Teachout Has a Teach-In; Mamet Says “Critics, Kiss My Ass”


Oh, the unending hatred between artists and critics, especially theater artists and theater critics.

Such hatred is pure as a baby’s ass, and just as uneducated and immature.

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Terry Teachout’s carefully meted out instructions to the American theater community for how to lure him in to their work is probably a good thing, in the sense that he’s interested in traveling across the land to review shows

But the Wall Street Journal’s notoriously right-wing critic seems blissfully, almost gleefully ignorant of what a fundamental luxury it is to schlep all over God’s green earth to review stage work. This at a time when so many critics, if they have full-time positions as critics, are also reviewing their 401(k) plans in preparation of a day when they may not have full-time positions anymore.

And did I detect a hint, a whiff, of the cruelly condescending in Teachout’s 11-point schoolmarmish list of do’s and don’ts, such as a belittling explanation of what does and does not make for a good website for a theater?

While Teachout is driving his airline miles through the proverbial roof, one must asl the question: Is there nothing in New York for him beyond the wilderness of Broadway? Some Off-Broadway might satisfy the orgiast in him for what he perceives as the odd or experimental, but given the more than 500 Off-Off-Broadway productions in New York every year — largely Equity-approved, mind you, which at the regional level means he’s “more likely to review” — is there no indie theater that Teachout might see? It’s Montana vs. Manhattan, or maybe it’s Missouri or Mississippi.

But that’s all fair and well: Teachout is a critic. As one myself, I know no one expects cuddly teddy bears.

Chris Jones’ recent Theater Loop column out of Chicago, however, takes the cranky-and-condescending crown away from — well, virtually any theater critic I can think of, dead or alive — and gives it to David Mamet. Or rather, Mamet removes it from the head of the pope and crowns himself, like Charlemagne with less strategic sense.

Asked by Jones what he thought of the studio theater at the Victory Gardens being renamed for the legendary theater critic Richard Christiansen, Mamet said:

As Judao-Christians we must avow that the critic is the equal of the artist in the sight of God — as, indeed, he is — if God can’t read. But in the one and only instance one may indeed proclaim this parity, that instance being the work of our beloved Mr. Christiansen.

Thank you, your grace.