The dust up is fairly simple... Grote wrote a piece highlighting the fact that Zinoman had misattributed a show (Dead City) to 13P instead of New Georges in an article for the Times about 13P's successes and failures. In introducing a letter from New Georges posted on his site, Grote relates a second-hand anecdote in which Zinoman called a disabled actress (and disability rights activist) a "gimp".
Zinoman wrote back via e-mail the following response:
Getting beat up by the occasional blogger – often you, of course – comes with the territory, but your last entry about me went too far. I never made fun of Anita Hollander and in fact I didn’t even know she was disabled until after the show. Just as bad is the bizarre speculation about what I would say about black or gay actors or Jewish people – like, umm, me -- in the audience. I understand that critics dish it out, so we should be able to take it. But printing these kind of slanderous attacks is irresponsible, ugly and hurtful. Even theater critics from the Times deserve better. best, Jason Zinoman
Let me just say that I consider both Jasons friends. Not close friends, but friends. Grote I have only met in person a handful of times, but we regularly correspond over e-mail and I admire his work. Zinoman and my mothers are close friends, we went to the same High School, and we occasionally talk on the phone or via e-mail.
Also, neither Grote nor myself were at the production of At Said where it is alleged Zinoman called the actress a gimp. I have to say, I find it really hard to believe that Zinoman did that. I find it especially hard to believe that he would call an actress a "gimp" and then fire off an e-mail to a blogger denying that he did. He is neither that inconsiderate nor that stupid. If he had used the offending language and been called out for it, I believe he would have either (A) kept his mouth shut about it, as things often die quick deaths on the internet especially in the far backwaters of the theatrical blogosphere or (B) written an explanation or apology. Zinoman in my experience is both a person of integrity and a likeable guy and not likely to act out of pure snark or sneak.
Awhile ago, I wrote something about Charles Isherwood that Zinoman actually called me out on. I said in a post that I thought that Isherwood was deliberately and maliciously trying to hurt the career of a playwright. I was wrong to have done so, because I had (and continue to have) no evidence to support that allegation and, well... it's a fairly ridiculous one to make, and even I can see how hot headed and idiotic I was being. Isherwood's reviews frequently hurt young/emerging/experiemental/different playwrights and his review of THOM PAIN is the exception that proves the rule. But I don't really believe he does it intentionally and, having never met or had a conversation with the man, I find it difficult to assert that he does it maliciously. People I trust speak highly of him as a person.
Anyway, this is all of a way of saying that if we dislike a reviewer, perhaps the best tactic we can take is to delegitimize them as writers rather than as human beings. I don't want the reviewers at the New York Times to suffer as human beings... I want their opinions to be taken less seriously and have less weight in the cultural conversation because I believe that it would be good for theater in general if the system didn't rely so heavily on the opinions of two (and occasionally some other) human beings who have their own hang ups and prejudices and flaws, being human. Even if I loved Brantley and Isherwood (and there are things about both writers I respect) I would still believe that this concentration of power was wrong and hurtful to our making Theater better.