I was surprised to receive an e-mail yesterday from Larry Stark, longtime Boston critic (and IRNE member), as well as editor of the website The Theater Mirror. His note included a link to a post that he said I "might want to glance at." Well, I took a glance - and found the post quite heart-warming. So the first thing I want to do is thank Larry for his support. The second thing I want to do is share his post with you. It's an open letter to the A.R.T. - the kind of thing they're getting a lot of these days - regarding the recent brouhaha regarding yours truly. The letter kind of speaks for itself, so I'll just let it do that - but again, thanks, Larry. [The IRNEs ceremony is tonight, btw. Things could get interesting.]
Regrettably, until further notice, I shall not be attending any productions by the American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T.). Let me explain:
I have frequently been critical of other critics. In some cases, this has been my "internal editor" quibbling about style; at other times, it has been an attempt to let critics feel the personal pain that damaging criticism can cause in people who must get up before another audience knowing that critics' comments have shaped what at least some in that audience might thus believe.
But, even admitting these opinions, I believe even the harshest of critics, deep down, really love theater --- that creators and critics are really "on the same side". Sometimes it may look as though a critic Loves Theater To Death; still, in an austere era many of my colleagues are continuing to write critiques without being paid to do so, their love is that strong. And they try to apply their personal standards in as impartial a manner as possible, though it may not always look that way from outside. That, I think, is the critic's job.
The job of a Public Relations Coordinator for any particular theater company, though, is necessarily biased. The goal there is to get that same potential audience to view the company's shows in the best possible light, to see and appreciate what is there, and to come back again and again for more. And it may seem that P/R people and critics are at war --- especially when they disagree, with one seeing only negatives while the other must accentuate the positive.
But those on both sides operate in what is called "The Free Marketplace of Ideas" --- and audience-members may decide for themselves which one is right. This, at least, is how I assume the game should be played.
Lately, I have heard rumors that a vicious "kill the messenger" attitude threatens this entire structure. I have often voiced my opinions privately or written them publically, but deliberate attempts to disgrace or disbar or silence someone's free voice I cannot tolerate nor condone. I therefore sent the following letter to the producer at the American Repertory Theatre protesting what I see as disgraceful behavior, stretching back over many years, that has no place in that "Marketplace of Ideas" which I fervently hope will remain Free.
To: Diane Borger, Producer, AMERICAN REPERTORY THEATRE
Dear Ms. Borger:
Of late I have heard astonishing stories and rumors of the antics of a person in your employ referred to as "Catty" by those who have had contact with her. I undertstand that Public Relations work necessarily involves some sorts of manipulation; however, if even half of what I've been told
is true, this person has no ethical standards whatever. I am astonished that you continue to employ anyone who so totally misunderstands her profession, and mine.
You must realize that in the climate created by her actions, any positive reviews of your company's work can be construed as written out of fear of this woman's power to ruin the reputation of anyone voicing opposite opinions.
I cannot believe you are ignorant of this situation, but you must be aware that continuing to employ her in such a sensitive position can only be construed as approval of such behavior by the American Repertory Theatre, which I fervently hope cannot be the case.
But if you condone such actions, I cannot.
I cannot in good conscience continue to work with anyone who behaves with such vindictive misunderstanding of her job, and mine. To do so would suggest that I myself condone such behavior, which is decidedly Not the case.
Should there be a change in personnel in future, I would appreciate your notifying me.
of Theater Mirror