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Friday, July 8, 2005

unlettered arrogance

Posted by on July 8 at 14:00 PM

We here in the theater section are used to haughty artists writing in to complain about not being handled with kid gloves. Sometimes friends of the artists write to friends at the paper, insinuating that, for example, I’ve never heard of Mark Morris. (Confidential to VJ: Um, of course I have. And also: I review performance, not an artist’s “significant impact on the community locally” or lack thereof. And also: I had no problem with the soloist; the fake-pompous molecules were what made me wince.)

But I’m getting carried away. This letter, addressed to Stranger writer Lindy West regarding her review of One Flea Spare, really takes the buttercream-frosted cake:

This article was sent to you by XXXXXXX, as a service of The Seattle Times (

Comments from sender: I wanted to send you this because this reviewer saw the 8pm show the same day that you did. I just find it ironic how reviews can be such a contrast.

Just inquiring why are you involved in the arts?What are your degrees?

Just FYI. There were two people from Kentucy who saw the show and know of or are related to Naomi Wallace. They thought the acting and direction was great. They also mention that the layers and various issues were more addressed not just the plague. The plague was more of a symbolism.

Respect always-

Tanja, Tanja, Tanja. Where to begin? Maybe you should have somebody proofread your letters before you send them to members of the media?

Why is it "ironic" that people have different opinions about a production? I would find it rather creepy if everyone who saw a show (or listened to a record, or watched a movie) had exactly the same thoughts about it.

And Richard Wallace's review is hardly a passionate endorsement, though it's typical of the gingerly approach of the Seattle Times freelance corps. He spends half his review summarizing and heaping praise on the play itself. And you may have to read between the lines to see it (as you do with much arts coverage in the dailies), but a production that "catches some of the power of Naomi Wallace's terrific language but misses the complexities of character" sounds like a disappointing night of theater to me.

On the subject of what qualifies you to critique theater: A degree? Doubtful. (If your show only appeals to those who have a college education, it's probably a massive failure.) But "knowing of" or being related to a playwright? Oh, absolutely. Tanja, can you please email me the contact information for these "Kentucians"? I DEFINITELY want them to review the next Seattle production of The Inland Sea.