The Play House on Trial

Letters published October 2, 2002

Sweet Home Alabama
Why not call on character witnesses?

Kathryn DeLong's article "Season of Discontent" [September 4] missed a unique opportunity.

Had I known that you were interested in interviewing artists who "have a stake in local theater," I could have put you in touch with dozens of professional theater artists who regularly work at the Play House. Perhaps you should have spoken to Randal Myler, a Tony nominee for It Ain't Nothin' but the Blues, who is currently in rehearsal for our first production of the season. Or to Murphy Guyer, who is currently starring in The Graduate on Broadway. Or to Pavel Dobrusky, who is designing a show for MTV in Scandinavia. Or to Edward Payson Call, former producing director of the Guthrie Theater and founding artistic director of the Denver Center Theater Company. Or to Kate Mulgrew, who just completed her record-breaking run of Tea at Five. I suspect that all of these artists (and dozens more) would have given you a very different perspective of the quality of work at the Play House.

Instead, you seemed to limit your interview pool to those who prefer to "snipe softly rather than suffer the repercussions." I find that anonymous comments almost always come from local theater artists who have tried and failed on numerous occasions to find regular employment at either of Cleveland's large professional theaters. Although they are quick to offer you a national perspective, they have never themselves performed in a major professional company outside of Cleveland.

DeLong writes, "The Play House may be the biggest theater venue in town, but it's not the best, critics maintain." Yet Tony Brown, theater critic for this city's largest newspaper, listed four Play House productions in his "Top 10" list for 2001, including Seth Greenland's Jerusalem, which he designated the best of the year. (The others were Art, Sideshow, and I Hate Hamlet.) The Times newspapers also cited several of our productions and artists in their year-end review. No other theater in town came close to matching this record. In the same season, we received several national grants that are dependent on enthusiastic peer reviews. In addition, the Play House continues to attract audiences in numbers that far surpass those of any other producing theater in Cleveland. Perhaps you might have interviewed some of those folks about why they continue to look to the Play House first for theater that is entertaining, relevant, and thought-provoking.

When Kathryn DeLong contacted us initially about writing this article, she stated that it was going to be a "general piece about the theater scene in Cleveland." As she builds relationships in her new position at Northern Ohio Live, I believe she will be far more effective if she begins by telling the truth. Perhaps, like her anonymous "critics," you were just too afraid of "suffering the repercussions" of being honest.

Peter Hackett
Artistic Director, Cleveland Play House

Wal-Mart gives no love:

Thank you for printing the Wal-Mart story ["Wal-Mart Menace," September 4]. I boycotted Wal-Mart a long time ago, and I urge everyone I know to do the same. I was injured on the job while employed at Sam's Club. I was in physical therapy for a year and a half, and received a slap in the face for my pain and suffering. About five years later, my sister's boyfriend, who happens to be a schoolteacher, was wrongly accused of having a concealed weapon and stealing at Wal-Mart. He was publicly humiliated for something he did not do. He had neither a stolen gun nor stolen merchandise on him when he was approached by the police. He never received an apology. There are plenty of other stores with low prices. Doesn't anyone care about morals and values anymore?

Tammy O'Lexa
Richmond Heights

Who knew there'd be blood in Blood Work?

When you review movies, you should include political warnings or harsh criticism of movies that portray murder as entertainment and human beings as props for murder. I'm sick of movies like Blood Work, City by the Sea, and others that make men and women just part of the bigger story. Might we boycott these movies as uncool and filthy, just as we try to ban cigarette smoking and racism?

Andrew Green

Something stinks at West 54th:

In "Split Decision," [August 22], Laura Putre knowingly and intentionally represented my position regarding the proposed development on King's Hill as that of my spouse's. Christopher Diehl has always supported the development of three houses on West 54th Street and has aggressively worked to improve the project from a wholesale land grab to something he thinks will benefit the neighborhood. I wholly reject the development and have virtually no trust in the two developers, Hector Vega and Robert Maschke. Quite differently from the project in Beulah Beach, Vega and Maschke have made back-room deals to purchase the land at prices substantially below market value. These clear differences of opinion between Christopher Diehl and me were explicitly elucidated to Ms. Putre, each of the three times she interviewed us. The article she submitted is dishonest as journalism, but fine if it was submitted as a work of short fiction.

Holly Christensen

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