ran at Trinity Rep a couple of years ago and I thought that our local NPR critic Bill Marx of WBUR had an interesting take on the play. He said that in the end the play appears to celebrate artistic compromise and mediocrity.

Here is quote from his review:

"Regional theaters are anxious to give conservative subscription audiences the truths that comfort them. 'The Ruby Sunrise' is a parable for our times: it says it is laudable to create crap wrapped up in an entertainingly innocuous package, as long as your heart is in the right place."

Anonymous said...

don r. hall wrote: "Likewise, for a theater critic to spend ink panning a play because of it's content in spite of the qualities of the production is irresponsible."

I could not disagree more strongly. The model of the critic that you present is extremely limited and old fashioned.

Engaging the ideas of a play are, in my opinion, the most important ground for a theatre critic to cover. All of the pragmatic objections you raise (i.e. our company can't do the subject matter we like because the critics pan it and we won't be able to afford other shows) are and should be irrelevant to the critic.

Perhaps your theatre would be better off either reconsidering how you go about finding your audience or reconsidering your notion of theatre.

The irony is that you seem to want to present plays that explore complex ideas (i.e. your mention of plays that explore the nature of religious intolerance), but you would rather that the critical focus be devoted to the production qualities (i.e. actors, design, direction, etc...)!

I believe that artists should develop their own voice and use this voice to express the ideas that are most important to them. If these ideas are important to you, then you will find a way to do them- regardless of the venue, criticism, or monetary sacrifices. The same is true of the critic. Each critic has a responsibility to his readership to pan or promote the ideas and vision of art that he or she most strongly believes in.

Brian

Don R. Hall said...

"...when you pass along your personal taste in politics or social morality as an artistic judgment, you've just crossed the line from Evaluator to Pundit, and then it's the credibility of the critic, not the artist or the work, that should be questioned."

I just can't enough of that quote.

The irony is that you seem to want to present plays that explore complex ideas (i.e. your mention of plays that explore the nature of religious intolerance), but you would rather that the critical focus be devoted to the production qualities (i.e. actors, design, direction, etc...)!

The real irony is how poorly I communicated my point. I never meant to "seem to want" that. In fact, I never wrote anything resembling that. I am suggesting that an art critic has a responsibility to critique the art, not inject his/her political or social leanings to a greater degree and pass it off as a critique of the art.

Again, "I don't like the message or point of view of this play" is more about the critic than the work being reviewed. Of course that will come into play, but if it is limited and old-fashioned to expect honest criticism with integrity from journalists covering the theater, perhaps you're right, Brian.

Anonymous said...

Don,

I agree with a few of your points. First, I too have little time or patience for "critics" who use a star system or or thumbs up system to evaluate a work of art. Quite often, these are the people that simply say, "I don't like the message of this play (or book or film") and then slap some sort of score on it. In fact, I would call those people reviewers which, in my mind, is very different from being a critic.

In all fairness, I have not seen the reviews that were leveled at your theater. Perhaps they would fall into this category. The aforementioned brand of criticism is what I was referring to earlier when I invoked Brustein's remark about "Himalaya criticism." And yes, a good deal of journalistic based criticism, especially in daily newspapers, falls into this category.

However, I think good criticism can't be pinned down in one definable way. Every critic has a different personality. Each critic's personality and background will effect their reaction to a work of art. For instance, I adore the late film critic Pauline Kael, who was often chided by detractors for talking about everything except the movie she was critiquing. The same criticism was leveled against Sontag at different points over some of her theater and film criticism. Many of the best critics, in my mind, use the ideas of a work of art (whether in agreement or dissent) as a springboard for larger discussions and engagement. A good critic will not say "I don't like the message of this play." Instead, they will engage WHY they don't like the message of the play.

One does not always have to agree with that judgment. I found myself in disagreement with Stanley Kauffmann (my favorite critic and a hero of mine) recently over his ideas about the film Munich (which he believed fell victim to the "sin of moral equivalence"). I was, however, very interested and impressed by his analysis and equally interested in his thoughts.

I would like to emphasis again that and individual's social and political leanings will ALWAYS influence ones approach to art. Our political and social leanings influence the way we see the world and those around us. Why should they be disregarded or relegated to a secondary status when we approach or critique art? Art, since the earliest time, has always been concerned with answering the question that Aristotle raises in Nichomean Ethics: "What is the proper way to live ones life?" Artists answer this question every time they choose to mount a particular work, and critics express their answer through their reactions to a work of art. A critic's views about the world (and their leanings) will influence how they view a work and how they discuss and write about a work in their critique.

The visions of the critic and artist, of course, will often come into conflict, but this is the nature of the beast. Both critics and artists have a responsibility to themselves and their audiences to have the courage to continue to advance the personal ideas that they believe in- even if others are attempting to silence or shout them out.

Brian

Don R. Hall said...

I think we are in basic agreement.

I have no doubt that a critic's personal politics will come into play when reviewing art. I don't have any difficulty with that. I do have difficulty when that political opinion overshadows the critique of the work itself. This is why I see Sontag as a great theater philosopher, but a lousy theater critic. Kael is less a critic than a great read.

Ultimately, as a consumer and artist, I don't care "why they don't like the message of the play." As I've stated, that isn't artistic criticism - it's an OpEd column.

FYI - in the thirteen years and nearly 70 World Premieres I've produced, directed, written, and performed in with WNEP Theater, I've rarely had any problems with our reviews - in fact, only one series of reviews (mentioned above) and that was one critic. My beef (initially) was of a review (and tendency of Hedy Weiss's) of a show I have no professional association with - I haven't even seen the show yet. Ms. Weiss has never seen one of ours.

arcticactor said...

"...when you pass along your personal taste in politics or social morality as an artistic judgment, you've just crossed the line from Evaluator to Pundit, and then it's the credibility of the critic, not the artist or the work, that should be questioned."

I can only guess, since I haven't seen the show either, but ... if this behavior changes Evaluators into Pundits, is it possible that the play in question changed from Artpiece to Opinion Piece somewhere along the line, too? To hear Weiss tell it, the play became a tract somewhere around intermission. To hear you tell it, Weiss got the message, but it sounds like the message doesn't give the audience anything to work with or chew on -- merely something to react to. I ask because I don't know, Don. I just wonder if the same perversion of job titles can happen on our side, too.

We're having a similar debate for different reasons here in DC, too.

devore said...

My motto is "sacred cows make the best burgers."

Are you talking to me?

Jeff Sweet said...

When you write a play that dramatizes a provocative perspective, you should expect to provoke a reaction.

That said, Hedi Weiss has a reputation for getting things hilariously and embarrassingly wrong. She sees anti-Semitism in every opinion that doesn't agree with hers. In this spirit, she's called me a historical revisionist and claimed that I wrote a play that saw an equivalence between members of the SS and kapos who were forced to disagreeable things when guns were at their heads. She also called Tony Kushner a "self-loathing Jew" in print, to which he took grave exception. And she saw the schoolgirl uniforms in WICKED as being based on the clothing of Holocaust victims. Both the director of WICKED, Joe Mantello, and Tony demanded and got substantial space to respond to what they saw as being stupid and offensive beyond the bounds of professionalism.

There's a difference between informed political discussion and a brain so rigidly fixed in one perspective that it can't entertain any opinion different from hers. I've said it elsewhere, and I'll say it here, she is one of the three or four most embarrassing critics in America.

Scott Walters said...

Jeffrey Sweet -- I probably would agree with you and Don about Hedi Weiss. What I was defending against Don's onslaught was the validity of a critic commenting on the ideas in a play, and not simply whether the quality of the production. Don seems to think this is out of bounds; I think it is central. Many contemporary artists share Don's attitude. I am reminded of Henry Higgins' aside about the French in "My Fair Lady": "The French don't care what they do, actually, as long as they pronounce it properly." Many artists today don't care what they say, actually, as long as they say it well and the production is competent. Where is the sense of responsibility?

Jeff Sweet said...

Scott -- I agree with you regarding the idea that, if you write a play dealing with ideas, you must expect, nay HOPE!, that the reviews will go beyond "the lighting was nice and I could hear every word the cast said" and entertain and discuss the issues raised. My criticism of Hedi isn't that she addresses the issues, it's that she addresses them so foolishly as to invite derision. You don't have to be popular with the people you criticize, but you lose credibility if a lot of the artistic community have no respect for you. This is where Hedi is at the moment. Indeed, when her name comes up among some of my critic friends, eyes begin to roll.