Tuesday, June 2, 2009

More on Milwaukee Press.

I'm done holding my tongue about the scourge of the Milwaukee theatre community.

Damien Jaques' response to my including "newsworthy? You'd think so..." to the end of a Play in a Day announcement on Facebook was to say "insurgent needs to improve quality" before he'll even mention us. Then he wrote this follow up to his review of Quasi's Henry V.

Anyone who knows me knows i'm no fan of Shakespeare, i wasn't able to see quasi's show (doing multiple shows of my own right now) but the idea that the biggest theatre writer in the city is saying it maybe shouldn't have happened at all is insane. You can see my (and other's comments) on his post.

I also wrote a letter to the editor. Milwaukee's Theatre community doesn't need to accept such lousy coverage. I'm not saying that Damien has to like what we do (i expect he won't) but if he's supposed to be a news source covering significant things happening in the theatre community, then he needs to at least acknowledge the existence of things he doesn't like.

Here's the Journal's "letters to the editor" address: jsedit@journalsentinel.com

Here's what i wrote:

When are you going to replace your unqualified and terrible theatre writer?

Damien Jaques spends more time regurgitating Broadway headlines than
covering local theatre. He has a narrow uninformed definition of what
makes good theatre. He was the bane of Theatre X (but then pretended
to be sad when they closed) he refuses to acknowledge the existence of
smaller theater companies, indeed recently advised Quasi Theatre that
they shouldn't have even tried to produce Shakespeare. This man is
ignoring or obstructing the growth and development of a new and
exciting theatre scene in this city.

The Journal has recently expanded and VASTLY improved it's visual arts
coverage, thanks to Mary Louise Schumacher's engaged and dedicated
coverage of not only every gallery show, but also spearheading and
participating in vital discussions of relevant issues in the visual
art community. Why can't you replace Mr Jaques with someone who'll
give similar treatment to our struggling theatre community?

Ben Turk
Local Playwright and Theatre Producer with Insurgent Theatre.


Tim Chrapko said...

I've seen far more bad theatre than good and yet for some reason I keep coming back to it. Whether it's at the Rep or elsewhere.
There must be something wrong with me because based on my experience what gets produced is rife with shoddy production values or overwrought productions with too much money or preening egos or stilted performances or overly animated performances or misinterpreted texts or too little experience leading to mistakes, or too much experience leading to a lack of passion.

Yeah, it's mostly shit so folks should probably just give up on the whole damn thing. And when the local expert whateverthefuck pronounces a show poorly done, we should question that company's right to even try rather than laud the effort and help them do better the next time with constructive criticism.

I've been a part of poorly attended shows that had little to no press coverage. Thank you Mr. Jaques for showing me what a fool I am to have thought myself suitable for the stage. Or wait . . . does this just apply to Shakespeare? Am I allowed to work with other texts? Chekhov? I dunno, he's pretty good and it's hard to get a bead on the author's intention. How about Pirandello? I mean, folks don't generally know as much about him. Is his stuff safe for me to play with? *sigh* Yeah, your right Mr. Jaques, I'd probably fuck that up too.

Mr. Jaques, can I write my own stuff and perform it? Yeah? Hooray! What? Oh I can do it but you won't deign to see it. I see. I'll just stay home then.

Jon Anne Willow said...

Well, one outlet did give Henry V in-depth, advance coverage: ThirdCoast Digest/VITAL Source:

‘Henry V’ realized with more than just imaginary forces, by Matt Konkel

No dig dished, but perhaps it's time to pay less attention to clubs who don't want you as members and focus more on your friends. It's not like they have cooler jackets. Or more illuminating insights.

Ben Turk (formerly known as Rex Winsome) said...

Jon Anne, you definitely have a point. Vital / Third Coast has always been the first and best reviewer of our shows. I greatly appreciate the work you guys do.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your candor. And your frustration. I have often thought that your critic in Milwaukee seemed out of touch and elitist. With more than a touch or provincial self loathing. I wonder what his training was that allows him to determine the "quality" of a performance. I agree that the vital and varied Milwaukee Theater scene deserves better.