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Pedophile Musical Causes Critical “Crapstorm” in Philly

Dear Nice People Theatre Company,

What Philadelphia Inquirer critic Wendy Rosenfield says you did isn’t very nice. I’m not going to suggest it isn’t good marketing — or shrewd, mercenary marketing. You’re mounting Megan Gogerty’s Love Jerry, a musical whose title character is a pedophile — a fellow for whom the audience’s empathy is, we presume, actively solicited. You have to do what you have to do.

But you could do it with class. First I read Rosenfield’s review, then I read about the brouhaha you’ve apparently incited around it, then I read about the second brouhaha around the rejection of your ad for the show, then I learned about how you’ve turned it all into a cause celebre — going so far, Rosenfield says, as to demand that the Inquirer remove her review. Well, I’ve started to suspect you’re really in it for 15 minutes of “look at us, we’re so edgy!” fame, not cultural dialogue. I think that trying to silence a critic is very small. I am ashamed of you.

Thinking about the parameters of Love Jerry, one parallel that comes to mind is the story of Lionel Dahmer — father of Jeffrey. He wrote a book that was under-read that asks readers to do the near-impossible: reconcile the evil of Jeffrey Dahmer with the idea that a parent’s unconditional love really does mean that it’s unconditional. So it’s about morality, isn’t it? It’s about conundrums that test our mettle, isn’t it? Doesn’t an empathetic pedophile prick the bubble of safety we wish to associate with, and hopefully extend to, our children? So how do you expect a thinking critic to react? You have successfully tested Rosenfield’s mettle. Clearly she’s wrestling with your subject, with her value system, with her beliefs. What would you prefer? Oh, right — a rave.

Well, you can maintain that Rosenfield failed the test because she didn’t like the show. But the fact is, there was nothing unprofessional in her review. Indeed, she stated she had no quibble with the production. She just didn’t like the show. She’s a parent; she thinks empathy for pedophiles is offensive, like empathy for a serial killer. She reacted precisely, it seems to me, as any parent might react. Isn’t that the point? To affirm, but to challenge? To arrest, but to free?

For the love of Dionysus, please confirm or deny whether you tried to persuade the Inquirer to remove Rosenfield’s review or not. Deny it and you’ll force Rosenfield to retract her claim. Confirm it and you’ll have proven that “open honest discussion” is not what you want. Phillyist liked the production and, to read what Gogerty’s posts, much of the entirety of the city of brotherly love is right there with you. How nice. Now that you’ve got what you want, buck up and come clean.

And remember, nothing on earth endows you with the right to smack around a free press, to challenge the fundamental First Amendment rights of Rosenfield or the Inquirer or anyone else. You should be grateful that Rosenfield took time to wrestle — even if imperfectly, even if unfavorably — with the conundrum Gogerty’s piece put before her. Personally, I will take fecund over feckless any day.

If you don’t believe the American theater deserves more than obsequiousness and acquiescence in its critics, then no, I really do not think you are very nice at all.

Love, Leonard


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  1. nicolenicole06-12-2010

    Leonard what did I ever do to you? Why are you so angry at me – at others? Listen, you don’t even know me. You don’t know anything about my company. I haven’t lied about anything. I’m sorry if other people have – I can’t do anything about that. You keep jumping on everyone and making these demands like, “Prove it now.” as if this some kind of huge trial. For someone who is an art critic, you don’t seem to much like artists or give them any benefit of the doubt. I’m a 28 year old young woman who makes theatre. My partner and I run NPTC together. We are a two person team. The ‘conclusions’ (plural) refers to TWO false conclusions that someone drew – not two phone calls – I never said that. For the last time – I believe in a free press and that is not the issue. Wendy certainly didn’t want anyone drawing conclusions about the show that aren’t true I don’t think she wanted anyone getting hurt – atleast I hope not. None of us are bad people, here. I’m not out to stifle yours or anyone elses First Amendment rights. This is just nuts. Like I said, I have a background in journalism too. Please chill out and stop attacking me. If you’d like to give an educated opinion on our show and our suggestion that Wendy’s review dangerously mischaracterized the show then come and see it. But please don’t, for your own interest in stirring the pot and attacking everyone you can along the way, make judgements and twist words.

    • LeonardLeonard06-12-2010

      Oh, enough already. If I attacked you, if I stirred the pot, what did you do when you accused Rosenfield of publishing an off-the-record conversation?

  2. nicolenicole06-12-2010

    she did! ok – i refuse to substantiate this nonsense any further by continuing to respond to it. i’m out.

  3. ClayClay06-12-2010

    Actually, Leonard, I don’t think the “jury is still out” on Mrs. Rosenfield’s review. Amongst commenters who have actually seen LOVE JERRY, I’ve only found one voice that agrees with Wendy’s “analysis” of the play in print. If you would take a break from your blog long enough to actually go and see the play in question, you might have something useful to contribute to this discussion. If you weighed the play itself against the review you might come to understand why many feel Rosenfield’s review went beyond responsible critical assessment and into the realm of slander. What Rosenfield submitted to a major newspaper for print resembled a nasty diary entry rather than a piece of responsible reporting on the activities of Philadelphia artists. Rosenfield owes her diverse readership a review of the play first, and her opinions and analysis second. As someone who has seen LOVE JERRY, I do believe that Rosenfield’s review steppped outside the boundaries of acceptable comment in grossly misrepresenting the content of the play; and appeared to do so in service of composing a more “colorful” screed against pedophiles. I challenge you to actually see LOVE JERRY and disagree with that statement.

    Your attempt here to paint a not-for-profit arts organization as somehow Stalinesque because of their reaction to the 1-2 punch of a slanderous review in a major newspaper and a veiled death threat is very unconvincing. When Mrs. Rosenfield behaves in a manner unbecoming of her professional responsibilities, it behooves those who observe her delinquency to register complaint. No theater company has the power to censor any critic at the Inquirer. Any reader of a newspaper is free to register objection to it’s content, and ask for a retraction if they feel they have been misrepresented. That is not a threat to the freedom of the press or freedom of speech, that is civic discourse and community oversight. If you would like to join this civic discourse you must first get off the internet and investigate what the heck you are writing about. Good luck with that.

    • LeonardLeonard06-12-2010

      I disagree. And your invective is revealing.

      I simply do not think the theater should have asked the Inquirer to remove the review — or even to ask whether removing the review would be the right thing to do.

      And I don’t think Rosenfield’s response was unprofessional. You do.

      End of story.

  4. MiriamMiriam06-12-2010

    Hello Everyone,

    Miriam here. The other Co-Artistic Director of the Nice People Theatre Company. I think everything has been said that needs to be said in the debate. It’s clear we will never reach a resolution. Let’s refocus on what matters. A healthy dialogue around the difficult and uncomfortable issues raised by Love Jerry in order to necessite change and end cycles of violence and abuse is our ultimate goal. We think the work speaks for itself and while we are aware that this show spurs passionate responses we can not accept calls that threaten us and our team of artists personally. That’s why we reacted. We are glad that people care so much about breaking the cycle of abuse. At least that’s something we can all agree on.

    All the best, Miriam

  5. M. ElizabethM. Elizabeth06-12-2010

    Alright, I’ll step into the fray. I feel the need to speak for the theater company.

    Free press is a precious thing. It is necessary in our society, and the grey areas where we feel urged to step on those ideals, for whatever reason, should be vigorously opposed – as they have been, by CFR and others.

    However, as a member of a theater company myself, I cannot help but wonder what I would do in that situation. There’s no way to substantiate the claims that Nice People received a threatening phone call, and I think any demand for them to produce such proof feels a tad bloodthirsty. Of course they can’t prove it. Operating on the faith that the call happened as they claim it did, I think I might have been tempted to act as they did – stirring controversy and inciting conversation over such a hot topic is one thing. Having threats placed on the company, is another. Their location, as Nicole pointed out, is public knowledge. Theaters don’t have large security constituents for this type of situation. Debate aside, that’s scary. If I truly felt that a review was coloring the public’s view in a skewed perspective that was resulting in such a dangerous response, I might be tempted to ask (demand, request, casually mention – the debate over which active verb to use seems pedantic, Nicole) the paper to take it down.

    HOWEVER, that would be an impulse, and after reflection, not the right one. How I Learned to Drive is an excellent example of a nationally celebrated work about a very ugly story, and a very ugly person. It would be near-suicidal naivete for ANY theater company to produce this show and not anticipate passionate results. This is the core of what makes these shows controversial – there is risk involved. People will get upset. Emotions will color their interpretation of the work. That is all part and parcel with doing a controversial show, and to stand on a soapbox and bleat about what the show REALLY means and what the REAL message seems painfully naive. No two people will see the same show and walk away with the exact same reaction, a truth that is polarized when you tackle this subject matter.

    Skewering Nice People for their initial impulse to request the article be pulled becomes a debate that sounds too philosophical at it’s core, and to me disingenuous because it ignores the human side of the issue – they put on a show, and got a damn scary response. Yikes.

    The repugnant issue, as I see it, is after the emotional moment that drove NPT to make that call, they still defend the request. With words like “libel” tossed around (by another reader, but the mentality is reflected in the tone of Nicole’s responses), this debate enters scary waters. A review is an emotional, intellectual, and philosophical response to art. There is no right or wrong way to interpret it – that’s the whole point.

    It boggles my mind that this even needs to be stated.

    If NPT doesn’t want to deal with the passionate and varied responses “Love Jerry” has incited; if they don’t feel they are properly equipped to field the sometimes dangerous reactions people will have to what they create, then perhaps a hard look at their script selection is in order. Reviews will respond as every other audience member does – some may like it, some may hate it, some may “miss the point”. If you aren’t ready for that, direct your attention away from debates over responsible journalism and re-evaluate your mission as a theater. Perhaps these types of works are not for you.

  6. I Loves PhillyI Loves Philly06-12-2010

    Is this our great “First Amendment” headline of the week: “A young, scared theater director asks that a reviewer herself (not the Inquirer) consider withdrawing a play review that’s of at best uncertain quality.” Outrage?! Shame?! Censorship?! Prove what you say RIGHT NOW, before the Supreme Court of Leonard and the Worldwide Internet Jury?! Puhleez. Banal. Overblown. At most hasty and unwise by NPT. Guild-protective and preeningly indignant. All of these seem far more appropriate descriptors. NPT isn’t the government, a court, or even a powerful news outlet. Not only isn’t this legally speaking a 1am issue. It’s not even in the same ballpark, sport, or solar system. In America, i would’ve thought that i could ask Leonard to remove a silly (much less a harmful) bog post. Just like Leonard could ask me to do the same with a silly or harmful comment, or something on a hypothetical blog of mine. All of this “asking,” NOT demanding, i would’ve presumed could take place without either of us whipping out pocket Constitutions and shouting at each other “shame,” “censorship,” or “fire!!” (Lawyer joke on that last one.) In sum, either i’m glad that WR also has her own spirited and vocal friend — that’s sweet. Or perhaps i must welcome Leonard to a lifetime of overactive free speech indignation, if this picayune incident sets his new standard. EVERYONE — including NPT apparently — heartily agrees that LW was ultimately entitled to keep her review. And that’s exactly what she did. Whew! America, may liberty sleep safe tonight, with such vigilant champions at the ready. Bravo, good sir. Bra-vo. (Let me be my own worst critic for a change: Yes, i’m indeed embarrassed to respond to such overworked drivel. Hobbies. i need more hobbies. That’s absolutely correct!!) As a sidenote, i do think that M. Elizabeth and others are right that the review should not be pulled, though i continue to think (as a matter of quality) the review itself is pretty demonstrably terrible. (i wish LW would stop defending _it_, while we’re sharing preferences.) But to repeat, i interpreted even Nicole as having agreed with, or at least fully acquiesced in, the final result, though i guess i could be wrong. And for better — or more likely for worse on all sides — it does seem that Nicole’s public emotional ride continues as these debates waddle along. For my part, i’ve had about enough of this dressed up Reviewer’s Guild nonsense. Is the aesthetically correct closing quip “Not So Nice Blog Post, Leonard.” Oh wow, that does actually feel very clever. i must be quite literary.

  7. DavidDavid06-12-2010

    Dear Leonard,

    The First Amendment does not apply here. That would be for when the government arrested Wendy and threw her in prison or threatened her from a place of actual real world power. A phone call from a couple of non-profit artists or a blog post is not the same thing.

    Responding to NPT with talk of the First Amendment is like running down into a nuclear bunker for protection when some birds are flying overhead.

    To insinuate that Wendy was “slapped around” by a phone call from a couple of nice people is not giving her much credit.

    To that end, not all speech or freedom of the press is protected. You can’t yell “FIRE” in a crowded theatre, and the crux of Nicole’s point seems to be it might be unwise to cite a play as “victimizing abused children even further” because if I found out someone was victimizing abused children, I might want to try and stop them. Just like O’Reilly and Beck calling for the end of George Tiller, and look what happened. Should Beck and O’Reilly still be allowed to say it? Probably. Should other people, including Tiller, be allowed to call their judgement into question? The press is not the only people who get to say what they think. This is not an abstract or philosophical idea. NPT asked the Inquirer to consider taking down the posting because they received a threat. The Inquirer said no. Nobody’s speech was infringed. Please save the First Amendment for someone who really needs it.

    • LeonardLeonard06-14-2010

      David,

      The First Amendment DOES apply. It wasn’t the phone call, per se, it was asking whether the should review should be taken down. If you don’t think that’s wrong, and if you don’t think that’s potentially mucking around with the First Amendment, that’s your problem. And your analogy to nuclear bunkers and birds is silly.

      No, not all speech or freedom of the press is protected, you are correct about that. I cannot print “Go shoot the President!” because that incites to violence. But there is no rational judge who would find that Rosenfield’s review was inciting to violence, either. The NPT should never have asked to consider taking down the posting in the first place. Period. If you disagree, that’s fine. But you’re wrong. Absolutely 100% wrong. Period. End of story.

      And frankly, Gene and Amanda are correct — that is what we should be discussing here, not whether you get to determine what does and does not constitute a threat to the First Amendment. Period. End of story.

  8. GeneGene06-13-2010

    Well said M. Elizabeth! Quite eloquent.

    As a sometimes actor (mostly to support and spend time with my wife, who SINGS!), I have resented reviewers who have reviewed the play and not the present performance. The time to review the play in the media is when it is first produced, not years later when community theater mounts a production of a time-worn classic. In this case, I have no idea when the play was written, but I’m thinking that this is probably not the first production. The review should therefore stick to: 1. the performances, and, 2. criticism of the theater company for choosing this script, if that’s the way the reviewer sees her role.

    That’s not what compels me to weigh in, tho.

    My father was a child molester. He molested the female children of his friends and relatives. He molested his grandchildren. He presented himself to the world as a loving father, grandfather, health-care professional, and righteous religious pillar of the community. When he got busted, he was already too old for the states where he had offended to want to support him (and pay for his medical care).

    I lost all my respect for him when I discovered what he had been doing for years, but my mother remained with him and I love her. I, therefore, kept him in my life, and eventually had the two of them move in with me and my wife when it became too precarious for them to live on their own (nursing homes stink-literally). You can imagine how my brothers and sisters (especially the ones with female children) reacted when they thought that I had forgiven his bad behavior(I hadn’t).

    I’m writing this to illustrate with personal experience that pedophiles are people with families who are as conflicted about the offenses and what should be the punishment, as the audiences of this play are conflicted. It’s a topic that SHOULD be talked about. Without open and free discussion, people will misunderstand motives and behave in all kinds of unacceptable and antisocial ways.

    So, criticize away, but remember that this topic has real people and real life situations for background, and we are daily seeking a path that will allow us to live with the bad behavior of our relatives. Plays like this help us to move forward.

  9. Amanda GroveAmanda Grove06-14-2010

    I would like to announce up front that I am an actor in Nice People Theatre’s “Love Jerry” production and have been following the reviews, and comments, and blog posts, and twitters around this show, and drama begets drama begets drama. The back-and-forth has been interesting dialogue, but Gene’s comment above is the first to really move me into responding. This is the kind of response and dialogue that should be in the foreground. The First Amendment, Safety and Risk and Downright Dangerous art, Theater critics and non-profit companies – all of these discussions and debates are also extremely important if not imperative. But the impetus for sharing “Love Jerry” with Philadelphia is to spark the kind of discussion Gene has had the courage to introduce.

    There were many shocking things I learned in the course of working on this play thanks to our partnership with CAPE (Child Abuse Prevention Effort): that 90% of child sexual abuse is someone the child knows: her/his mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, cousin, teacher, neighbor. It is easier to respond to a detached monster – a stranger in a trench-coat; a predator online; a crazy serial-kidnapper than it is to respond to your spouse, your child, your brother, your father – a person you “know well” and love – who is doing these atrocious things. I had no idea that 1 in 3 girls and 1-6 boys are sexually abused in Pennsylvania (and again, 90% of this stark statistic is being carried out by a family member or family friend.) I had no idea that the abusers didn’t usually know that what they are doing is wrong – that a serious relationship and “love” is their motivation, not abuse and torture, and that the children often refer to that time of abuse as a “loving relationship” – sadly long before they are developmentally able to comprehend what that means. I never thought about the fact that abuse is overwhelmingly inter-generational – that a child-target of sexual abuse grows up and has children who the now-grandfather may continue abuse. And I never knew that there is no such thing as a profile for pedophiles – they are men, women, white, black, brown, socio-economically rich, poor, middle-class, educated, uneducated, Christian, atheist, outgoing, shy, former abuse-victims, not-abuse victims, professors, drug dealers, pharmacists, waiters, stay-at-home moms, Admins,politicians, actors, salesmen. This is the most horrifying thing I learned – sexual abusers are a) Everywhere and b) Everyone. Including people we love and trust.

    I never before thought about the possibility that you don’t have to forgive someone and can still love them. As it poignantly says in the play: “I’m not asking you to forgive him. I would NEVER ask you to do that.” What he then asks is the crux of the play: can you love me if I am capable of loving someone who has done unspeakable acts and harms to me and my family? The heart of this is that when we love someone, and find out that someone we love has done horrific, evil, unspeakable things – where does that leave us? What are we left with? Hate. Love. Confusion. Humanity. According to the research that’s what the victims of abuse feel, as well. Is it possible to still love what we cannot forgive?

    What I didn’t know before this play is that yes, it is possible. It is possible (and normal) to feel polarizing, different feelings at the same time. It is possible that Love and Forgiveness can possibly be mutually exclusive – when I thought before they had to exist hand-in-hand, and that is liberating. There are a few people in my life that I know I can never forgive, but I still love them so deeply. This play taught me that that orientation is a possibility – not something I should try and “resolve and “make a choice.”

    So, if 90% of child-sexual abuse is done by family members, then this is not a favorable stereotype of what we “know” about pedophiles. And if 1 in 3 girls and 1-6 boys are sexually abused by someone they know, love, and trust – most oftentimes a family member – then there is a family-dynamic of the rest of the family involved whose voices have not yet been heard – many, many people are attached to each of this statistic. This play does the community a service by giving a voice to those people who – as the statistics show – are the majority of us. We are either the statistic of sexual-abuse victims or know someone who is abused or an abuser (even if we don’t “know it” yet or know someone who is this. (If we are friends/family with more than 10 people, that is. And I suspect we all are.)

  10. Bayla RubinBayla Rubin06-14-2010

    “And frankly, Gene and Amanda are correct – that is what we should be discussing here, not whether you get to determine what does and does not constitute a threat to the First Amendment. Period. End of story.”

    I must say you have a lot of periods and a lot of ends to stories, or should I say change of story? This is what we should be discussing here? Well, I do agree with you on that, but I am a little confused since you wrote the post in the first place on a rampage against NPT and in support of WR’s first amendment rights. You even responded to me, “As far as misrepresenting or not misrepresenting the show, that’s for the public – not for me – to decide…. I took a stand on the tactlessness of the theater asking the Inquirer to remove the review.”

    I find it interesting that you chose to take a stand on what “does or does not constitute a threat to the First Amendment,” instead of maybe, I don’t know, seeing a the play and participating in “what we should be discussing here.” You may even be able to use your web space to incite a conversation that raises awareness and incites social change to help others, instead of bashing anyone who disagrees with any word you have to say. Oh, and by the way, go ahead and start bashing me. I know that’s how you respond, and I find it quite entertaining. Here, I’ll make it easier for you. You can just copy and paste if you want.

    Bayla,

    You don’t have to agree with me. But if you think chocolate ice cream is better than vanilla, then you’re wrong. Absolutely 100% wrong. I am the only person who knows anything about anything. Period. End of story.

    LJ

    Oo, now I know why you were so nasty to me. It’s fun!

    • LeonardLeonard06-15-2010

      Bayla,

      Seeing the play or not seeing the play has no bearing on whether your theater was correct in floating the idea of having the review taken down. Period. And yes, I said “Period.” My site, my post — if you don’t like it, you know what? Please, don’t visit. I drive a ton of conversation and I don’t have to justify anything to the likes of you.

      Nicole said she doesn’t condone attacks of any kind, but perhaps she condones yours. Should I ask her?

      I’ll be ending comments on this thread shortly. I’ve really had enough of your blather.

  11. DavidDavid06-14-2010

    You use period. end of story. A lot. And absolutely 100%. Which mean the same thing. If you spoke things that were actually any of those things, you wouldn’t need the rhetorical (and repetitive) flourish.

    I frankly find your misuse of the First Amendment dangerous, and it is not an isolated event, but part of a greater trend, where people defend what they do and what they say citing freedom of the press, when really it is about moral and ethical issues about a responsibility for the truth. The truth is a pretty absolute, but usually hard to uncover, and while Wendy had her own idea of the truth, it differed from most people’s view of it (just to count reviews and posts), and calling up and asking her possibly dangerous mistatement of the truth be reconsidered is not a bad thing to do. Refusing to change your mind on the matter is also not a bad thing to do. Throwing out “First Amendment” in this case is a red-herring. They asked the paper to take down a review. The paper said no. We argue about if it was right. This is civil discourse. Asking a paper to print or not print something or pull or not pull something is totally fine. Ask any reporter you know, it happens all the time. The freedom of the press and the first amendment comes into play when a government tries to hold sway over what will or will not be printed. If you want the case and point, period end of discussion kind of thing you were looking for, just look at EVERY SINGLE court case argued involving the First Amendment. THey are all a private citizen or group arguing against a government or representative. That is because that is what it is for.

    Not for non-profit arts.

    I’m not making that up. It’s actually the rules congress gave itself so they would not behave like Georgie:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    It says nothing about what one private citizen can or cannot ask another to write or not write.

    So, I guess my question is this: What is wrong with asking? Is there a slippery slope there? You seem deeply offended and hurt that they asked. Isn’t it fine to call someone up and say “Hey, maybe you were wrong. Think about maybe changing what you did on this.” Papers print retractions every day. Asking, even imploring, even begging is not slapping around a free press or the First Amendment. Slapping around a free press usually involves prison. I guess I just find it insulting to the reporters around who are actually oppressed or suppressed, as opposed to Wendy and the Inquirer who were so burdened they actually had to utter a two letter word.

    A little test: I am asking you right now to stop mis-using the concepts of freedom of the press and first amendment like you did in this article. I think it is part of a misleading trend in the blog-o-sphere in particular. Please strengthen the integrity of discourse by refusing to do it. As a matter of fact, please rephrase this blog post, so as to not denigrate the reporters currently in prison.

    No you say no, or tell me to go to hell, or whatever. Is there something wrong that happened here? Should I not have asked you to change your post? I am not threatening or blackmailing. I have no power over you. I am just asking you to do what I see as the right thing, or at least discuss the question with me.

    So getting back to your Absolute 100% Wrong Period end of story statement that Nice People should not have discussed the story being taken down when they received a death threat, I ask in all sincerity: Why not? They asked. They were turned down. They stopped asking. Who was hurt? What moral or ethical code was broken? What are you so 100% morally outraged about?

    • LeonardLeonard06-15-2010

      Yes, there is absolutely a slippery slope there.

      As for the rest of your comment, I’d be happy to discuss with you privately if you know how to behave civilly. Between you, Bayla and Mr. Green, I wonder.

      Let me warn, too, and people sense that the theater is using surrogates to continue to whip up the issue — and my point, frankly, has been made and with the exception of you people, the support I’ve received on this issue has been encouraging. So I’ll take your criticism from where it comes.

      Finally, sorry if you don’t like me saying “Period.” But you know what? It’s my post and my site. If I don’t want to do business with you, I don’t have to.

      You don’t like that, either? Gee, I can understand that. So please, don’t visit. It’s clear you people make Philly an unfriendly town. Goodbye.

  12. I Loves PhillyI Loves Philly06-15-2010

    No Leonard, the First Amendment does not apply. “CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech.” The 20th century Supreme Court applied that language to states and local governments. It literally doesn’t apply to you, to me, or to other non-state actors. i can ask you to withdraw your speech, you can ask me to withdraw mine. No constitutional problem at all. Only the legally uneducated would make this mistake. Only a half-cocked hipshooter would make it in (bloggy) print. And only a blinkered belligerent would stand by it after being (now repeatedly) corrected. Give it up. Or as you might say: GIVE IT UP NOW!!! Gene and Amanda are indeed talking about what’s important . . . child abuse and this play . . . which is what people were talking about . . . before you brought up this imaginary First Amendment canard. Unfortunately, unless he’s remedied this, Leonard still hasn’t seen the play. Which is why he tried to stay focused on the bizarre “asked to take it down” sidelight dressed up in woefully inappropriate constitutional garb. (Everyone now agrees that this request shouldn’t have been granted, and perhaps absent being very scared, it wouldn’t have ever even been raised as a possibility in the first place.) As Leonard might say: Period. Absolutely 100% Wrong. Ever. End of Story. Exclamation Point. Zip. Zap. Bing Bang Boom.

    • LeonardLeonard06-15-2010

      Wrong. And as I noted to Bayla, I’m terminating comments on this topic. You don’t like it, please don’t visit. Goodbye.

  13. DavidDavid06-15-2010

    I never said I didn’t like you using period. I just observed you do it, and usually it points clearly to a point that you would like claim to be absolute, but really isn’t. Absolute true points don’t need help from words like that. It is constructive criticism. I can see you are not into that. I am only responding to the belligerent, demanding, aggressive and playful tone you set. I kind of enjoy arguing this way, as I thought you did from the way you write. Sorry to hurt your feelings.

    But I am seriously interested in the question of that slippery slope. What is it? You keep saying they shouldn’t have asked the review to be taken down. Why not? I am actually interested in the question you raise. I don’t think there is an ethical or moral issue here. I know there is no constitutional or other legal issue here. What are you worried about, exactly? I could see why to be worried if Wendy bended, or if they or any other company would systematically do it, but this was once in an extreme circumstance. And the system worked. Wendy and the Inquirer said no. No harm done. Or was there? What was it? I don’t see it.

  14. PhillyDramaQueenPhillyDramaQueen06-15-2010

    Leonard, let me just speak up on behalf of the Philly theater scene. While NPTC has gone overboard in their efforts to defend what many see as an indefensible piece in an indefensible manner (And p.s., I have received daily private messages from people in the area’s theater community defending my review–most of whom saw the show and left shaking their heads.), Philadelphia has a rich and varied array of houses tackling challenging, exciting work, reimagining classics, and creating new ones. In the past, I would have counted NPTC as one of those companies. We’ll see if next season brings them some restored equilibrium.

    In my roughly 15 years of reviewing theater in this town, I’ve gotten some blowback, but nothing like this. But it’s one show, during one season, and we’ll all survive just fine. I wish there was more dialogue involving unbiased parties, but what can you do? Who cares about a show more than those directly affected by its success or failure? I sincerely hope this incident doesn’t color national perception of Philly theater. In the early 1990s, when the Live Arts/Fringe Fest began, I thought we’d reached a creative pinnacle; happily, I was wrong.

    Please be my guest any time–and hey, the Live Arts/Fringe is a particularly great time. I’d love to show you what else is happening on my fecund turf, and hopefully Leonard Jacobs can bear witness to the depth and breadth of this city’s theatrical spectrum.

  15. NewYorkTheatregoerNewYorkTheatregoer06-16-2010

    I have not seen the Philadelphia production of Love Jerry that’s generating so much controversy. I did, however, see the show at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2008. My general take on it was that it was riveting drama paired with pointless songs that seemed to exist only to sell it to the crowd who can only deal with musicals when they’re as mindlessly unintegrated as in Spring Awakening. But that’s neither here nor there.

    Unless the script has been changed drastically since NYMF, I don’t personally think it exactly condones pedophilia. But, unless the script has been changed drastically since NYMF, I can see very easily how Rosenfield could arrive at the conclusion she did.

    The eight-year-old boy, named Andy in the version I saw, never appears onstage. People only talk about him, what someone did to him, what he felt about this or that. This inevitably shifts the weight of the story away from the fact of his abuse, making it—at most—an intellectual exercise. You’re not supposed to think or care about Andy’s point of view. Playwright Gogerty even admits she intended it to be immaterial, as Rosenfield mentions in her review: “In a post-show talkback, Gogerty argued, ‘This isn’t about [the child].’” What Andy thinks or feels about the abuse is not really relevant—it’s how the parents and the brother behave that counts for Gogerty.

    It’s an emphatic choice and a daring one, but one that by its nature will not and cannot appeal to everyone. If Rosenfeld believes that the sexual abuse of a child is so serious that a play about that, but which pretends to not be about it by instead focusing so much on the psychological makeup of the perpetrator, cannot properly function dramatically because the essential element of the story (Andy) is missing, her review is completely valid. I’m not entirely sure I agree with it–I don’t have children, and if I did, perhaps I’d feel differently—but Rosenfield’s assessment is spot-on and derived only from what Gogerty wrote as filtered through Rosenfield’s personal experiences (the only way that any critic, and any theatregoer, can view any show).

    Based on my understanding of the situation and my previous experience with the play, I agree that Nice People Theatre Company is whining incessantly because Love Jerry didn’t get the review the company believes it deserved. And, as someone with ties to journalism, I agree that if the company requested—however obliquely, as seems to be the case—that the review be pulled, that’s an egregious, hateful act that violates the compact the company should have with both the press and its audiences.

    To me, Love Jerry is a strong, fascinating play that deserves to be presented, seen, and discussed (preferably with its songs jettisoned, but that’s another issue). That people are arguing about the merits of its story and its presentation is exactly what I like to see about any theatre work: because it means people are thinking, engaged, and passionate. But that needs to stop somewhere before it apparently has this time. That Nice People Theatre Company is behaving the way it is—toward Rosenfield, toward Leonard, and toward its audiences—has evaporated the considerable goodwill they established with me by taking on Love Jerry in the first place.

    Hey, Nice People: Love Jerry speaks for itself. Why are you afraid to let it?

  16. Will DitterlineWill Ditterline06-16-2010

    Leonard,

    But you can print “Go shoot the President!” in quotations. That is why satire gets a free ride in social commentary, but when topics are treated seriously, passions are stirred. Also, if you have a puppet or an animated character say “Go shoot the President!” you get a free ride as well. NPT might consider replacing Jerry with a puppet. Or the reviewer, to be safe.

    Just wanted to point that out, in case your goal was to have someone else “shoot the president” for you.

    Cheers,
    Will

  17. KarenKaren06-19-2010

    Leonard, thanks for bringing up Corpus Christi. Are we the only ones old enough to remember?

    When Corpus Christi made front page of the Daily News, it was forever known as the “Gay Jesus Play.” I don’t recall if it was known at the time that MTC was producing it, I believe it must have been for it to land front page play like that.

    What fueled the subsequent death threats was not that this play merely existed, but that the people who made the threats *found out* that the play existed. If this play wasn’t in the news, the whack jobs would have never heard of it, and thus there never would have been death threats, etc etc.

    The Inquirer is a pretty big paper that reaches a lot of people, people who quite possibly don’t pay much attention to theater. My assumption would be that whoever this person was that threatened the theater found out about the play simply by the fact that a review was printed. I suspect that had Wendy given the show a rave, the end result would still have been a phone call from someone who is clearly disturbed.

    I am sorry that this theater received any threats whatsoever, as no theater should have to deal with any situation such as this. And I do hope that the theater reported any threats received to the police, who should also be able to at least advise them on any security concerns they may have.

    However, a play about pedophilia is going to push some buttons, and regardless of how someone is given the information, that person will zone in on “it’s a play about a pedophile.” The play is controversial and has the potential to enrage. It was naive to assume otherwise.

    (Remember the movie LIE, which did not glorify pedophilia but was known as the pedophile movie and it too had controversy on its release for showing a ‘sympathetic’ pedophile, one who was not outwardly a monster and one who was conflicted and empathetic to a degree).

    Anyway, Wendy’s review cannot be held responsible for someone who is clearly troubled reacting in that manner.

    In terms of being asked to remove the review, did the police department suggest this as a measure the company should take for their own security?

  18. PhillyDramaQueenPhillyDramaQueen06-19-2010

    Gah! Every time I say I’m done with this…

    David: As I see it, there are several problems with NPTC asking to take down the review. Obviously, it’s unprofessional–if you invite a critic, you get a review in return, like it or not. But also, when the Inquirer’s ad dept. asked them to change the wording of their online ad, they cried censorship loudly and frequently until the story was picked up by several other online news outlets. It’s a bit unseemly for them to then advocate censorship the moment it suits them. And while I know this doesn’t fit the legal definition of censorship, it’s certainly motivated by the same spirit. You say my “misrepresentation” might be dangerous, I say the production might be dangerous, but never do I say it should be shut down. And also, papers print retractions all the time, but not on the content of reviews, as they’re opinion pieces. I guess if I flat-out lied about the show, then sure, but my interpretation is completely valid, and shared by more than a few others.

    Which leads me to Karen: NPTC’s own ad was far more inflammatory than my review, and while you and I and a few others see the subject matter alone as enough of a trigger, NPTC insists it was solely my “misrepresentation” of the play that upset the public. So okay, that’s their prerogative. But the “threat” itself is another matter. As far as I know, NPTC didn’t contact the police, they contacted me. However, even if they did, a phone call during which someone talks about being abused as a child, mentions that he’s discussed the issue with his wife, and specifically says, “I don’t have a gun,” doesn’t seem like much of a threat. Further, if NPTC was so terrified by this incident, why did they remain on the telephone with him long enough to debate the play’s merits and then CONVINCE HIM TO ATTEND THE PLAY, which he agreed to do? In any case, if the suggestion to remove the review came from the police (and they never said it did), well, that’s a much stickier issue and I imagine gets a lot closer to the legal definition of censorship.

    My guess is NPTC just plain overreacted because thus far, they’ve had a pretty easy critical ride in Philly and also because they simply weren’t prepared for the real-life response to this topic.