Friday, April 30, 2004

A Round of Applause!?

Check out this column about A Raisin in Sun with Sean Combs.

I don't think that I could really add anything to Peggy Noonan's comment about how the audience reaction to a major plot point has changed so much in a short amount of time.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Jay Severin Celebrates A Retraction?….Just One Problem…….

The Globe did not print a retraction, or an apology. They printed a correction of what Jay actually said. A clarification. Once again, no retraction, and no apology.

I listen to Jay almost everyday, and I was shocked at his dancing and celebrating over this yesterday. I had thought that he would let it go and hope that the storm passes.

He sounds, I hate to say this, like a desperate man. He calls his audience his best and brightest, but it is clear to me that Jay is banking on his estimation that a large portion of his his audience does not read the paper, or at least not the Globe. But, the Herald published a follow up to the story today, so some of his strategy might fail.
The fact that WTKK will not release the transcripts is hurting Jay really badly.

In the end though he is a dynamic and interesting speaker. He is an entertainer and he has an audience. I like Howard Stern, and I am saddened that people who don't approve of his sexual references want him fired. My reaction to those people is, "if you don't like it, turn it off." I don't approve of what Severin says and I turn him off when I don't like it.

But here is the difference. While Severin has the right to say whatever he wants, he must own up to what he says and stand behind it, or try to explain himself if it is misconstrued. And apologize if it is necessary. Howard Stern stands up for what he says, he believes what he is saying is not wrong and he offers no apologies.

Therefore, with Severin, I really believe that in the case of his statement, "I think we should kill them," we are faced, logically, (as Jay would say,) with a limited number of options.

1. Jay didn't say it.
2. Jay said it, but didn't mean it the way it is perceived.
3. Jay really believes it and stands by it.

The transcripts of the broadcast disprove option #1.

I am satisfied that the articles in the paper show that he wants to make option #2 the answer, but I think Severin should do a better job on his show of proving #2 is true because...

Option #3 would mean that based on his statements, according to the transcripts, he truly believes in the genocide of Muslims in this country.

Whether he is entertaining or not. Nobody should be sponsoring or listening to somebody who advocates that.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Jay Severin's Bold Gamble

Most people who listen to talk Radio in Boston at least know who Jay Severin is. Last week he got into some hotwater as an Islamic Group called for his firing because he allegedly said, "I have an idea, lets kill all the Muslims," during a broadcast. The Boston Globe published an article about it, saying that somebody had contacted Severin's employer.

I was listening to the radio when Severin said the comments last week. I read the Boston Globe article, but really I couldn't remember Severin's exact words, although I remembered the tirade was very edgy and uncomfortable.

I tuned in Monday because the Boston Globe stated something about Severin offering an apology. Severin took to the airwaves on Monday and rather than offer an apology, he ranted about the Globe misquoting him and not doing any due diligence and that he was possibly going to sue the Globe. However, Severin, would not read any transcript of what he said, nor would he play the tape of his diatribe.

I went online when I went home and looked at the Globe article again. The article frames all of the quotes as "alleged," and it seems as if somebody did contact his boss at the radio station. What was frustrating me about Jay's Monday broadcast is that he just kept hammering home that he did not say what they attributed to him, but he did not clarify what he actually said.

Well, the Globe published a follow up article today and they provided a transcript. Jay's actual comment, following a caller who was trying to explain that a lot of Muslims in this country seem to love freedom, was, "I have an alternative viewpoint. It's slightly different than yours. You think we should befriend them; I think we should kill them."

In the Globe article Severin is trying to spin and parse this six ways to Sunday, but, in the end, Severin was talking about Muslims in this country in his runup to that statement.

The arrogance he displayed by hiding behind the fact that he didn't say, "I have an idea, let's kill all the Muslims," is truly amazing.

My theory is that Jay is actually banking on some twisted belief that his "best and brightest," (a term he uses for his audience.) don't read a newspaper. He is lying straight to his listening audience hoping that:

A. The transcript won't surface.
B. It won't make anymore news than the Globe.
C. His audience are so racist, xenophobic, and facist that they just won't care.

Anybody who listens to Jay at all knows that he is all about strategy. And I believe that he is taking a risk of just outright lying to his audience in hopes that this will blow over.

An Islamic caller called in yesterday and said that he had heard the call last week as well. He asked Jay to clarify what Jay had said. Severin crushed him off of the air. But before he was off, the Islamic man said, to the best of my recollection, "Jay, this is going to be your demise, not telling the truth, here."

I can't wait to tune in today. My prediction is that Jay will not say anything at all, keeping his fingers crossed that the storm has passed.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

My Mere opinions column on Larry Stark’s Theatre Mirror produced a host of responses. I do think we are doing a good job here, but it is not enough. I still remain convinced of that.

Recently, The Stranger, an alternative paper in Seattle interviewed 5 Artistic Directors in the Seattle Theater scene. Here is a quote from Allison Narver, Artistic Director of the Empty Space Theatre.

“Ten years ago there were a number of fringe theaters that produced all year long, like Annex. We produced 15 shows a year and we never stopped, so you had a bunch of non-equity actors really developing their chops.”

This was the time frame when I lived in the Seattle area. The experience energized me, thrilled me, inspired me. There was so much experiment going on, so much trying of new things, pushing boundaries and experimenting with what you could do with small spaces.

Think of it...a number of fringe theaters that produced all year long...15 shows a year.

Maybe Will Stackman has a point. Maybe we need to do some banding together and block out several months of the BCA to run repertory with several companies.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Insurrections, Uprisings, and Revolutions.....Oh My!

The partisan political extremists are having a fun time parsing the current round of newspeak. The recent events in Fallujah are a tragic playing out of our worst fears about the military occupation of Iraq. When lives are being fed into the machine of war, it is my guess that pure outrage keeps coming up against language and the role of language in society.

Bill O'Reilly sounded off against the major media, as he always does, by taking them to task on their labeling of the events in Iraq last week as an "uprising." The popular newsman was a little perturbed to find that a number of newspapers were covering the violent struggle with cleric Sadr's militia by using the word uprising in the headlines of their stories. With his high school teaching background so firmly instilled in him, O'Reilly turned to the dictionary to make his case.

"Look in any dictionary," O'Reilly said on his radio show, "and in the definition you find for uprising you will see the word 'popular.'"

Indeed, he is correct. For instance, Mirriam Webster defines uprising the following way: "an act or instance of rising up; especially : a usually localized act of popular violence in defiance usually of an established government." A quick look at the American Heritage Dictionary will find this definition: "A sometimes limited popular revolt against a constituted government or its policies; a rebellion." A few isolated pockets of resistance around a large country like Iraq do not constitute an uprising goes O'Reilly's logic.

His solution? He claims that he would have no beef if the media had used the word "insurrection." O'Reilly did not go on to define insurrection, and so I had to do a little digging myself. I will confess that I had always thought of insurrection and uprising as almost interchangeable synonyms, but upon my investigation I grudgingly had to concede the difference. Though Webster's and American Heritage define the terms in just about the same way, the definitions of insurrection in both dictionaries are lacking conspicuously the word "popular." The American Heritage defines insurrection as, "The act or an instance of open revolt against civil authority or a constituted government."

Michael Moore, on the way left of the political spectrum, is also putting on his scholar's cap to weigh in on the language debate swirling around last week's firefights with his latest message on his website. He mentions Orwell and gives some blustery corrective vocabulary lessons. He corrects the use of the word “contractors” as putting a nice spin on the actual “soldiers of fortune,” who are doing “mercenary” work in Iraq right now. He also chides us for talking about Halliburton as a “company,” as he would rather we use the term “war profiteer.”

The jury is out about how right he is, although has an interesting article on just what a lot of those “contractors,” we keep reading about in the news are doing in Iraq. However, I was most interested in the Moore’s statement, “The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not ‘insurgents’ or ‘terrorists’ or the ‘Enemy’ they are the REVOLUTION, they are the minutemen and their number will grow.” I love Michael Moore, but I have to correct him. If he thinks that the militia of Sadr is the “Revolution” then it would hold that they should also embrace the title of “insurgents.” As we learned in our first partisan vocabulary lesson today, revolt is a part of the definition of an insurrection, which happens to be made up of “insurgents.”

The fulcrum of all of this parsing is popularity and we know from our last election in this country that popularity does not determine the outcome in governance, and looking at history it does not determine the outcome in revolutions either. After all, early reality shows on TV show learned quickly that if the audience was left to vote the participants off the shows didn’t turn out all that exciting.

Early in the Iraq war last year, I remember a great debate about whether or not the American forces were encountering “fierce,” resistance as reported by the major media outlets. The right wing was furious, saying that anybody reporting fierce resistance, “just wanted the war to go badly.” My thoughts were basically this: If I want to get down a street that I originally thought it would take me twenty minutes to go down and it now takes me two days to get down that street because people are shooting at me, I would call that fierce resistance. But hey, what do I know?

There is drama somewhere in all of this. And certainly comedy, but just the wordplay is not enough. I think is speaks somewhere to our deep desire, in a time of crisis, to either overstate, or understate the point. Hey, look at what we have done to the massacre, the murder, and the tragedy of the events of September 11, 2001. We call it 9/11, obfuscating into a numerical code because we cannot deal with its power. Or we call it the “World Trade Center Attacks,” it being better to think of an inert building being flown into. Also, we term all of the current events in the Middle East as a “War” and include 9/11 as the inciting even, thereby conveniently folding the death of all of those people into the collateral toll of a battle fought by volunteer forces.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Will Stackman wrote a response to me on Theatre Mirror, so did Ronan Noone. I thought I should respond to Mr. Stackman because he kind of missed my point. Here is my response. (You can read his response on the Mirror's Mere Opinions section as well.)

Hi Larry,
In response to Will Stackman, I thought I would just send a follow up to my Mere Opinion.

First, a quote...
"Local theatre hasn't risen to the occasion, and probably won't. The Lysistrata reading--unfortunately held on the same night as the IRNE Awards-- was underattended earlier this month. Even Improv troupes seem to be shying away from political commentary. Maybe ISebastiani, the Commedia group which has been lurking in the background for the last decade, will find a way to work something into their upcoming shows. Their winter effort was a successful if uneven rendering of a potentially feminist scenario, but these traditionalists will probably stay mired in the 16th Century. Other's won't have the same historical excuse." - Will Stackman, Aisle Say 2003

It was a little strange to me that Mr. Stackman did not find any agreement with me, since he is partly one of the reasons I wrote my statement... but more on that later.

Please read my Mere Opinion again and see that I went out of my way to acknowledge that we have an extreme amount of talent in this town. I see the plays you are talking about, Will. I know they are out there. I know some of the playwrights. In fact, I am one of the playwrights. Like Dan Millstein and William Donnely, I am also one of the producers. I also think Boston Playwrights Theatre and Kate Snodgrass are the equivalent of Mother Theresa in this town.

I did not "ignore" the the dozens of new plays that were done here. That would be like me stating that Mr. Stackman's response leaves out the fact that the Huntington Theatre Company has commissioned three local playwrights including John Kuntz and Melinda Lopez. Or how about the new Devenaugh Theatre at the Piano Factory with their Dragonfly Festival in which a whole batch of new plays receive semi-workshop like stagings. And don't forget Ryan Landry and the Gold Dust Orphans. All of these are positive things.

His response suggests that the major media outlets, including Bill Marx, are not seeing enough of small theatre. I wholeheartedly agree and I have said so on the Theatermirror before. More specifically, I also think that one of the things lacking in this town is an alternative paper that would cover the smaller theatre scene seriously. The Phoenix just can't seem to bring themselves to do it. In Seattle we had the Seattle Weekly and The Stranger, both equivalents of the Phoenix here. However those papers were not above seeing all of the small theatre they could. Once again, they don't have to like it all, (and if the Stranger didn't like it...look out,) in fact some of it is not always good. But at least the Weekly provided an alternative to the weirdly anti-theatre Living Arts sections of the Times and the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

The web revolution is helping. Though critics often slam Theatermirror, it is obvious that they read it. One of the most exciting things to happen to the New York Times Theatre Section is the addition of Reader's Reviews. Check it out. Maybe the Globe will ad something similar. Although, I hope that they police it enough to keep it from turning into the joke that Amazon's reader reviews section has become.

Please everybody, don't read my previous call to action as what's wrong with us. Read it as how can we can possibly improve here.

Few of the scripts Mr Stackman mentions address current events. Or maybe he thinks that people shouldn't attempt that. However, a look at his critical writings over the past year would suggest otherwise. More than a few times over the past year Will Stackman has lamented on his Weblog, "And Then I Saw' and in his reviews in Aisle Say that theatre artists were not responding to the current political crisis or the war in Iraq. So here we have two very different critics....(Marx and Stackman,) each saying that they wish people would step up to the plate and tackle these issues. In fact, that was one of the reasons I was incited to write what I did.

Ronan Noone wrote that the Los Angeles Times mentioned "Lepers" as originating in Boston. And that is an incredible step in the right direction. But the media coverage around "Sin," would be the equivalent of the New York Times having covered the original Boston Playwrights Theatre production of the play. I do not remember that happening, but if it did, please correct me.

We are talking about a town in which the two anchor theatres, and the Boston Playwright's theatre would shrivel up and blow away without their university endowments and university owned theatre properties. We are also talking about a town where Speakeasy, Lyric, Sugan and others went into an outright state of panic when Equity came calling with demands that they start paying up about a year ago. Statements were made to the press about them not being able to continue.

Caroline Ellis seems to know what I am talking about in her response.
But, hey, if people think things are just groovy, then maybe I have to reexamine my thinking.
Because, after all, these are my mere opinions