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June 23, 2010

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Sean

You are exactly right, but EXACTLY. My brother is a programmer and a bit of a commie, and he's always up in arms about google and facebook, and their combined willingness to share information with the rest of the world, but the fact is EVERYTHING WE WRITE IS FOR PUBLIC CONSUMPTION. Period.

I have an email list that is my family, and a different email list that contains two names, my two co-producers. On those lists, I feel free to discuss things openly, but everything else I do online, I'm aware of the fact that it is *possible* that every single other person on the internet could eventually see it.

And honestly, I've received hundreds and hundreds of emails from actors telling me about the shows they are in, and confiding in me that they think this show is very special and they are very proud of it. I don't roll my eyes at that, I think they genuinely feel that way... but that just isn't news. However, if someone decided to *treat* it as news, they wouldn't be making a mistake. If you got forwarded an email from Matthew Trumbull saying "this new play I'm in is the best thing I've ever done", and you posted a blog with that as the title, you wouldn't be mistreating anyone.

Anyway, yes, yes, yes. I feel bad for the actor, we've all talked a little shit a little too loudly at times, (and, as a producer, I've overheard people talking a lot of shit about me and my shows, which I've let roll off my back as "heat of the moment, terror of live performance" stuff) but this is definitely his fault for sending that email to at least *one* too many people.

Josh

One of my dearest friends commented on that, "Why is this still online?" Sorry, friend. I love you, but this email is delightful. I eat shit like this up with a spoon.

Ken

Yeah, I'm with you, Isaac. I am more startled that an actor would send out such an e-mail as the show was opening (with the possibility that it would get out beyond those it was sent to, and then everyone involved with the production would know they had a disgruntled gossip in their midst), and not send it as a post-mortem after the show closed, than I am that the Voice would post it. That the Voice published it doesn't seem to be an act of sabotage against downtown theater, but merely reporting the discontent brewing within this production. Should the Voice not have reported that the director left the project and the playwright had to take over directing duties, as have many other media outlets? The Voice can best support this and other plays by reviewing them objectively when they open. As long as the content of the piece is reviewed and not the off-stage kerfuffles, no lasting harm is done. The production is either worthy or it isn't. But if there are off-stage skirmishes, and particularly if someone has the lack of class to broadcast a whine via e-mail, I don't see it as out-of-bounds to pass it along to an interested audience. Not a lot of news value here, to be sure, but not injurious to theater in this town either.

And yes, the actor should have been a big boy or girl and just quit, rather than bitch and complain via e-mail.

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist

at least the negative e-mail is generating a lot of publicity for the show...

John Collins

Hey Isaac,

I certainly agree that the Voice has no obligation to be "supportive." But I take issue with a couple of your points.

I think it's a way too easy to say "he just should have quit." First of all, there must be thousands of people who are unhappy with their collaborators but still choose to finish out a project they started. Some of those probably vent to their friends in their moments of greatest frustration. Far fewer let those feelings find their way into an email. And maybe those in that last category deserve whatever comes back to them.

But should all those people struggling with a project they are unhappy with just up and quit? Not to be cynical, but I think we'd face a mass exodus from downtown theater.

To state (as many others have) that just quitting the show was the obvious correct course of action doesn't take into account the myriad complicated emotions (many of them negative) that can arise when working in as fraught a collaborative atmosphere as this must have been. Maybe he had good reasons to ride it out. I don't think one sarcastic, angry email gives us enough information to make that call on his behalf.

Another quarrel I have is that you compare this dust up to the hypothetical reaction we'd have to a leaked email that was full of praise. You wonder aloud if we would criticize The VV for that. Of course not. But that fact doesn't absolve The Voice. Don't people have a right to keep some criticism private? Does the extreme nature of Karl Allen's disapproval of Octoroon mean he's forfeited that privilege?

Praise rarely generates this kind of backlash, and so we don't need protection from it being exposed. Criticism is fundamentally different.

Apparently, Karl made a huge error in judgment by sending that email to too many people. But we don't know to how many and we don't know how the Voice got it. We do know that he didn't write a letter to the editor, yet this is being treated as though it were one.

If he had sent the email to one person who then forwarded it to a thousand others and then one of those thousand forwarded it to The Voice, would we still be saying Karl deserved it? Where does that line get drawn?

Maybe he _should_ have aired his concerns to the director (for all we know, he did.) But having complaints, even really big ones, doesn't automatically compel an actor in a play to drop out. Nor do journalists get an automatic free pass to re-print private email -- no matter how many original private recipients there were.

That's my take anyway. Keep up the good work.

John Collins

Young Jean Lee

I'm with John, although I'd like to believe the Voice reporter never intended for Karl to be outed and pilloried in the way that he was. Obviously Karl made a mistake, but who hasn't sent a bitchy e-mail that came back to haunt them (Isaac I like your point about how it's a lesson everyone needs to learn eventually)? Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

cgeye

The criticism isn't the surprise; it's both the promotional paragraph at the end, after such scathing criticism, plus *discount codes*.

Come on -- if I were working in a supermarket and I badmouthed the produce and accused the deli workers of poor hygiene, then gave you a couple of 50-percent-off coupons, wouldn't my ass be fired for both downgrading the merchandise and costing the store money? And personal opinion's one thing, and quoting bad press *while promoting the show*, another. Something smells fishy, and it ain't the seafood secion...

Aly

While I don't think that Karl Allen is scum, I don't pity him. His words got him into the trouble. I read the email, it's written as a press release, and as the above poster mentioned, comes with discount codes. Sometimes our arrogance digs us into mighty holes (you can trash talk something all you want over a beer with friends, but he felt like being a part of the trainwreck would reflect badly on him and felt the need to rectify this) and what a tough lesson it is.

aaron m

Saw the show last night. Had read the source play in college. Had also seen BJJ's NEIGHBORS. Have seen many other shows at PS122 as well.
After extensive framing of the experience by BJJ and his assistant, the scenes of the play they can still play ran about an hour. One reason for this brevity is that Karl Allen and three other actors are no longer in the cast.

When we first entered, we were told to take two papers -- one was the program, while the other was articles from the NYT, playbill and the Voice blog post discussed here. The secondary controversy over whether to print the email in the blog was not included.
At this point, it's really hard to know what anyone in the play intended to do, but tonight it closes and all involved can lick their wounds and go on to other things.

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