Thursday, February 26, 2009

Robert Falls - Bully?

Chicago reviewer Kelly Kleiman gets a call, AT HOME, from acclaimed director Robert Falls. The subject is the critic's review of his latest production, Desire Under the Elms at the Goodman Theatre.

He began by asserting that I was “not a theater critic at all, but just a radio personality,” purporting to be surprised that I’d also spent seven years reviewing for the Reader. He offered a critique of my “persona” on the Dueling Critics segment: “I understand you and Jonathan have your roles; he’s the intellectual and you’re the ignoramus, Joanne Theatergoer, I-don’t-know-anything-about-theater-but-I-know-what-I-like.” He then characterized certain of my comments as “stupid” while observing more generally that the review consisted entirely of “not very funny one-liners” and was “dismissive of the work of people who’ve thought about this for years.”


But the encounter was unpleasant and intimidating, as it was clearly intended to be. Personal confrontations with critics are considered unprofessional because they always backfire: “Never pick a fight with anyone who buys ink by the barrel.” But they’re also frowned upon because they put personal dynamics, and unwonted personal concerns, in the way of professional judgment. Who wouldn’t be inclined to pull her punches a bit, just to avoid a call like that in the future?

(H/T Storefront Rebellion.)

1 comment:

Scott Walters said...

First, she should have defended herself and made him look like the bully he is. Second, don't pull future punches, buy another barrel of ink.