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December 24, 2011


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Adam Szymkowicz

Two things is this essay rubbed me the wrong way. I haven’t seen Seminar so I can’t say whether I agree or not with Ms. La Rocco’s view of the play. I do have to say that this part makes me pause:

“As “Seminar” veers from satire to romance, by contrast, Leonard never gets his comeuppance. Astoundingly, his politics become the play’s politics.”

Not every play is written in a moralistic universe. Evildoers don’t always get punished. In real life, the bad guys often get away with murder. So we should not assume that just because certain a character is not punished, that means the playwright agrees with that character’s point of view. I think that’s a fallacy reviewers sometimes make, taking a leap not intended and deciding that ambiguous plays have a certain point of view. Again, not having seen the play I can’t say for sure whether I would agree with Ms. La Rocco’s opinion. I just feel like this particular argument is a poor argument and is a non-constructive way to view modern drama.

Secondly, she writes: “Is Kate a stand-in for her creator, who is, after all, not making great art but a witty, well-constructed Broadway play?” Now why would a well-constructed Broadway play not be considered great art? Many playwrights I know strive to create well constructed plays they hope could someday be on Broadway. But if they are not striving to make great art, what are they doing?


Thanks for the tip, Isaac. I want to respond to this (for obvious reasons) but I have a lot of work to do. Give me a while to construct my thoughts.

Jack Worthing

Leading me to pay even less attention to Theresa Rebeck's sanctimony in essays/interviews.

Tony Adams

I haven't seen or read Seminar, so I can't speak with any veracity to the play itself, but the description doesn't sound out of line with a lot of Rebeck's works.

A lot of Rebeck's essays have come off to me as sanctimonious as well; however, that does not change any of the issues she's talking about. I'm just not a fan of her writing.

"It raises a lot of interesting points that those of us who advocate for more diversity should ponder and problematizes the idea that diversity will lead to better roles and representations for women and people of color."

Nothing in La Rocco's essay should point to making advocacy for greater representation problematic. It is only problematic if you are looking at one play or one writer to speak for every woman or person of color. I'd say that reading is far more problematic than Rebeck's play or La Rocco's essay.


I said I'd get back to it, and here are my preliminary thoughts.

I haven't seen the play, so I can't comment on that aspect. But I do find it a bit unsettling how the way we talk about it can, in a very subtle way, be used as a way of saying something like, "See? We gave them a chance, and they screwed it up just as bad as they say we do! So why bother?"

So, I'm not all that surprised that La Rocco observes what she did in "Seminar" because such portrayals of women are the ones approved of by men. There will never be a feminist Charles Isherwood. Not because there is something wrong with feminism, but because any perspective given a local, regional, or national platform must first be palatable to those in power. If you ignore or offend them, you automatically "belong" on the fringe.

It's a strange paradox we're forced to contend with. They tell us, "We value your thoughts. Share them. We want to hear from you," but as soon as our real thoughts make those "above" us a bit uncomfortable, we are told, in so many ways, to shut up. So, I'm not all that shocked that, when women's voices do somehow make it to a certain level, they often reflect the same things men have been saying about women all along.

As much as I would like to see more interesting opportunities for women in theatre, I've grown more than a bit skeptical of most attempts at creating or advocating for diversity. It's all to easy to use people as tokens that prove how open-minded, tolerant, and diverse a particular organization or community is while failing to challenge the status quo or seek ways to transform how power works in those environments. I've come to believe that change does not come from people who are already in charge allowing us to sit with them at the table. It comes from those of us who are already excluded making our own table and serving our own food, with others coming along to help as needed.


I love your last comment about diversity in critics - I review in a small city, and while I am not the only female critic, nor the only feminist critic, I am the only person who frequently and openly writes about feminism and gender diversity and representation both on and off the stage, both in reviews and outside of them.

When I've criticised work for misogyny, it has at best lead to people being "concerned" about my feminist stance, worried I'm letting "feelings" get in the way of a good review. One theatre company was so concerned I would write about feminism in a review of a show I found highly misogynistic (and anti-choice, and anti-atheism, and with an interesting understanding of science) that they sent a team of people to bully and attack me on my blog (ISP addresses weren't hidden, so I know they were involved with the company) finally putting out a press release with veiled replies to "some critics" who were "confounded" and "offended", and then proceeded to quote from a the positive reviews from (male) critics. One of the more bizarre and hurtful experiences I've had, but only served me to a) ignore that company and their work, and b) be more vigilant in my writing on the issue.

I'll be keeping my eye out for La Rocco from now on.

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