Back to the ’40s♦
Jim Rutter’s review—"What can the ‘40’s teach us? Plenty"— provides a laser-like insight into the malaise in which we now swim as a nation. Mr. Rutter placed his finger on the “insight” button that tells us to pause and re-examine ourselves, our perspectives and our belief systems.
Clearly, something is missing in our interpersonal and national soul. And once again it is theater that teaches us the recuperative lesson. The corrective message will not be found in re-reading Being and Nothingnesss or the neo-Freudians. The metaphysical swamp we now live in began optimistically with Great Expectations and ended in No Exit. It is time for an aesthetic revival consistent with the human spirit.
I sense Mr. Rutter is telling us quite politely to toss the conceptual clutter overboard and get thee to a theater with an authentic message about life. Bravo, Broad Street Review!
Drexel Hill, Pa.
December 27, 2007
Charlie Wilson’s War
I have not yet seen Charlie Wilson’s War, so I have no comment on the film’s merits. But the final sentences of Richard Chaitt’s review betray an almost total ignorance of U.S. foreign policy since the end of World War II.
The Cold War, the major focus of U.S. policy, was profoundly bipartisan from its inception in 1945-46 to its demise by 1989. To a left-wing contrarian like myself, bipartisanship was the problem, not an answer. There was not enough partisanship— not enough criticism, in other words— of what the U.S. was doing in the name of fighting communism.
The U.S. hegemony that now dominates, post Cold War, is a malignant force in the world. We need fundamental criticisms and subsequent changes in U.S. foreign policy. Bipartisanship as commonly defined prevents the country’s leadership from challenging its basic premises and mission in the world, to much ill effect in my opinion. More partisanship, not less, could have helped slow if not stop the rush to war in Iraq in 2003, for example.
Masaru Edmund Nakawatase
December 26, 2007
Re your Cultural Aptitude Test—
Very punny! I scored 21 out of the 24. It wasn’t easy.
Kathye Fetsko Petrie
Editor/Publisher, Local LIT
December 26, 2007
Age of Arousal
I want to thank Broad Street Review for publishing its spirited debate on our production of Linda Griffiths’s Age of Arousal. The Wilma strives to provoke discussion with its productions, as well as entertain, and it is very rewarding to see the range of opinion in these reviews by Steve Cohen, Jim Rutter and Dan Rottenberg— and gratifying to see a publication that takes its readership seriously enough to give them three eloquent, competing responses to what I consider one of the most fascinating social comedies written on this continent in recent years.
December 17, 2007
Terrific debate over The Age of Arousal. And it’s very generous of the Wilma Theater to be so accommodating to the arts writers. This speaks to the subject of attending more than one performance of the same production, either for commercial or academic reasons, as in Nathan Sivin’s suggestion (below) that critics see a performance more than once.
Comparative lit is fun as well as a necessary element of critical writing; live performance is something else. Performers are not specimens under glass; they are trying to earn a living. They are not commodities to be either exalted or dismissed like Queen Elizabeth’s amusements at court.
As a dance writer, I sometimes like to see second casts for a compelling journalistic reason— to see a new soloist in a particular role, for instance, or if I suspect that a performer may be having an off night so I can make certain before delivering a negative critical assessment.
But never would I ask to take up a seat for my own academic amusement or to expect to attend extra performances gratis. More than ever, performing arts companies are struggling for money. It bears mentioning that actors, dancers and musicians are not there for the inspection of publications and critics. Much more is at stake for them.
December 22, 2007
Editor’s comment: I’m curious to hear how theater managers react to this letter. Is public dialogue about your productions something you’d like to encourage or discourage? Do press tickets sometimes displace paying customers? If forced to choose, whom do you seat?
As the managing director of The Wilma Theater, I wholeheartedly agree with Walter Bilderback’s previous posting (above). We strive to create opportunities that encourage discussion of the work we produce and very much look forward to expanding dialogue through symposium programming, education initiatives, and new interactive electronic media we hope to introduce in the year to come.
As for tickets, even if we are selling at 100% paid capacity, I will always welcome arts writers who have integrity and will publish substantive commentary on our productions. In truth, this is somewhat mercenary on my part. Feature articles and reviews are a component of what generates ticket sales, and continuing relationships with those who write the articles are essential both to the sustainability of the publications and the arts organizations.
That said, I am a theater artist myself and value the greater influences of the arts in enriching individual and community-wide perspectives. I believe in the power of the arts to elicit change. This will only occur if we engage in discussion about our experiences.
The Wilma Theater
December 27, 2007
Editor’s note: To read my response to this exchange, click here. To read other responses in January Letters, click here.
Coren on tonality
Re “The sense of being on key,” by Dan Coren—
Wow! This article is just dazzling. Coren writes with humor, clarity and broad knowledge. He explains tonality so simply, and with such wonderful examples.
This is the perfect medium for this kind of teaching: Read, listen to the clip, and if you don’t get it, just repeat.
December 15, 2007
Coren on Stockhausen
Re “Karlheinz Stockhausen: The road not taken”—
When I wrote this little essay, I was unaware that Gesang was available on the Internet— in its entirety, no less. My heartfelt thanks to BSR’s associate editor for finding the music and creating the link. How wonderful to hear this sensuously lyrical piece again after so many years!
December 10, 2007
AVA’s Cosi fan tutte
I enjoyed Steve Cohen’s review of Cosi fan tutte. I would suggest that future reviews of Academy of Vocal Arts productions do something about the fact that there are two casts that more or less alternate performances. It would be worthwhile for the reviewer to see both. One of the most interesting things the review mentioned was the AVA’s fresh interpretation (the girls as teenagers, newly affianced and therefore not familiar with their future husbands), but this did not appear at all in the second night’s production with the other cast.
Steve Cohen also ought to be aware that people like that bel canto phenomenon Angela Meade are not “undergrads.” The AVA is a graduate school for advanced studies in opera performance. Its first-year students have already finished the customary education of an opera singer; the program makes it clear that those admitted already have professional singing experience.
AVA is one of the hidden treasures of Philadelphia. I
Respond to this Article