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Each of you is God’s special little snowflake.

Well that right there was a fun little week in the theatrosphere.

You got your bile in my vitriol!

PREVIOUSLY ON THE THEATROSPEHERE:

Scott Walters got back on his horse named Provocation, or, as Nick over at Rat Sass aptly metaphored, strapped his guns back on. Six weeks of the New Civility Code imploded over a seemingly slight infraction, Iowa 08 pokes some (alleged) lazy fun at the Midwest. And Scott rode down that fun and trampled it to death.

Mac Rogers called bullshit on Scott calling bullshit, and then everyone piled on. It was pretty stunning all in all.

There’s nothing quite like a glove-slap charge of cultural hegemony to wake up the Persecuted.

The always civil, mild-mannered Joshua James posits that because he (Mr. James) from Iowa, and lives in New York that Scott has no idea what he’s talking about, with a wonderful highlight  being the absolutely unbiased:  

I’m not going to link to the Blogger, simply because I don’t want to send anymore traffic his way. He’s not in New York, he’s neither a writer, director, actor or producer. He’s a theatre professor.

After a brief respite (happy anniversary Scott) Mr. Walters returned to a flaming inbox and tried to retrench his argument, and answer for his return to provocateur.

And then everyone said they didn’t understand and didn’t want to talk about it anymore. Except Scott. Who despite some unfortunate language choices, really does want a solution, not a war.

Everyone comes out looking pretty bad, except for Australia and Freeman.


So what are we talking about really?

Are we really so upset that Mr. Walters pointed out again that New York is biased towards New York?  Is that news? I was unaware that this was an open question. of course New York is biased towards New York. Isaac sums it up pretty well: the history of America is at least in part a history of outright antipathy between The City and The Country.

So why isn’t the response from The New York chapter simply the same as Scott’s response to Allison Croggon’s charge of Scott’s US-centrism?

“I write what I know”.

Theatre is local. Theatre is for a local audience. It isn’t New York’s responsibility to be writing for a southern audience, or writing about issues germane to Southern culture. North Carolina isn’t under the gun to write trenchant commentary about the gentrification of Park Slope.

We all use stereotypes as shorthand, why do we have to lie about it? All a writer can do (on either side) is be honest about the caricature, or try harder to write true depictions of those from other subcultures.  That’s it. That’s all you can do. If a playwright isn’t writing honest characters into being with why do we care that they’re writing cultural stereotypes?

So we honestly need to let NYC off the hook a little bit. New York isn’t a national theatre. It is New York theatre. The single biggest flaw in the repeated shotgun blasts from Mr. Walters is that he lumps the broader media in with theatre, and frankly they have different scopes and different responsibilities and it’s muddying the picture.

Los Angeles on the other hand is squarely on the hook. L.A. is national media. L.A. sets the tone for our national dialogue in a way we only wish that live performance could. And they are just as lazy about cultural stereotyping as Mr. Walters says. Again I am surprised that this is an open question. Are we all watching different mainstream media?


As to the rancor over bias:

I am biased.

All I can do is be aware of my biases and not let them destroy my work.

  • I am am biased against musical theatre
  • I am biased against children’s theatre
  • I am biased against community theatre
  • I am biased towards word plays
  • I am biased toward political themes
  • I am biased toward didacticism
  • I am biased toward cleverness (text or performance)
  • I am biased toward over-exposition
  • I am biased against “issue” plays
    (no this is not in conflict with above)
  • I am biased toward new work
  • I am biased against mature actors
  • I am biased against cultural conservatism

I’ll add on as more come to me. This of course will feel different than, say, being biased against the Country (to borrow Isaac’s construct), but they are just as destructive to the work, and towards building community (which I take as part of my responsibility as an artist). Besides I’m not sure where I fall on the City/Country scale with my 24 years in New Hampshire, 5 in San Francisco, and 3 in Austin.

I have more raw years in New Hampshire, but the large percentage of my adult life in urban and semi-urban environs.


Follow up sins:

  • “I am not biased therefore New York is not biased” is fallacious.
  • Claiming to rep your old hood while in New York is disingenuous.
  • Trying to use lack of specific data backing up an editorial as a terminal point is weak, especially on such a broad topic. Argue the premise. It’s not a journal article.
  • The New York theatre scene is not [any more] persecuted [than theatre anywhere else]. Not matter how many times Scott Walters calls you out. It’s just different persecution. The criticism comes with being in first place. (Ask the Yankees)

Go see:

In New York?

Madagascar, by New World Theatre; written by Wry Lachlan, Directed by Meghan Dickerson, featuring members of my former tribe all over the place.

In Austin?

The King and I by Forklift Danceworks.

Brilliant Traces by the Vestige Group featuring the always good Andrew Varenhorst.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – over at Scottish Rite – featuring old ArtSpark mate Illy herrin as Puck.

and last but not least: The 2007 ArtSpark Festival is here! Check it out.

  • Scott Walters

    Wow! That’s all I can say. Wow!

  • Joshua James

    Hi.

    Actually, I believe I stated Scott didn’t know what he was speaking about due to his specious arguments . . .

    Nor do I think it’s disengenuis to live in one place and write about a place one once lived . . . Naomi Wallace lives in the UK, has since the early nineties, and still writes quite specifically about Kentucky, where she was born and bred . . .

    There are great things about Iowa, and the Iowa Writers program is fantastic, as is the Playwrighting program . . . I was lucky to meet and know many people from both . . . It’s a great place to study writing . . .

  • Scott Walters

    “Actually, I believe I stated Scott didn’t know what he was speaking about due to his specious arguments . . . “

    …and my being a theatre professor. With benefits, no less. I suspect that the possession of health care does make me ineligible to comment on things theatrical. Because, you know, I “don’t speak the language.” You know, that unique language spoken only by those without health care.

  • Travis Bedard

    Joshua:

    That was indeed your argument, which I never understood – Scott arguing poorly means that he’s arguing poorly, not that he doesn’t have any idea what he’s talking about.

    And I’m sorry for choosing brevity over clarity. “Repping your hood… etc.” is about everyone all of a sudden claiming their childhood hometown over their self-selected home when it’s convenient, not about your writing. I think it’s VERY appropriate to write about where you’ve come from, especially after you’ve left and have some perspective.

    And I’ve seen no one attacking Iowa, or claiming that YOU have. Certainly I haven’t. [I’m pretty sure this argument stems from Scott trying to DEFEND Iowa] Your appreciation for Iowa and the opportunities and benefits you gained from your background there in no way changes the fact that media stereotypes exist, and as artists we have a responsibility to be aware of that fact and to avoid it in our own work.

    I have no idea where your feud with Scott stems from but it’s causing you to take this more personally than an outside perspective can understand.

  • Joshua James

    I dunno Travis, I was pretty clear where the holes in Scott’s argument was . . . and if I wasn’t, Mac has been crystal clear that his entire argument is absolutely bollocks . . .

    And hypocritical, as both Mac and Freeman have pointed out repeatedly . . .

    That’s what has galled me more than the personal attacks, I guess . . . an intellectually dishonest proposition from a professor, taken to personal extremes to the point that a majority of the people involved find that cannot reason with him, any longer . . .

    Now the fact that there are cultural divides, a city / country culture clash, I wouldn’t have an argument with that at all . . . but in no way is that akin to racism, as Isaac so eloquently pointed out.

    Scott has firstly accused New Yorkers of enforcing a racist cultural hegemony via the media and arts, that was his initial claim.

    He hasn’t backed up his claim, only altered it as this thing has rolled onward . . . and also claimed he hasn’t altered his stance, only that we’ve not understood him.

    Mac pointed this out very well in his MAINTENANCE post.

    Now then . . . as an example, we agree that racism is bad, right? And that it happens, right?

    Okay, you and I agree on that. Now if someone came along and said, racism happens because New Yorkers are putting something in the water that causes all this hatred . . . that person would need to provide proof of that accusation, right?

    We don’t need proof that racism is bad, we don’t need proof that stereotypes are perpetuated in the media, we need proof of his initial claim.

    Instead, he dodges by saying, “don’t you see, racism exists, how dare you say it doesn’t!” when that was NEVER the argument.

    It’s akin to those pundits claiming that everything bad that happens to our country is because of the moral decay of San Francisco . . .

    We KNOW San Francisco has a different idea of morals than, say . . . Corpus Criste, Texas, right? No one is saying they’re the same. But you can’t claim that drug use in Corpus Criste happens because of morals in San Fransisco without backing it up with verifiable fact.

    We know people claim that anyway, and that’s specious reasoning.

    That’s what upsets me, this whole dishonest, shifting argument of his, where everything is everyone else’s fault and if we misunderstood him, it’s our fault because his reasoning is clear.

    So there you have it.

    Oh, BTW.

    I wasn’t defending Iowa, per se, from an attack, but clarifying that not all New Yorkers believe everyone west of the Hudson are uneducated hicks, which was the intitial post that got this whole ball rolling.

    I of course crack jokes and complain about Iowa, from time to time, as does my brother who still lives there. He loves Iowa more than I do, but I wouldn’t ever say that I didn’t have some valuable cultural experiences there, never.

    I am a writer simply because of who I met at U of I, and I honor that in my bio and everywhere else.

    But thanks for responding clearly, Travis, I appreciate it.

    Scott, my comment about your position is that you encourage others to risk their professional and artistic lives while not risking anything of your own . . .

  • Scott Walters

    Travis, I don’t want to use your comments box for a grudge match between Joshua and me. But since you’re here, and only if you have time, would you look at what I have written and see if there is a place where I have accused NYers of perpetuating racism? I know I have used the mechanics of racist representations (such as minstrel shows) and the language of academic definitions of prejudice and racism as analogies for the representation of southerner and rural people. But I am frankly baffled by Joshua’s accusations, and all my denials fall on deaf ears. If you can help me out, I’d appreciate it.

  • Scott Walters

    In response to Joshua: “Scott, my comment about your position is that you encourage others to risk their professional and artistic lives while not risking anything of your own . . .”

    That’s an interesting argument. I believe you’ve commented quite a bit on what politicians should do — why haven’t you run for office?

  • Joshua James

    Scott, I excerpted your posts on my site where you talk about the racist cultural hegemony being perpetuated by nyc arts identity, where and why it’s wrong, and I also linked to Laura’s site (with HER permission, I should add) where you call us bigots . . . there’s your frackin’ proof, right there.

    And I keep saying that MAC has clearly shown where you accuse us of only liking THE COLOR PURPLE because it reinforces our own prejudices . . .

    So with all due respect, racism is a terrible thing and I quite frankly don’t like whatever problems the arts industry has, and it does have them, being laid at the feet of New Yorkers and compared to racism, and irregardless of whether I like it or not, it’s also ridiculous for reasons that many, many patient people have trie to explain to you and you haven’t responded.

    Now about the politician thing . . . politicians are paid to represent my interests – part of the democratic process is just that, give and take between representatives and their constitients.

    For the same reason, if you had a post where you discussed, critically what you thought of theatre you saw (like playgoer) as a critic, I wouldn’t have issue with you . . . I’d probably disagree with you, but a critic’s job is to respond as an audience member.

    You are not doing that. You are not responding to my work, or Mac’s work, or anyone’s work that you’ve seen.

    You’re writing to tell us what theatre should be, in a sense, without risking anything of your own ass in the process, without reviewing any of the work being done in New York by New York artists, nor are you really interested in the work we do here . . . you’re basically interested in your role as a guru in theatre without having to really EARN it, that’s what it seems like to me.

    In other words, you seem to think I WORK for you . . . I don’t. I work for me and the community I belong to and the audience that follows me.

    You belong to none of the above group.

    That’s the frackin’ difference.

  • Scott Walters

    You know, Joshua, you need to look up the definition of the word bigot. Here, let me get it for you: “One who is strongly partial to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.” (American Heritage Dictionary) It is a broad term, not focused exclusively on race, but rather on intolerance. That is how I used the word. It isn’t my fault that you don’t know the definition of the word, and take offense. And do not ascribe to me insults I did not make.

  • Joshua James

    Scott, I know the word means intolerant, but it has a HOST of other conotations as well, including the KLAN and the Nazi party, among others . . . I don’t know any connotations of the word “bigot”, even in the broadest sense, that are in any way not somewhat insulting.

    The fact you “meant” it in the most “broad” way possible to describe intolerance is not my fault . . . the word has a huge history, one that it not proud.

    Choose your words better or stop complaining when people take issue with your poor choice of words . . . and yeah, it’s not a personal thing between you and I, if it were, Mark wouldn’t be challenging you on this on that very thread on Laura’s site . . . Mac wouldn’t have challenged you on it, a host of people challenged you on it because you insulted a host of people with it.

    You can make this about you and me, but really, what I think of you matters little . . . it’s really about what you’ve said and done since this whole ball got rolling.

    It’s this ridiculous proposition you put forward that has been disclaimed that you refuse to admit you messed up.

    And now, what do you do?

    You say, “I never called anyone a bigot, Travis, can you research and find out where I wrote that!”

    And when I POINT it out, not only do you conveniently “forget” yous said you DIDN’T say it, NOW you have the utter gall to claim to me that, even though you said it, it’s somehow MY fault because I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE WORD BIGOT MEANS!

    I know what the fracking word means, I don’t need to look it up . . . I can certainly understand why you might, but I’d suggest you should have looked it up awhile ago . . .

    It’s not my fault you used a shitty analogy regarding that you can’t back up with verifiable fact, that’s on you, Jack.

    You wanted to know where you called us bigots – I told you and showed the damn link.

    Now you’re saying “But I meant it in the broadest sense possible, so you can’t say I insulted you . . .”

    Bullshit. You did.

    And you know what?

    I don’t really care that you did . . . it matters little, in the end . . . it’s your fracking dishonesty about it that really rubs my rhubarb wrong . . .

    Mark nailed it in his comment on your site . . . you spend most of your time saying you didn’t say what we all know you said, when it’s right there in black and white, and when confronted you say, “but I didn’t mean it like that, you took the wrong meaning of the word, you didn’t understand it, it’s beyond you, it’s YOUR fault. It’s not me, it’s just these guys with a GRUDGE, it’s never me!”

    Scott . . . your words, your responsibility.

    Man up and accept you said what you said, for crying out loud.

    Don’t sit here and try and convince me I didn’t read what I read, and that you used ONE word wrong which got everyone confused, but you’re still right, here’s a quote from a book to demostrate it, blah blah blah.

    It’s just dishonest, and it’s why now many bloggers won’t communicate with you . . . because your responses usually breaks down to a Pee-Wee Herman retort as follows: “Takes one to know one” or “I know you are but what am I” or any of that . . .

    Really, since you’re a professor, I hope you do better than that. I don’t mind if we disagree, hell, I expect it. But be a man about it, accept responsibilty for what you’ve said and done and be honest about it.

    And don’t ever lecture me on the meaning of the word “bigot”. I know FULL well what that word means.

    I got a word for you, Scott.

  • The Throwdown Blog

    Ladies and Gentlemen, Here’s an experiment we’re gonna try. Help Keep our backyards clean. When “dustups” occur, instead of going across the blogosphere, jamming up everyone’s comments. Move it to here, the new Throwdown blog, throwdownblog.blogspot.com. Verbally joust till your hearts content and help keep everyone’s backyards clean. Scott and Joshua you’re the first two nominees.

  • Scott Walters

    Joshua — Here’s the problem: you forget what you are accfusing me of. The get all mixed up together. Read through these comments. You say I called everybody racists.

    You: “Scott has firstly accused New Yorkers of enforcing a racist cultural hegemony via the media and arts…”

    Me: I didn’t call anybody a racist. I said no such thing.

    You: Do you deny that you called us bigots?

    Me: The word bigot is not exclusively reserved for racism, but rather for intolerance of all kinds.

    You: Don’t tell me what bigot means! You called me a racist.

    And as Lou Abbott once said: third base.

  • Joshua James

    Scott, I accuse you of dishonesty, no more, no less . . . just your standard, hypocritical intellectual dishonesty . . . and I am not the only one who has done such.

    The fact that there may or may not be personal emnity between us doesn’t recuse you from your own actions, exhaustively outlined by me above, on my site, by Mac on his and by Mark on yours, among others.

    That’s it.

  • Joshua James

    BTW, Scott, if you feel there is more you need to say to me, feel free to do so at my blog . . . I’m sure Travis is tired of hearing us, as per the throwdown blog reference.

    I don’t really have anything to say to you other than what I said, at this point . . . but you never know . . .

    You are an extremely dishonest, hypocritical person, as far as I’m concerned . . .

    Travis, thanks for hosting . . .

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