Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Barbie and Ken go to Weimar

File under "stupid quote for the day" -

From singer/pianist Amanda Palmer, the Barbie half of the Dresden Dolls, on their upcoming production The Onion Cellar at the ART:

"The director [Marcus Stern] has said from the beginning that we can create a piece of theater that rises to the level of a rock show rather than bring a rock show down to the level of theater."

Fer sure, Amanda! Like stupid old theater could EVER rise to the awesome level of you know, like rock and everything.

Next: Debbie Harry disses Beckett!


  1. Where is the quote from?

  2. Another note - as dumb as it sounds, the comment does neatly, if perhaps subconsciously, encapsulate a strain of thinking at Woodruff's ART.

  3. By taking this quote out of context, you make it sound as if Palmer has no respect for the theatre, when the full quote on the Phoenix is actually quite thoughtful and speaks more about the intimacy of theatre vs a rock concert rather than one form being "higher" (ie, better) than another. Rather then supplying the entire quote, or indeed looking deeper into what she might have meant by "levels", you choose to just make fun of her, like she's some sort of spoiled brain dead Barbie. That is not only insulting, but actually quite lazy of you.
    Even worse, you are poisoning the well for a show that hasn't even opened yet. Is that what theatre critics are supposed to being doing? Didn't you and Will Stackman, et al, just collectively gang spank Jenna Scher for doing that on her Dig blog to "Almost Asleep??
    I also wonder if you would care to elaborate on your statement that this comment seems to "encapsulate a strain of thinking at Woodruff's ART". What exactly do you mean by that? To even suggest that Woodruff cares nothing for theatre is absurd. Which leads me to another question: Why is the ART the constant target for belittlement and scorn from the web critics? Why is it all right to lacerate a show at the ART before it even opens but a crime when it's done to any other theatre in town? The ART's work continues to inspire, with "Wings of Desire" probably one of the most astounding pieces of theatre I have ever seen in my life. (Perhaps you could find the time to write about that show, which, by the way, opened last night - though you would never know it from this blog, since you seem too busy giving the Huntington a hand job.) The ART is one of only a few theatres in town taking any meaningful theatrical risks, and not just spoon-feeding their audience more safe, sit-com, pallid, pandering, unimaginative, generic drivel that will ultimately lead to the death of all theatre completely. You would think the "critics" would at least see that.

  4. Okay, elsewhere Barbie does say, "I think you can take risks in a theater setting that you can’t take in a rock setting. You’ve got more contact with the theater audience, and there’s a different energy." This, however, is NOT "quite thoughtful"; in fact, it doesn't really mean much, aside from a little nod to the middlebrow cult of "risk" and the inevitable point that, well, Zero Arrow is a pretty small club to be playing. I'm afraid your interpretation is rather more willful than mine.

    As for "poisoning the well for a show that hasn't even opened yet" - don't worry; between WFNX (of which the Phoenix is in many ways merely a publicity arm) and Harvard (for which the Boston Globe serves the same function), this show was all but DESIGNED for the Boston PR scene. I think the Dolls are safe from my skepticism; the targets of Ms. Scherer's (or your?) malice were considerably more vulnerable.

    And yes, I would happily elaborate on my comment regarding Robert Woodruff - after last season's mediocre "Orpheus X," and this year's "Wings of Desire" and "Onion Cellar," it's rather clear that Mr. Woodruff seems to be psychologically trapped in an endlessly cycling production of Sam Shepard's "Tooth of Crime." The theatrical outcomes of this obsession could work as nostalgia, of course - but that's not how the ART frames them; instead, we're supposed to believe they're up-to-the-minute.

    As for why the web critics belittle the ART - we do it because we're generally smarter than the print critics, and don't have to follow the political marching orders of our editors. As for the ART being "the only theatre in town taking meaningful risks" - I'm afraid I don't see the ART taking any risks, at least not many of late. "Oedipus" took some risks, and the ART did provide the stage for Tony Kushner's "Only We Who Guard the Mystery Shall Be Unhappy," but that was a long time ago, and those quite-happy memories have since been obliterated by "Three Sisters," "Amerika," "Olly's Prison," and several other pretentious atrocities. In the meantime, the ART has all but destroyed its company of actors, and has ignored the most vital playwriting of our time. They may, indeed, inspire you, but that's probably because you have bad taste.

    As for my giving the Huntington "a handjob" - did you even READ my post on "Mauritius"?

  5. allrighty, then.

    First of all, pointing to other aspects of the Palmer quote to prove that it wasn't "thoughtful" (I'll admit: her words aren't exactly Tolstoy. What do you expect from what was probably a 10 minute phone interview?) still doesn't eliminate the fact that you took it out of context and that you willfully applied a wrong meaning to it. My intrepretation, "willful" as it may be, was at least kind. Yours, mean-spirited.

    Also: Just because a theatre is larger in size doesn't give you permission to treat it differently from others or to pass judgement on a show that hasn't opened.
    Once again, in this latest post, you dismiss and lacerate both "Wings of Desire" and "The onion cellar" one of which you haven't officially reviewed (i'm giving the benefit of the doubt that you even saw "Wings of Desire") and one that HAS NOT OPENED (and yet, according to you, is "mediocre". What? Are you spying on the rehearsals or something?)
    As for the web critics being "smarter" than your print counterparts and having better "taste": I laughed out loud at that one. You collectively display the most predestrian, un-sophisicated, arrogant, unimaginative taste (if it can be called that) to ever grace a web-site. What is TRULY sad is that you are probably the best of the lot (not saying much) and please don't take that as a compliment.

    ART has "destroyed" it's company of actors? How so? When last I checked, they were still the only large-sized theatre in town to even HAVE a company and employ them year round (what other company does that in this area?) Ben Evett left, apparently to form his own company, true. And Alvin Epstein has moved on to New York and other projects. But most of the company is still there, it seems to me. They also hire local talent (like Paula Plum, for example) for substantive roles. So that statement is just out and out WRONG. (Important note for you: just because you say something, or write it in your blog, doesn't make it true)

    To call "Three Sisters" an atrocity is an absolute outrage. do you have any idea who Kristin Lupa is? Do you know ANYTHING about his work? Do you even care that it was the first time he had ever worked in the US, and that the ART was responsible for bringing one of the most respected and admired theatre directors in all of Europe to the States?

    Again: laziness and arrogance.

    As for ignoring vital playwrights: Edward Bond is perhaps one of the most vital playwrights working in theatre today, and Olly's Prison had scads more to say about the human condition than some tedious, pointless, predictable, unsurprising, made-for-tv-movie-of-the-week play like Rabbit Hole, (which apparently, at least to you, is American playwrighting at its best) or some boring, obvious, lifeless, superficial, saccharine staging of Loves Labours Lost (again, the pinnacle of theatre according to you)

    And you have the nerve to bemoan MY bad taste?

    I suppose it's better than having absolutely none.

    As for your post on "Mauritius": I did read it, and again, you're wrong. Mauritius was a better play than Rabbit Hole. It contained sharper writing and more complicated characters. It also had a better cast and direction, but that is just the luck of the draw, it seems.

    I guess I don't understand your definition of the word "risk". To me, producing a play that does not pander, that challenges it's audience and makes them work is a risk.
    A play is not a risk when it acts like theatrical Chinese food: lulling it's audience into a shiny, pretty, harmless coma that anyone would forget 20 minutes after they've seen it. Really, who needs to pay money and trudge out in the rain to see that? That's why we have television (on which Rabbit Hole belongs). I frankly expect a bit more from my theatre experience. But then again, I have no taste. And apparently you critics are much smarter than me.

  6. Jenna - I assume this IS Jenna - this is going to be the last of your courteous missives that I post, because you're just getting pathetic, and I feel like I'm beating up on a cripple when I reply. On the other hand, maybe the braying, gaping pit of need that is your soul will lead to more hits for the site, and eventually a better deal from brightcove! Hmmm - I'll have to think about that one.

    In the meantime, however, let me disassemble your latest comment line by odious line.

    First, you admit, when the evidence is in, that Miss Palmer's thoughts "aren't exactly Tolstoy." Yet you still criticize me for being "mean-spirited" in pointing out their stupidity. "Mean-spirited" . . . or just "critical" . . ? Gosh, that's a toughie . . . (But btw, Jen - kudos for being kind! That's a first for you!)

    As for my taking Palmer's comments "out of context" - no. They're not out of context, you're just blind to said context: that while pop music is superior to theater, theater's intimacy is some compensation. This more careful articulation is still deeply conventional, blatantly designed to appeal to rock fans, and just plain dumb.


    "Just because a theatre is larger in size doesn't give you permission to treat it differently from others or to pass judgement on a show that hasn't opened."

    Listen closely: yes it does. The rules for big fish and little fish are different. The rules for professionals and amateurs are different. Yes, I can ridicule the pretensions of a million dollar show at the richest university in America before I can ridicule the efforts of an earnest bunch of amateurs pooling their life savings into a show at a converted firehouse (as you did).

    And what is this about my "officially reviewing" things? This is MY BLOG, Jenna - I'm not slumming on the Weekly Dig website - and I can joke about what I want to, when I want to; I suppose you'll be monitoring my phone conversations next!

    Your post continues on its downhill slog: you "laugh out loud" at my noting that you have bad taste, even though you wrote to my blog and accused me of giving handjobs. And that, honey, is very tacky. Just in case they didn't teach you this at Brandeis, let me repeat: do not write to people and accuse them of giving handjobs, because it may give them the strange idea that you have no taste!

    (Bonus points for calling me "predestrian," though.)

    Onward and downward: "Most of the [ART]company is still there, it seems to me," you write. Really? Where are they, Jenna? They weren't in "bobrauschenbergamerica," and they're not in "Wings of Desire." The company does seem to be sharing stage time with the Dolls in "The Onion Cellar," but they won't be in "The Importance of Being Earnest" (which is being performed by two imported actors). As for "Britannicus" and "No Man's Land," you kind of quake thinking which ART actors (Thomas Derrah? Karen MacDonald?) might be forced into the leads. That leaves "Oliver Twist," which is a restaged version of a British production. Oh, yeah, the company's in fine shape. Robert Woodruff has been steadily transforming the ART from a repertory company into a kind of Soho Celebrity Series. It's not a secret; he says so openly. You just seem to have not gotten the memo.

    Well, things at least get funny from here on in: "To call "Three Sisters" an atrocity is an outrage!" Yeah, tell to Edinburgh, where the damn thing was all but booed off the stage. Then there's "Do you have any idea who Kristin Lupa is?" Indeed I do - but apparently YOU don't - you misspelled his name (but then, you misspelled your own . . .) Then there's: "Edward Bond is perhaps one of the most vital playwrights working today." A pretty big PERHAPS, if you ask me, as his best work is over thirty years old, he hasn't written a play in six years, and he's rarely produced in English. Of course maybe you frequent the Berliner Ensemble, which has done Bond in translation, but somehow I doubt it. Certainly his reputation was done no favors by "Olly's Prison," a monotonous whine from the disgruntled left, which hadn't been seen in thirteen years before the ART did it, and probably won't be seen for at least thirteen more.

    For the grand finale, you pull out all the stops, and whack yourself over the head again and again: "'Olly's Prison' had scads to say about the human condition . . . 'Mauritius' was a better play than 'Rabbit Hole' . . .'Love's Labours' Lost' was boring, obvious, lifeless, superficial, saccharine . . . " Bloodied but unbowed, playing Punch to your own Judy, you just won't give yourself a break.

    Jenna, you're funny - your putdowns can be to die for. But that is the extent of your talent. You're a bad critic - yes, you're young, but you're like some vicious, dim demographic cliche; hell, you fell for "The Pillowman," which even Joel Brown saw through! Now run along before I get really mean-spirited.

  7. To the handful of readers who may have gotten this far through the thread: "Anonymous" has emailed repeatedly insisting that he/she is not Jenna Scherer (along with pouring gallons of further invective on my head). And perhaps that's true, despite his/her knowledge of Ms. Scherer's various battles and the close match between their opinions and general tone. I suppose I may owe Ms. Scherer an apology, only . . . I do actually think all those things I said about her! Oh well . . .

  8. What, are you crazy? You're not letting "anonymous" or "Jenna Scherer" or whomever continue to post? That exchange you guys had was priceless! It made me scan all your other entries in hopes of finding more like it. For the unwashed out here in middlebrow land, WHO IS this Jenna Scherer, and how did you two come to have such deep feeling for each other? (OK, "anonymous" may not have been this Jenna Scherer, but now that you pointed a finger, throw us a bone, please).

    I apologize if you find my focus on this exchange counter to the purpose of your blog, but, wow, that was something....

    Best of luck with this blog--hope it goes well.

    PS, I have checked and double-checked my spelling; I now fear the consequences of an errant letter. (You used anonymous' misspellings to good effect, but I hope you you give quarter to civilians).

  9. Yes, Enquiring Mind, "Anonymous" was fun for a while, but his/her posts grew more incoherent and flailing, and so I pulled the plug, and haven't heard a peep from him/her since. As for Jenna Scherer (who in the end I don't think would have gone quite as crazy as "Anonymous" did), you can find her caustically funny, but deeply conventional, criticism at

  10. Hiya kids. Umm...this is Jenna Scherer. For real. And I've never seen this blog until now, when I was searching on Google for old articles.

    It's pretty cool that you insulted me for something I never said. It was sort of an out-of-body experience, watching you deconstruct "my" writing when it wasn't mine.

    Ah well, this was entertaining. Gotta go work on another one of my "utterly conventional" reviews now. Cheers!