Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Response to Combat Theatre

It must be stated that the opinions expressed by Rex Winsome on this blog, or anywhere else in the world are, like any editorial or opinion piece, the opinions of Rex Winsome only, and not Insurgent Theatre, blogspot, or any other organization or individual associated with Winsome. I thought this went without saying, and I was wrong. Also, it should be pointed out that Rex Winsome is not a "horribly dressed blonde", but rather one of her "entourage" y'know, with the bad haircut. 

My review stated my interpretation or perception of the show. This is how it works "as far as I can tell". I was misinformed regarding the payment of actors and crew, but I stand by the rest of my statements, and I feel that I, like any theatre goer or art viewer, should be allowed to have an opinion of the art I've viewed, and should feel free to share this opinion publicly.


You'll notice that my review, however harsh or misinformed, has a few virtues that the comments on it lack. First, I own up to my opinions by putting my name on it. Second, my review does not contain personal insults or ad hominem attacks. Third, I've read more than one book and I know what I'm talking about (who was it that said "no one would dare call Shakespeare deadly?" Do you not realize that Peter Brook first coined the term in reference to Shakespeare and that your ignorant absolutist defense of Shakespeare supports the contention that he's deadly?)


I think polite silence stunts the growth of an artistic community, especially when the public silence is there to protect such highly defensive reactionaries from honest criticism. If you read further on my blog I hope you will see that I review most shows that I see and I see as many shows as I can. I think frank critical responses are an important part of a mature theatre scene, and hope to see more of them in this city.


This city's theatre community (indeed this nation's theatre community) needs to stop being stunted in this way. Milwaukee is suffering a dearth of challenging, immediate, rough theatre so deep that even the Journal Sentinel had to point it out last season. I have no further agenda than sharing my opinion and encouraging more people to share their opinions, preferably with author attribution and without ad hominem attacks, but I'll take what i can get (by the way, thank you guys for the feedback on Cracks in the Floor).


I have no greater desire than to make good theatre in a mature theatre community, even if I have to help thicken some skins to achieve that community. Perhaps I'll regret attempting such a thing in Milwaukee, but I'm not done trying yet.


Anonymous said...

Please be done, and when you point out that you produce a 24 hour show you automatically align yourself with Insurgent. The blonde that walked out was classless and you not berating her for that completely tactless act makes you just as guilty. Point two the reason we keep posting anonymously is because there are so many of us you can't even comprehend the amount of people you pissed off. Third this wasn't an opinion or review. A review is an INFORMED opinion of a show not a personal attack on James Fletcher, Bunny Gumbo, or the hard working professionals that participate. Backtracking now only shows the depths of your ignorance. The least experienced among the critics in this town would never print anything as biting as your blog. I know you think your an extremely intelligent individual quoting Peter Brook and color me impressed, but much like your "critique" that's an opinion, one that's not shared by a large population of theatre artists and goers. The only accomplishment this blog can claim is that it alienated insurgent from a large portion of the Milwaukee Arts Community, that's my opiniion. Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

hmmmmm. lot's of egos bruised here. as a faithful member of Insurgent Theatre, first let me say the Rex and I do not always see eye to eye personally or professionally, but I respect his intelligence and dedication to his goals, and consider him a good freind. That being said, I DID NOT see the Combat Theatre show, and I am not going to comment on it. What I am commenting on is the seeming inability of artists around this city to take criticism in any form. So Mr. Winsome didn't like your latest attempt. And? What now? Oh I know, instead of examining his complaints, (as "biting" as they may have been written), and exploring the spectrum of ways to improve on your goals (what we all should be striving for), I'm going to throw a fit at Mr. Winsome for being mean. He didn't like our play! Damn Him! One post mentioned the power of healing through art, and that Mr. Winsome had set it back (terrible paraphrase I know). How can we heal if we keep pretending that the bandages are always effective? If art is going to heal or communicate, we need to stop making the final artistic product about what "I" did, and make it about what it has offered to the community. If you disagree with Rex, fine. All parties here have an idea of what they want to see and create. But rather than throw a tantrum about his view of your work, realize that he is one of the people you have made this art for. Once you put it out there for an audience, it doesn't belong to you anymore. It belongs to the audience you have attracted and is now in their hands to be judged, manipulated and understood.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, but as with anything in theatre there are rules, there is ettiquette. Don't profess to be a critic or reviewer of shows if you sink to the level of that scathing blog. That's not a review, that is a man unhappy with the results of his own experiment being upset with someone who is successful. We pour our hearts into that show, every single person seen and unseen, so if you think for one second that I'm going to let somebody come along and trivialize it because they don't UNDERSTAND it you are sorely mistaken. Just as Winsome has the right to trash Combat we have the right to show him exactly how wrong he was in doing so. It wasn't that he didn't like it, it was the fact that someone who apparently does some form of theatre had the audacity to make a spectacle and storm out in the middle of a scene. It's the fact that Winsome and his friend left before any raffles were given away (yes we saw you) and still had the audacity to comment on it when he wasn't even there. It's the fact that he then took the time to write about and attack the process and the company producing when he had no knowledge of either. He speaks of dead theatre yet I've read the reviews and seen some of the shows Insurgent produces, you guys aren't tipping any scales or coming up with some brand new process. yet at no time did I ever tell anyone not to see a show because I didn't like it. I never personally attack anyone in the theatre community because it's hard enough getting people to see shows without arguing with each other. Winsome argument comes off as petty and childish especially given that he didn't have all the facts yet decided to poke at them anyway. Am I angry your damn right I'm angry. As theatre artists, we have a responsiblity to our audience and each other, and when we get into name calling and false accusations it only destroys the credibility we ourselves are trying to build. People who join the theatre band wagon late in life and consider themselves edgy because they heard the term "street theatre" and decided to take the moniker for themselves only come off as pretentious and make the rest of the community look bad. I firmly believe that Rex Winsome read more than one book before he started his venture, but someone can read a library full of books and still not have any idea what they are doing and how to work well with others. I've spent far too much time worrying about the likes of Rex Winsome and Insurgent Theatre and it's a shame because for the first time in the 20 years I've been involved in theatre I will have to steer people away from a man and a group in Milwaukee.

Lazy, insulting, scam-theatre fan said...

To begin- Can we all agree that we really dont care about anyone's hair? thats just moronic.
You know...I'm not sure who other than Rex would find his analysis of Combat as an impersonal account. It seemed a fairly personal attack to me. And, like most attacks, it seems to have made a lot of people defensive.
I also can't imagine who would believe that the intention of the piece was to raise the level of artistic discourse. I don't care that he didn't like it. Not at all. I don't care that it was negative- I do care that it was childish and nasty. I do care that his attack made the members of this show out to be artistic cowards- with a serious lack of ethics and integrity and an abundance of laziness.
"Your work is a fucking scam and an insult to other artists- but don't take it personally" Come on, Rex. Really? You were out of line. I don't think the barrage of responses was a lack of thick skin. I think it was an urge to defend work. Which I always think is a good thing. And while I fully support your right to hate the work they do (I also support your right to be an asshole about it), your devisive, denegrating comments are leading a lot of people to put you on the pay-no-mind list. That's all. They aren't going to come to any Insurgent shows because they find you to be pompous and nasty- and experience has shown us all that pompous, nasty people tend to make boring, pretentioius, shoddy theatre. I had plans to attend my first Insurgent show this summer and am now decidedly less enthusiastic about it. But I don't know you. Maybe when you aren't raging on a blog you are a delight. Hard to imagine at the moment.

By the by- I saw this fantastic Peter Brook production in 2001. It was called Hamlet. Am I allowed to like that one at least? Or should I fight my societal programming that is forcing me to believe I like it when I really dont? It's so confusing because I really thought I liked it. I was moved to tears and I thought about it for weeks. Please advise.

Anonymous said...

So it is only what the "large population of theatre artists and goers" agree on that makes something relevant? And exactly how would you "steer people away from a man and a group"? Would you use force if necessary? Do you seriously feel that you have that kind of power? And what does any of this have to do with advancing art in Milwaukee? My question is this: if Rex was so way off base, and so irrelevant, why the fury over his blog? Does Rex dictate who goes to what shows in Milwaukee? ALL OF US (as in those if us that dare to call ourselves artists) need to step back from this power trip over what we create. If you are steadfast and at peace with your show, then good. But don't act like the world is coming to an end because someone out there finds your methods questionable. If anything has made me NOT want to see a Bunny Gumbo show, it certainly wasn't Rex. It was the lack of openness to critique that almost all of these comments have shown me. Yes Rex came off harsh, and made some mistakes. But did any of you stop to think that he may have brought up any points that would improve your theater creation? Isn't that the point of all this?

Anonymous said...

I'm going to post a quick response to Jason. Why are you defending this guy? Let's look at what you wrote: "Yes Rex came off harsh, and made some mistakes. But did any of you stop to think that he may have brought up any points that would improve your theater creation? Isn't that the point of all this?" He hasn't made a single point. Not one. Everything he has said has been refuted. If you were being honest you would concede that he is completely out of line. He makes no valid criticisms. There is nothing to be learned from his "review" as he has written nothing constructive. And who put R. Winsome in charge of teaching the rest of us? The anger you see boiling out has true validity. What does anything R. Winsome has written have to do with advancing art in Milwaukee?

Anonymous said...

Nicely done, Rex! In one fell swoop you have just blacklisted INSURGENT THEATER. As much as I respect "theater in theater", I feel your Brecht-ian stunt at Combat was not the wisest choice. For obvious reasons (see the afore-mentioned comments)

By the way, Embrace all theater...and stop telling people you listen to NPR all day, ya pretentious schmuck.

-A Concerned Chicago Citizen

TCCR said...

Nothing in your article was true, I stand by that. You were not reviewing the art, but criticizing the way it was made and it's integrety. Your accusations were false and your are your group's childish behavior was low. I would love for you to be a man and own up to that, however, your poor little bruised ego will probably refrain from that sensible act.

I am an avid reader of plays and I am often in audiences of both well known theaters, and theaters trying to grow from the ground up. I enjoy every type of play I see and read, not because I am supposed to, but because it is my love and passion. I am an actress and an artist. I appreciate every artistic dream alive. As for who I am, that is all you need know.

I'm curious, what is, to you, good theater? Surely nothing, to you, is good theater unless your brilliant mind has played a part in it.

You are shit. Yor are a piece of shit floting in the sewers waiting to be eaten and shitted back out my a lonely fish.

Hey! Get over yourself. Be nice.


Anonymous said...

the criticism he brought up was how he felt your scripts were "ready made", your actors played "facile stereotypes" and that you charged far too much money to see it. He felt that you provided neither "edgy" or "original". Again, I didn't get to see the show, so these aren't my opinions. But you asked for what criticism he offered, and that was it. It's in his post.
But alas, I am disgusted with the putrid hate that is flying all over right now. It's so wonderful to see that. It is similar to what I see the kids i work with do. So, go ahead, tell everyone that Insurgent sucks because Rex Winsome wrote a mean blog. Do whatever makes you sustain your top of the heap disposition. I will pursue this no further. Like one "anonymous" (if that is your real name) said "I have wasted too much time...". Goodbye and good luck with whatever it is you think your doing.

Tracy said...

Hello everyone. I am Tracy Doyle, co-founder of Insurgent Theatre.

I've waited to say something on here for several reasons, some of them being that blogging is not really my cup of tea, I have been really, really busy with three artistic projects and work, and I just didn't know what to say.

I'm glad that Rex pointed out that his thoughts and feelings are not representative of Insurgent Theatre. I'm sorry that people have gotten very upset about this. I think there is little else I can say.

For the past five years, we have been working to create original, local theatre, challenge our audiences and company members, and reach out to other groups in the city. We'd love to have a solid network of companies and strengthen theatre in Milwaukee. I'd hate to think that a rash blog posting could burn so many bridges.

Maybe everyone just needs to take a step back from this, breathe, and let it go.

I think Milwaukee's theatre scene has a lot to offer the city and all the people in it. Let us not fill ourselves with hate or love. Let us learn and grow.

Anonymous said...

I would like this to stop now. I appreciate the passionate support to no end and understand the anger Mr. Winsome’s ill-informed review has stirred up, but the dialogue that has ensued serves no purpose. The invectives now being thrown stoop to the level of Mr. Winsome and I can only think that this is the kind of response he sought in the first place. I have lived off and on in this city since ’88, and I’ve never seen this kind of behavior. It makes me sad. I would much rather remember all of the great moments that happened at Combat Theatre this past weekend, and being surrounded by truly lovely people. And I say this not only for me, but for Bunny Gumbo, the theatre company I represent.

James Fletcher
Artistic Director
The Bunny Gumbo Theatre Company

R. Winsome said...

I'm more than happy to honor Mr Fletcher's request (haven't got time to comb these comments for something resembling useful criticism anymore) but I would also like to request that phone calls and questions about me or my opinions or "who the fuck i think i am" be directed solely to me, not any other individual or organization, including the wonderful and dare I say "freedom loving" venues I work with.

My personal contact information is (perhaps dangerously) easy to find through the insurgent theatre website (insurgenttheatre.org). I'm awefully busy, but if anyone would like to chat, or maybe meet up with me so you can hit me or something, i'd be glad to try and reason with you afterward, which is what i did last time someone hit me in the face for my opinions, cuz that's the kind of guy i am. No need to be afraid, folks.

Jonathan Wainwright said...

No really, great, great stuff everybody, but what about the Bucks? I just don't who will be there at #8, but I think at this point trying to trade out of the first round would be prudent. But again, if they think one of these kids will be a star in a couple years, maybe you take a flyer on him, and try to bolster things immediately through a trade or free-agency. Any thoughts? Luv you ALL!!!

m j m said...

I just got the check from Fletcher for the little play I wrote for the Friday nite Combat show. I'm dealing with some health & disability issues, so I only write one night. Get my Subject, Location and cast number by phone, write like a mad man (goals: be interesting, tell a story, make it funny, make it make sense, try to correct spelling, aim for 6 pages max).
I usually end up with more than 6 pages. Maybe next time. I type (key entry) with my 2 index fingers. I blog some on GWB & Algore's internets. Used to get paid to blog. Now I do it for free. (made my living as a playwright, director, one-in-a-while actor) before Cardiologist Paul Bernstein did an angioplasty and also maimed & crippled my right leg. So I do not go to Combat, as I always did. But one of my daughters and a couple friends go and report back. My playlet was well received. People laughed at the funny/absurd stuff. Characters died (that happens a lot in my theatre plays and screen plays, if fact all their characters in Fridays mini-play were already dead when they play started - they just didn't realize it - a brain activity after clinical death sort of thing - 6 to 12 minutes).
So what will I do with my cut of the Combat cash. I could buy a small bottle of good scotch. But since the rain has stopped and it is as warm and as beautiful as a June day might be, I'll opt for my 2nd favorite warm weather beverage (strong iced coffee being the 1st). The Blessed Holy Nectar from The North Woods, I'll persuade my xwife to bring me a12 12-oz bottle case of Leinenkugel's Hearty Red Lager! There will be a bit of cash left, maybe for a burger with the works.
One of my blogs is published on the internetz by the evil Journal Communications, at http://blogs.bayviewnow.com/bay_view_how__why/ If you who are reading this are associated with a theatre company, and wanna consider me as a writer (or adapter or script Dr.) send me an enote. I'm gonna be doing more theatre mentions and reviews of plays done in Bay View performance spaces (My friend Amy often invites drive my crippled self to see a play.) Send me a free ticket (2 please) and I'll do my best to do my best. - Mana Chyme Hi Onli (my ordained clergy name), AKA Michael John Moynihan

Mike Neville said...

It has been my pleasure to work in the theater more than once with Jonathan Wainwright and Ted Tyson and find their work as theater artists to be wonderful, exhilarating and exciting. Indeed, I have loved the work of every Milwaukee theater artist it has been my pleasure to work with. On a scale of 1-to-10, "1" being the worst" and "10" being the best," I give Milwaukee theater an "11." But as much as it is my practice to shun controversy, I must say that I find some of Mr. Wainwight's and Mr. Tysons's remarks about the Milwaukee Bucks to be somewhat lacking in vision.
If the Buck's hang on to their pick I see Kevin Love (UCLA), DeAndre Jordan (Texas A&M) or Danilo Gallinari (Italy) as solid possibilities. Love is strong for his heart and determination and Gallinari brings the focus on fundamentals that European ball demands. However the Bucks could send their pick (with one or two other players) in a trade for a sure bet veteran big man to let Bogut finally bloom. It'll be an interesting moment.
Mike Neville

Anonymous said...

It's amazing to see how in this electronic world a person can't express their own thoughts on their own blog without being heckled. It's not like it was a review in the paper, people. It was his own personal blog. Maybe he got some facts wrong, maybe he hurt your feelings here and there, but it's HIS OWN BLOG PEOPLE. Don't we all have the right to our own personal space online? I'd hate to think that I'd blog my own personal day online and people will comment and diss me there. So everyone can just calm down please...

I've never seen a Bunny Gumbo show. I wanted to recently, but the $18 for that type of theatre seems too steep for me. I think $10 would be more reasonable for something written in 24 hours. Don't get me wrong, I've paid $20 to see theatre. As a performer, I've expected people to pay $20 to see me perform. But $20 was for well rehearsed material (4 weeks of rehearsals). I've done "24 hour" type shows as well. And they are a BLAST to do and very entertaining to watch too. But personally, I believe the price should be lower. Just an opinion.

Also, as a performer I understand that not everyone is going to enjoy or appreciate the work my ensemble puts in. They don't have to. TAKING criticism is part of what a performer has to do. Oh, you don't want to hear harsh words? Get the hell out of this business. Stop being an oversensitive baby and grow the hell up. It's when people whine and complain about opinions (not even a published review) that makes the indie Milwaukee theatre scene and performers look small and unprofessional. I'm not defending his "opinion". Get it straight. I'm defending his right to have a personal blog. THIS is why I keep my opinions about a lot of the theatre I see in MKE to myself. Because word travels too fast and people get mad and blah blah. Performers here need to act more like NY theatre people. They take the heat and move on. Quit your whining people- this isn't high school.

And think twice next time you blog about something in your life. Maybe someone will post a comment to you saying your opinion is wrong - on your own blog.