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Sam Henderson

of West Philadelphia, PA on October 21, 2017

Come on, Wendy. This isn’t a wrinkle, it’s a request you don’t intend to honor. You want to review it, do it. What’s stopping you? There are no ethics involved in asking you not to review a play. You just don’t get a comp. This isn’t a ban, it’s a request. I don’t know why you seem threatened by it. It’s not a ban. Banning you would be a ban.

Is it condescending when I say that? That’s how I felt when you suggested I hold a private reading rather than put something personal onstage. Unless they're self-producing, playwrights don’t “stage” or decide much of anything; they submit their work to dozens and dozens of gatekeepers who have gatekeepers who, maybe, just maybe, don’t really want new plays in the first place because they might not sell tickets. We don’t dictate the terms of when or where unless invited to by some sort of hypothetical cultural fund of some kind that puts us at the helm of a project, where we can can make requests that no theater would dare, like, I don’t know, asking critics not to review our project. Any play can enter a development process as a highly personal work and emerge on the other side as something totally different.

Similarly baffling is your Nichols/May anecdote, unless your point is that even when we say no, our producers say yes? That we’re asking for it? If you’re implying that reviews sell tickets in 2017, permit me to blow your critical mind: They don’t. We wish they did.

The idea that I need to check in with you before I “decide” to stage my work is, just to pick a random word out of your article, disturbing. It’s as if you’re deciding what is and isn’t written, like when you suggest I “write a different play." Is it just maybe possible you went way, way outside of your role as a critic on that one?

Theater isn’t a gift that artists give to an audience, and theater is free from the power dynamic that language contains. Theater is a sacrament we administer to each other with no intervening authority. The example of 4 Minute Booth is so right on, because it’s such a pure expression of the theater I experience. Who was the giver and what was the gift in that booth? Who was the other person even? If you want to reference that piece, I need you to think about those questions.

Editor's Response

Thanks for weighing in, Sam. You're right: As an editor, I don't intend to honor that request, and my former Inquirer editor, Rebecca Klock, never would have, either. The state of arts journalism in this city is such that the current (overburdened, understaffed) Inquirer arts editor (and a few others) decided to honor it, which leaves a few more column inches for sports or a puff feature or Annie.

But in journalism, if someone tells you, "Don't look here," you have a duty to immediately look there. This is true whether you're talking about Donald Trump, Pew arts funding, or an independently produced show whose playwright suddenly decides they don't want reviews. And if this playwright is one of Philly's most important (though, I believe they are New York-based now), then it's doubly important that we go on the record with their current production.

You're also ignoring a level of hypocrisy here that needs to be addressed. This show was granted $60,000 in Pew funds, and has been heavily marketed as a public event. They did say they would honor press comps offered before the playwright changed their mind, but would not honor any others. And that's fine, I guess. However, after a month of actively courting critics and claiming they're "excited about the conversation this piece can inspire in others," their reasons for requesting they not be reviewed — as well as your comments — reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of arts journalism and criticism. It has nothing to do with selling tickets or with speaking to the playwright (who, it should be noted, isn't the only person involved in producing a play, and may well be cheating others out of recognition in the press). 

Aside from the spurious reasons they cite — the show "would not be produced elsewhere," the playwright used real names, the playwright has many other shows coming up — and the publicity those behind the show are still generating, the line, "It is a limited run, so reviews would only exist for archival purposes," really galls. So, my stake in this is only personal in that I believe fiercely in the value of my work for the last 20-odd years in this city, and in the efforts of my colleagues who understand the larger importance of cogent criticism and journalism. You want to know how much it matters? Ask Laura Collins-Hughes or any other critic who's made a difference by saying what those they cover don't want to hear.

Unfortunately, we're often at odds with artists, but that's probably a sign that we're doing something right. Journalism isn't about making friends or being nice, and at times like this it is awfully unpleasant; so many people whose work I respect are probably upset about this column. But that's how it goes. Sometimes you get a "thank you," and sometimes you get a "fuck you." Either way, I'll keep doing my job and call attention to issues that arise within Philly's arts and culture scene every chance I get.

Howver, you're dead right about 4 Minute Booth. Excellent points.

Cameron Kelsall

of Haddon Township, NJ on October 21, 2017

This has nothing to do with comps. This has nothing to do with ego. It's insulting that people who know even less about this situation than we do are acting like Wendy's just throwing a big tantrum. But actual arts journalism has been severely lacking in Philadelphia for a while, so I can see why it's ruffled some feathers that someone didn't quietly acquiesce to a request that many find suspicious, problematic and hypocritical.

Also, it's worth noting that it wasn't until after Wendy ran her essay that the production's rep even expounded upon the reasons behind this request. That should tell you that quality independent arts journalism still has a role to play. And there are still a lot of unanswered questions here — like whether or not the cast were aware of this ahead of time. I have reason to believe that at least some of them weren't.

It's also worth noting what critics and arts journalists have at stake here, too. If we choose to file a review of this show, we're jeopardizing our relationship with the press agent, who may not work with us again. Or maybe artists who are friends with the playwright will try to "ban" us in the future. That's fine for someone with major institutional backing, but for us independent folks, it could mean the loss of our careers. So please don't act like this is something to be taken lightly — "just a request." And really, if you want to talk about condescending: "Have you ever, just briefly, checked in with the possibility that, if you’ve been banned from more than two theaters, then maybe, just maybe, the problem might be you?"

Sam Henderson

of Philadelphia, PA on October 21, 2017

Being at odds shouldn't be a problem for an artist. And yes, I totally get and affirm your role: You're a journalist with responsibilities and ethics. But you're not investigating, interviewing, researching, or fact-checking a three part exposé here; you're casting aspersions at a playwright in an opinion piece, and now in a comments section. You reveal that Pew spent $60k of their hard earned endowment dollars on this project. Why?

What are you saying? Should it be less? More? You tell us you “believe” the writer's not a Real Philly writer. Maybe you should check first? I know it's the comments section, but come on. This was supposed to be your premeditated defense of something you felt justified in doing later this weekend, so why throw all this shade in all these directions? What is this level of hypocrisy I'm missing? I read what you wrote, I don't get it.

You and Cameron clearly see this request as something wrong and dangerous; it's like it's set off some Critical Ontological Crisis and, in Cameron's case, is a threat to their livelihoods. (I would like to hear more about the danger of crossing a press agent. Do they really have that much power over you? I honestly don't know how it works.) It seems like you're taking this request as a rejection of the importance or necessity of your work, and I'm not sure that anyone but you sees it that way. You both bemoan the state of arts journalism, but I'm not sure why you both mention it in response to my response, because at no point reading your piece was I thinking, “What would Rebecca Klock do?”

The three of us are probably on the same cocktail napkin about the state of arts journalism; but I don't think this article is helping yet. I still don't get this piece and I don't think this should end here. Don't reiterate your creed and don't demean artists. I'm an artist and I know your rights. What do you think my rights are? Do I have the right to disinvite you to my show? If not, why? If you're not interested in the answers, why? That Big River letter was messed up. I hope the take-away is that no one, anywhere is going to do Big River.

Editor's Response

I wrote an opinion piece not to "cast aspersions," but to highlight a real issue that is clearly not an issue for you, but is an important issue for many of our readers, as evidenced by the responses (some public, some private) and traffic we've received. I mention Pew because it's of interest to our readers. I mentioned the playwright's New York presence because it was mentioned to me when I was working on a project regarding Philadelphia playwrights, and though I hate this fact, the move probably means there's increased interest in this production. That's not shade, it's journalism. Editorial journalism, but still. You, Sam Henderson, as much as I value your input —and I honestly do — are not our only reader.

So, what are your rights? If your work is in development, if it's a reading, if it's a private event with only invited guests, you can certainly keep me out. If you're promoting the show everywhere you can, posting a Twitter review from an adoring audience member, and selling tickets to the public, it seems pretty hypocritical and disingenuous to say, "I don't want there to be any record of this." And, as I said, now I'm obliged to make sure there's a record of it. You absolutely have the right to disinvite me from your (open to the public) show, but you don't have the right to control the dialogue around that, and you can't stop me from buying a ticket and reviewing anyway. It's the same reason there was a river of ink (or broadband) spilled when David Mamet banned talkbacks after Oleanna. I hope that answers some of your questions.

Susanne Collins

of Philadelphia, PA on October 22, 2017

MJ is clearly asking a favor. If you don't intend to honor it, don't, and move on. Making this about a war on the press (or a war on you) is honestly pretty weird. What do you think is happening here? Do you think "too personal" is a front for a bad or offensive show? What are you expecting to uncover? If it's nothing, then... why? Why start a fight about it? Your need to write whatever you want so-help-you-God seems to be trumping your desire to be a compassionate human being here.

I get that the state of journalism in this country has everyone on edge. But taking that out on artists who are asking a favor of you is very different than taking it out on a government trying to censor you, and I know you're smart enough to know the difference.

You're right in your comment to Sam about artists being at odds with critics. I don't think you're right that that's a good thing, at least in this town. We're not Mamet here. If you can't catch the difference between the smaller, intimate, often risky theater-making happening here and Oleanna... I'm not sure what to tell you. Sweeping statements about the duty of the critic show that you maybe don't understand the nuances of power that you have. Aim your bow and arrow up, Wendy. Take down Mamet.

But creating brouhahas for suburbanites to grab their pitchforks at the expense of smaller theater companies (often failing to talk about the actual work onstage and the design team's work as well) is the reason you and a lot of other critics in this town are at odds with us. Plenty of people will memorialize this production through Facebook posts and private discussions. Plenty of people whose opinions and thoughts are important and valid and interesting (in my opinion, 1000% more interesting and nuanced than anything I've read here) but whose lives didn't pan out in a way where they have a column in the BSR will write about this and every piece. To be honest, the best theater criticism I've seen in the past decade has consistently comes from active conversations on Facebook and blogs.

Aside from Bonaly (who I think are churning out the most interesting and important theater criticism around), I've read one published review that I found illuminating in the past five years, and it came out of New York City. Maybe the reason people are at odds with critics is because the critics aren't all that good, and we as a culture are starting to understand that getting the same three people's opinions on all the theatrer happening in a town isn't the most productive or exciting way to be hearing about or talking about the arts any more. If you want to defend good theater criticism, I would recommend starting to write good theater criticism.

Editor's Response

I'll ignore the personal insults here and just say that if the Mamet issue were happening in Philly, I'd cover it. To answer your question, I think "too personal" is a ridiculous reason to ask critics to silence their keyboards, because the context here is a highly publicized production that's open to the public. We cover Philly arts, and when an artist asks critics in Philly to do them a favor and compromise our professional integrity because, what? Because everyone in the audience should have a say on the production except critics? That's a problem, and it's especially a problem for BSR, a site that almost exclusively posts review and opinion that hundreds of thousands of people read every year.

I get that you feel defensive for your friend, and aside from their obvious importance to the U.S. theater landscape, all my direct interactions with them have shown them to be a pretty fierce and principled human being. But if you don't understand why this is a larger issue, you're being willfully obtuse.

Also, you're right, you're not Mamet. The "smaller, intimate, often risky theater-making happening here" deserves way more attention, which is exactly why I believe it matters and why I wrote what I wrote.

Susanne Collins

of Philadelphia, PA on October 22, 2017

Well, yes — precisely because hundreds of thousands of people read it is why it makes sense to ask a production not to be reviewed. There's a difference between an audience of Facebook friends and a publication. No one is silencing you. No one is covering your keyboard. No one (except for me, I suppose) is insulting your integrity. And to think that an artist asking a favor to not be reviewed (for any variety of reasons, personal or not) is a silencing attack on journalism shows how far removed you are from artists. Write a Facebook post. Email your friends. Write in your diary. No one is stopping you, and no one is stopping you from publishing a review. Who are you serving by publishing a review of a show that will run a week and has asked to not be reviewed? Whatever answer you have to that question, is it really more important to you than respecting somebody's personal request?

Editor's Response

I think you answered your own question when you said it's not a silencing attack on journalism/go write in your diary. 

Cameron Kelsall

of Haddon Township, NJ on October 22, 2017

“Who are you serving by publishing a review of a show that will run a week and has asked to not be reviewed?“ A comment like this shows a real misunderstanding of the purpose of theater criticism. It also betrays a common misconception among some (not all) people in the Philadelphia theater scene, which is that we write for you. We don’t write for you.

Jessica Foley

of South Philadelphia, PA on October 22, 2017

Art, by its very definition, is always personal, but if MJ Kaufman requested that I not review the show, I wouldn't. (But that's just me.) There are other shows to write about. Yet if other writers wanted to cover Destiny Estimate, I would firmly support their right to do so. (Because you know the freedom of the press is still a thing in this country, right? )

As a theater critic myself who has found it difficult to carve out a "career" with just my blog, Foley Got Comped, since 2012— because my editor at Philadelphia Weekly was let go along with J Cooper Robb, the theater critic, and CityPaper shut down in 2015, because the Inquirer declared bankruptcy in 2009— this discussion breaks my heart.

Sam, you say to Cameron: "You're not investigating, interviewing, researching, or fact-checking a three-part exposé here; you're casting aspersions at a playwright in an opinion piece, and now in a comments section. You reveal that Pew spent $60k of their hard earned endowment dollars on this project. Why?" As arts journalists, we often fact-check, investigate, and research before we sit down to write reviews, or previews, or interviews. And why shouldn't Cameron reveal that Pew spent $60k of its hard earned endowment dollars on this project in the comments section? He didn't write the above piece. What is he suppose to do to make his opinion valuable to you? Get a job at a newspaper, as a theater critic with his writing in print? If the job existed, Cameron would be employed, but the job does not exist any more.

This is an issue that no one cares about, it seems. We write for the love of it. I've accepted that. I do not write for money, because there is no well-paying work, I've accepted that. I can take the hate mail that I receive often along with the thank-you notes, but I cannot just sit here and watch Wendy defend the existence or the value of arts journalism alone. The fact that she has to is deplorable. Arts criticism, like art, is a form of expression that needs to be protected under Trump.

Sam Henderson

of Philadelphia, PA on October 23, 2017

Jess, actually Wendy brought up the $60k in the third(?) post. I'm not sure what Cameron's getting out of this, but last I heard of him, he didn't want to elaborate on the press agent thing. Anyway, Mike Kiley and I were going back and forth on this, and he really got me thinking about public vs. private funds funding public work, and whether the nature of the money you use to make art changes your responsibility to the public.

I don't think it does. But what if it does? So I actually ran up against an idea that I have to apply some critical thought to fully understand. How often does that happen on the internet? Don't answer.

Another thing: Before this, I didn't appreciate how unsafe it must feel to be an American journalist in 2017. The devaluation of criticism with the decline of print, and an authoritarian regime organizing itself around the suppression of a free press and art itself, basically.

I think most of Wendy's piece and at least half of the subsequent digital yelling at me to get off various critical lawns is reactive nonsense. But the bitchy tone of levity I took was a mistake, because the shit that came back at me was coming from a raw, real place that has to be acknowledged. Maybe the playwright of Destiny Estimate lives in a similar state of uncertainty? It was kinda the theme of the play, last I heard, but maybe we should all go see it. Good to hear from you Jess.

Cameron Kelsall

of Haddon Township, NJ on October 23, 2017

Sam, I think you answered your own question when you asked what I'm "getting" out of this. I'm a theater critic/journalist; this issue concerns theater criticism/journalism — it doesn't take a genius. (Also, spoiler alert, I'm reviewing the play). And I thought I made my points clear in my original post regarding how a critic's decision in a situation like this could affect their relationships with press agents and other professionals, and what the potential downstream effects can be.

As for the funding question: Wendy brings it up because many grants (public and private) include a stipulation that some or all portion of the funded project must be made available for public consumption. Is it fair to ask whether it's the best decision to use funds that come with such a stipulation to create a personal work that you allegedly want no archival record of? Or whether it was proper for the playwright to create a work for public consumption that uses the names and “assumed medical histories” of real people? Food for thought indeed.

Gwen Orel

of Millburn, NJ on October 24, 2017

Full disclosure: I'm a critic, Outer Critics Circle voter, and have a day job as an editor in a New Jersey paper. Wendy is absolutely right. Remember when they didn't want critics to review Spiderman? It was on Broadway and tickets were selling for hundreds of dollars, but the producers knew the show was a disaster and didn't invite critics. Meanwhile, "citizen journalists" were writing their opinions up on Facebook and Twitter and everywhere.

Basically, what this does is cede the right of people who are not journalists to create the public record. If you don't want there to be a record of what people think about your show, then don't invite the public, don't sell tickets. Admittedly, tat times  it might not be worth it to go. But in this case, when a lot of money has been spent on the production and a lot of time has already been given to quoting the press, it's insulting and irritating for producers and plauywrights to suddenly worry about it being personal.

Now, I recently received a request not to review a show that is opening, because it has been optioned for a bigger production with the condition that the smaller theater gets the rights to do it. That, of course, is very different from the playwright getting cold feet, and I will honor it.

I do not think Wendy should have just taken this lying down and moved on. How would the public know? Isn't that just contributing to this production making money off the fact that people with a background and insight into theater are barred from writing about it? All producers can do is refuse comps; they cannot ban any member of the public from buying a ticket and writing about it. Free speech: it's a thing.

Joseph Paprzycki

of North Truro, MA on October 25, 2017

I have been writing plays for over 25 years and I have had over 30 productions in my career so far. I have also been reviewed many times for my own plays as well as my work as a director and the founding producing artistic director of South Camden Theatre Company. This action, to me, represents how theater is changing for all of the wrong reasons. To claim something is "too personal" to review says to me that this writer is not a true playwright prepared to bare their soul on stage. If that is not the case, then this publicity stunt does have me writing you and paying some sort of attention to the work without the risk of a review by professional critics.

If you are not ready to have a piece of work seen by critics, write away. But then, if you do and put it out into the world, don't take money from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, Venturous Theater Fund, and SPACE at Ryder Farm to produce it. Arts funding is already too scarce.

If the point of this piece was to get attention without opening the writer up to critical response, then congratulations. The stunt has all of us talking. But... that's Fringe material, not a work of a serious playwright.

Author's Response

Hi Joe, we did review it anyway, but sadly, we were the only Philadelphia critics to do so. Please check out Cameron Kelsall's piece here.

Gary L. Day

of Philadelphia, PA on October 25, 2017

The issue of "banning" critics brings to mind certain memories from when I was a producer/director. A couple of Inquirer critics constantly savaged my work, sometimes unfairly so. In those days, Inquirer reviews really did have an impact on attendance, and those critics were seriously hampering our efforts to build our audience. As such, there was much discussion in-house as to what, if anything, we could do.

It should be noted that we were not the only company that had problems with these critics. There were several well-publicized feuds that included attempts to ban these critics.

Our decision was simply not to invite those critics to our shows. To do more struck us as appearing petulant, childish and unprofessional — and it was very important that people saw that, while we may have been small, we were grown-up professionals.

Bottom line is: If your work is open to the public, you have to be prepared for a public response — and that includes critics, welcome or not. You can decline to invite them, but you can't stop them from coming and doing their job, nor should you try to.

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Dan Rottenberg

of Philadelphia, PA on October 20, 2017

Actually, the Jets in West Side Story weren't second-generation Italians. They were a generic white teen gang of no particular ethnic affiliation. Tony at one point explains that his real name is "Anton" in Polish, which is as close as the show gets to ethnic identity. As one who lived on the West Side when West Side Story debuted in 1957, I can attest that no Poles lived in the neighborhood — only Jews, Irish, Puerto Ricans, and Italians.

Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, and Stephen Sondheim were clueless about the real West Side and cared less; their sole interest was to adapt Romeo and Juliet in an American setting. (Their original story concerned a conflict between Jews and Catholics on the Lower East Side until they were advised that such a story line was about two generations out of date.)

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John Rosenberg

of Culver City, CA on October 23, 2017

Hi, Mark! Thanks for coming out and seeing the show! Hooray!

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John L. Baji

of Center City/ Philadelphia, PA on October 12, 2017

I have a question about Linda Holt's review on the Philadelphia Orchestra's performance of Mozart's Piano Concerto #27 with Emanuel Ax. She referred to the piece having "tedious Alberti bass riffs." What is an Alberti bass riff? Thanks.

Author's Response

An Alberti bass is a repeated series of broken chords in the left hand that supports the melody, contributes harmony, and moves the work along. Imagine you are playing a melody with your right hand, and you are playing an accompaniment with your left. 

Let's say the key is C major (no sharps and flats). Your right hand is playing a charming tune, while your left hand chugs along evenly playing C-G-E-G and C-G-E-G (in this case you could be using these left-hand fingers in sequence: pinkie, thumb, middle finger, thumb) and after a few repeats, you might move up or down on the keyboard to express another broken chord, maybe F-C-A-C repeated a few more times. This kind of accompaniment can be quite pleasant and effective, or it can be heavy-handed and sound like something out of Mozart's Musical Joke: it's all up to the performer!
 

Google Alberti bass for some more examples. Here's a written example (not the one I used) from Wikipedia:

 

Mozart's Piano Sonata, K 545 opening. 

David M. Perkins

of Denver, CO on October 14, 2017

Two of the hallmarks of Tchaikovsky's music are passion and melody, but Linda Holt is correct in noting that it is a serious mistake when those hallmarks take precedence over the nuance and subtlety that Tchaikovsky carefully worked into all his scores. His Fourth Symphony is full of distinct shadings and musical ingenuities that get lost when it is performed as a loud, crowd-pleasing warhorse, all surface and no depth.

Holt's review is exactly the kind of intelligent criticism I look for in a music review, and conductors and orchestras would do well to pay attention.

Editor's Response

Thanks for your kind words about Linda's work. We're pretty proud to have her!

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Doug King

of Pennsville, NJ on October 09, 2017

The Lang Lang/Chick Correa performance alluded to in this review was only performed in Carnegie Hall, not at the Kimmel Center. Was the reviewer even at the concert?!

Richard Grande

of South Philadelphia, PA on October 09, 2017

I second Doug King`s remarks. I attended both Friday and Thursday evening; Lang Lang did not appear here, but a young pianist named Harmony Zhu did in a non pops item: first movement of Beethoven First piano concerto. And the Tchaikovsky #4 was not 45 minutes long —perhaps 42 minutes or so, standard length I`d say for that symphony. Not the longest for that piece.

Dan Rottenberg

of Philadelphia, PA on October 10, 2017

I attended the orchestra's Saturday night concert, which transpired just as Robert Zaller described it. His first three paragraphs referred in passing to the orchestra's concert Wednesday (in New York), with Lang Lang, and its gala opening on Thursday. The rest of the review focused on what Robert described as the orchestra's "serious season"—  the three Verizon Hall concerts that began Friday night without Lang Lang and his attendant gimmickry, an absence that I personally welcomed.

Doug King

of Pennsville, NJ on October 10, 2017

Sorry, Dan, but Mr. Zaller doesn't use the word "Wednesday" anywhere in his review. He writes that "Thursday night’s gala opening of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s new season featured a suite from a Broadway musical, another from a film score, and a deconstruction of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue at the hands of Lang Lang and Chick Correa." The reference to Lang Lang and Chick Correa is NOT true, as I commented above.

Author's Response

Thank you for the correction. The piece has been updated. 

Wendell Banyay

of Clayton, DE on October 11, 2017

The Tchaikovsky performance was a big disappointment. Tempos within movements seemed to have no relationship. OK, I understand it was Yannick's way, and he is entitled to it. More disturbing to me were the balances, actually the lack of balances, especially in the outer movements. A loud blur was what I heard; no chance of following the musical lines. Just because you can, should you......?

The world's great orchestras and music deserve better than what I heard Saturday night. One of Bruno Walter's sayings during rehearsals was, "The music demands ......." Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony deserved better than it got.

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Tom Bissinger

of Pottstown, pa on October 04, 2017

I concur with your analysis. How much better to spread the $ and invite in some newbies who aren't so new. Seems to me the Fringe is kind of stuffy, oddly curated and, as you point out, actually safe.

As for New Paradise Lab's piece, oi vey. Redefining pretension. Why not distribute an article by Derrida or whoever and let it be?

The other irritating thing about the Fringe is its diffusion. I visited the Fringe in Cape Town its first year, 2014, and all events were held in a government building, which made it so easy to see three shows in one afternoon to evening. And they were good ones. Now it's a one-and-done deal, no matter how they categorize venues.

I miss the crazy improv nature of the early Fringes. Guess you can't go home again, especially when there are big bucks to be made. I will give a shout-out to Home, with the caveat that the invitation for audience and "ringers" onto the stage became the play and took up way too much time, but the ending was gorgeously haunting. And although Toby Zinman adored Fishtown and said it was everything a Fringe show could be— well, no. the physicality aspects were terrific (wish the play had consisted of that) but the script, amusing for millennials? Rapid-fire delivery, which often rendered speech unintelligible, did not float this theatergoer' s boat.

Cameron Kelsall

of Haddon Township , NJ on October 05, 2017

Fishtown is a parody of/homage to noir, where snappy dialogue flies fast and free. The dig on millennials is both unnecessary and inaccurate.

Chuck Holdeman

of Philadelphia, on October 11, 2017

A bit belated, but I did not want to miss mentioning what a brilliant and impactful show I thought A Period of Animate Existence was. It was highly original and also completely chiseled and refined. So along with the big budget came this completely brilliant work of art with all of its parts brilliant, the visual, the sounds, the movement/dance, the story-telling, and the grand conception. What I was left with was not so much environmental concerns, but more the stunning tiny-ness of our humanity and our time on earth, and also the fascination of its details, perhaps most of all the social details of human life, how life works in emotionally enlivened community.
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Margaret Darby

of Center City/ Philadelphia, PA on October 12, 2017

What a great review!

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Bob Levin

of Berkeley, CA on October 04, 2017

As a footnote to Dan's post-WW II "two major publishing innovations," it seems like a fair assessment to me. And BSR readers may find it interesting to note that the the creator of one of Dan's two most innovative post-WW ii publications, Hefner, ended up for many years employing Harvey Kurtzman, the creator of the other. After Kurtzman split with Mad's publisher, EC Comics, Hefner launched a short-lived, satirical glossy mag, Trump (I gag at the title), which he hired Kurtzman to edit. After it flopped and Kurtzman failed with two independent satirical mags—Help and Humbug— Hefner hired him back to do the "Little Annie Fanny" strip for Playboy. Hefner, who started out as a cartoonist, paid Kurtzman well for — and drove him nuts with the control he exercised over — that strip. Fans and friends of Kurtzman do not consider it to have been a happy marriage.

Jason Brando

of Mount Hamilton, Ca on October 05, 2017

Strange to read Dan's historical spin on Rizzo. Harry Jay Katz was promoting and opening the Playboy Club across from the Bellevue and was dissuaded by Mob Boss Frank Palumbo, who controlled the tenderloin district and bust-out joints of Locust Street, which flourish today as the epicenter of gay prostitution.

Gary L.Day

of Center City/ Philadelphia, PA on October 06, 2017

Dan's assessment of the contradictory nature of Hugh Hefner's legacy pretty much matches my own, though I'm probably more kindly disposed to Playboy the magazine and the politics of the so-called "Playboy Philosophy" than he is. As a life-long avid reader of magazines, I was a faithful reader of Playboy through the '70s and '80s -- although, being gay, I did buy it for the articles. As a gay man, I oddly felt more welcome in the pages of Playboy, despite its ostentatious heterosexuality, perhaps because the open sexuality it championed felt more tolerant and less judgmental than the Hemingway-esque heterosexuality on display in the pages of the Esquire of the time.

There's no question that Hef and his followers considered women to be playthings, but let's not forget one thing that the Playboy philosophy insisted on: Women must not be abused — while they were play companions, it was also a good thing to engage their minds with a discussion of Picasso and jazz as foreplay to a roll in the hay.

Maybe Hef didn't always live up to that enlightened ideal in his personal life. So what? If we can forgive Teddy Kennedy or Bill Clinton or Dr. King for being horn dogs because of their good works, doesn't Hef deserve a similar indulgence?

Joseph Glantz

of Levittown, PA on October 07, 2017

What, me worry! For the origins of Alfred E. Neuman, click here.

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Lantern Theater Company

of Center City/ Philadelphia, PA on September 30, 2017

Great news: Red Velvet has been extended by popular demand and will now run through Sunday, October 15. Join us! .