Thursday, November 12, 2009

Beware the TalkWrite Gossip!

Back in September I posted a link to Rolando Teco's Extracriticum post on the open submission process at the O'Neill.

Nick at RatSass posts today about how, it would appear, these allegations have not had any journalism to back them up, and, yet, somehow made their way around very quickly. Even to the point of the O'Neill Center having to respond.

Nick sees a creeping danger in this:

Rejecting 800 playwrights each year will always create a rich environment for rumors about how the open submission at the National Playwrights Conference is administered. So transparency and facts alone will never completely counter rumor/opinion-based blog and e-newsletter posts. But this type of conversation once belonged almost exclusively to the informal chat of dinner parties. Now it has thoroughly permeated our written, public record. From the early theatre listservs to the blogosphere, our digital correspondence is ushering in a new generation of TalkWrite, and with it a new ethic of behavior in theatre as well.

But Nick's real question is: How do we treat gossip in the age of the internet?

Throughout history society has devised various ways for individuals to correct or atone for their wrong words. Sometimes the price has been stiff. Wrong words in the form of heresy or treason might even demand a death sentence. Our American founding fathers fought duels over the dishonor wrought by wrong words.

Today, wrong words about another individual generally demand no more than an apology. Or if the wrong words are placed in the public realm, then a public retraction or apology is offered. But is it now acceptable behavior to simply “de-publish” false words without assuming any responsibility for their wrongdoing?


Thomas Garvey said...

The trouble is, Nick hasn't so far presented any actual evidence to contradict the initial accusations. In a way, as one commenter pointed out, his post is just like the one at Extra Criticum's. Which should we believe? And it's worth noting that there's something almost disturbingly circular in someone villifying another blogger for posting without evidence while simultaneously doing precisely the same thing.

silent nic@knight said...


Thanks for the link and the diligent read. As a reader, I always appreciate your links. Your short statements direct the reader to the essence, hidden agenda, or unique item within the source article or post. For instance, your September link to the Roland(o) post (my bad for not referencing it in my post) reads simply:

“To Submit?
Rolando Teco on Extra Criticum calls out the O'Neill Center:”

This was exact motive behind Garrison/Tec floating the “open secret” rumor: to force the O’Neill into accountability and/or transparency about their Open Submission.


I answered you in more detail in the comment section at my post.

Does the O’Neill still beat its wife? I never had any interest in investigating that supposition, that piece of gossip. Art highlights one of the questions I was exploring: How do we treat gossip in the age of the internet?

Scott Walters said...

Let me ask you, Thomas: exactly what would be "actual evidence"? Seems as if the O'Neill provided some data concerning the plays that were chosen. But you won't accept it, because it came from the O'Neill. So since anyone having knowledge of the O'Neill selection process would, by definition, be part of the O'Neill (unless we start having UN observers brought in), then no "actual evidence" would be deemed acceptable by you. And that is more disturbingly circular than anything Nick has written

Art said...

Hi Scott,

I mentioned the O'Neill evidence being weak on Nick's post, but was very clear that it was a Side Note.

But to answer your question, I still think it is a little shaky considering money is involved.

Consumer reporting is sometimes not earth shattering stuff, but it is necessary and good for all of us.

Playwrights pay $35.00 to submit their scripts. No, I don't believe that the O'Neill is getting rich off the 28K it gets from these fees. But even if they were I would not care - as long as I am going to get what they are advertising when I give them money.

(For full disclosure: I don't submit to contests or development programs that have fees. So I guess I don't have a dog in this fight.)

The O'Neill's statement is just that, a statement of their process, with just enough ambiguity on the number of plays that come from the open selection process.

The questions? Well, the big one is: Who are the readers from all over the country that receive these blind submissions?

After following the Foetry site for years when it was active, I have to say that the scales fell from my eyes regarding these types of things. But then again, Foetry came about from people within the system seeing these things happening and posting anonymously to get the ball rolling for a more public vetting.

While you are right, Scott, that there might not be "actual evidence" there certainly could be circumstantial evidence, right?

Scott Walters said...

I think the real issue -- the one we ought to be focusing on -- is the one you raise, Art: charging playwrights to have their plays read. You are right not to submit to such places, and I wish everyone did. That would be like the abominable amateur theatre tradition in some places of charging people to act in their plays. Let's talk about the idea of charging playwrights, instead of whether or not we cab believe the O'Neill response or not -- that particular discussion can only reflect one's level of cynicism about whether a cover-up is going on. As far as who does the reading, I think I knew that once (from when I spent a month at the O'Neill as part of the National Criticism Institute), but I've forgotten. My vague memory is that it was volunteers, not "professionals."

Thomas Garvey said...

Ok, Nick, so you elaborately re-described a piece of gossip as, indeed, a piece of gossip. And Scott Walters has responded with a hearty hurrah for Captain Spaulding, etc. That's nice. I'm not a playwright who submits to the O'Neill, so I don't much care how much smoke you two blow. Still, it's interesting that the usual suspects (Isaac Butler, 99 seats) ran with the first post, from Extra Criticum, and now they're running with your post. Neither piece has any actual evidence behind it, it seems - one is simply more articulately rendered than the other. In the wacky world of the theatrosphere, that seems to be what counts.

silent nic@knight said...

Thomas berates me for not writing the post he wanted. He finally, but grudgingly, acknowledges the subject of my post only so he can dismiss it once more for something it’s not. Oy vey.

Obviously both Thomas and Art need to hold tight their O’Neill rumor(s). I think they are representative of the larger theatre culture. That was the subject of my post.

Art said...


I think I was very clear from the beginning that I understood you post.

And I have restated what the point of your post was several times throughout the discussion. And, yes, I copped to quickly linking to Tec's original post.

But might I suggest that perhaps the need, by yourself and several others, to side with the instititution against the blogger may be equally representative of the theatre culture at large. And no less insidious?

silent nic@knight said...


This onetime anarch will probably never be able to kiss and make-up with the institutions. So I am not siding with the O’Neill. But I am siding against the blogger's gossip and rumor. You find something insidious in that?

Thomas Garvey said...

Nick, I find it odd to hear you now say that you're "not siding with the O'Neill," because a casual reader I think would certainly get that impression from your initial post. But then in general I sense in you a certain disinterest in - and perhaps actual disconnect from - the underlying "reality" of this situation. It's true your posts have maintained a certain internal consistency - but they're suffused with an indignation which suggests some sort of knowledge of the empirical world. Yet when questioned, you evince no concern about said world. It is a puzzlement.

And am I alone in noticing that the "Boston bloggers" - namely myself, Art, and Ian Thal - are the only ones who seem troubled by this tendency? It makes me wonder if there's something in the water in Chicago and New York.

Art said...


I guess I see this as two different discussions.

Maybe I am guilty of exactly the point you are trying to make.

I just think what several people, including me, have been saying is that in this case, where there was smoke, there may BE fire.

But, if I get you right, you are saying: But there isn't any smoke! It was just some guy who ran into town and SAID there was smoke.

Art said...

By the way, my last comment was addressed to Nick.

silent nic@knight said...


I am ambivalent on how to respond to the casual or lazy reader. The typical TonyTwitter reads my post for 17 seconds. He has an opinion. Whoopeedoo.

I did notice the Boston clique congealing. And yeah, my first thought was that the New York and Chicago and Asheville, NC cliques all probably have something in their water.


Right. Even the evidence of smoke was non-existent here.

And I think your representation of lone blogger v. the big institution is wrong. My post clearly exposed the Roland/Tec entanglements with the Dramatists Guild, which is no less preeminent institution as the O’Neill. I thought that their behavior, as I highlighted it concerning Hedy Weiss, was scandalous. But I seem to be a chorus of one, the lone blogger, on that one.

Art said...

On the contrary, I don't think anybody was arguing with your Hedy Weiss example.

And, once again, nobody is arguing with your critique of Tec's post.

I'm not sure what you mean about Tec's "entanglements" with the Dramatist Guild.

Do you mean there is some type of Tammany Hall, back room stuff going on there? ;)

Rolando Teco said...

Rolando Teco, here. It amazes me how quickly and swiftly some of us cave at the first sign of irritation from the "powerful scions" at the O'Neill Center.

Only time will tell (and individual vigilance) whether they in fact live up to their blast of propaganda in response to my calling them to task for what has absolutely been the case over the past ten years.

Just because they say it ain't so, don't make it true.

This is not conspiracy theory either, by the way. There are countless producers who will tell you (after they've had a few drinks or they feel they can trust you) that offers have been made.

I'm sorry if it's an uncomfortable truth. But truth, it still is.

silent nic@knight said...

My bad. I meant Garrison/Tec entanglements, i.e., both being on staff at the Guild. I'm getting sloppy and cranky with my comments on this tired news. I should retire from it. Thanks for your observations, Art.

silent nic@knight said...


Until one of these drunks publicly owns up to their words, it’s defined as gossip, not truth, rumor not fact.

And Rolando must be one very connected party animal to have countless drunken producers trustingly whisper sweet nothings in his ear.