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September 6, 2018:

THE MYSTERIOUS CASE OF THE ANGRY PLAYWRIGHT

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, what becomes a playwright most?  Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, what becomes a playwright most? Well, let’s start with what doesn’t become a playwright most, shall we?  So, you write a play, the play gets produced, the play opens, critics come, and reviews appear.  Audiences take to the play or they don’t.  Critics take to the play or they don’t.  And life goes on.  Yes, authors are very attached to their work, of course they are.  But you cannot control how others feel.  And yet – here we have The Mysterious Case of the Angry Playwright in three parts.  Part one began when Rob Stevens reviewed a play.  Rob Stevens has been reviewing LA theater since the early 1970s – I know this because he happened to review my musical Feast back in 1974.  His Robby Awards have been going strong for decades.  He’s not a cheerleader, like some of the LA critics, he simply calls things as he sees them, which is kind of what a critic does. Now, you can agree or disagree – that is everyone’s right and privilege.  But you must, I’m afraid, take the good with the bad or you simply should not ever read a single review.

So, Rob reviewed a play.  He did not like the play, nor did he care for the production, which was directed by its author, although I think he did enjoy some of the acting.  He puts up his review here in his own little corner of his own little world – I have absolutely nothing to do with that corner, and I have absolutely nothing to do with what he writes or how he reviews.  He’s on his own and that’s the way it’s been since day one and how it will always be. I don’t always agree with his assessments and that is what makes horse racing.  So, I get an e-mail from the Angry Playwright who is also the Angry Director.  And he is Angry with a capital “A” because a critic did not love his play, which he considers is, as he actually wrote, “great art.”  Anyone who describes their own work as “great art” has some serious problems in la cabeza.  And one of the first things in his e-mail is asking me to do something about the review, that is if I have any integrity.  Now, when you start off an e-mail questioning someone’s integrity, it’s not going to go well.  And frankly I have enough integrity to NOT do anything about a review I did not write and have nothing to do with.

He went on and on and on.  And I responded, rather nicely, I thought.  I simply explained that I have nothing to do with the reviews on the site, and that I, as a writer/director have received love-letter reviews and reviews telling me to get out of the business.  The first two The First Nudie Musical reviews were of the latter variety – one from Variety and one from The Hollywood Reporter, a one-two punch that really was like being punched in the stomach.  I thought they were unfair.  I wanted to kill the reviewers.  But I didn’t, nor did I write them nasty letters.  They didn’t like my film, plain and simple.  And then the other reviews came out and most of them were love letters with some calling me a new comic genius and saying I was as funny as Mel Brooks and Woody Allen.  So, that was nice.  But I realized right then, I couldn’t embrace the great reviews only – I could either accept them AND the bad reviews and deal with it, or I shouldn’t read reviews at all.  Those were the only choices.

Every time I write a book, write a song, a show, direct something, I, like everyone else who does this, is putting themselves and their work on the line.  That is the nature of the beast and you’re not going to please everyone all the time, much as you’d like to.  Anyway, I thought my response was measured and I ignored his “integrity” comment.

I thought that would be it, but alas, the Angry Playwright could not stop – he had more Angry Words to share.  As I put it in my response to this second e-mail “The e-mail you just sent is so incoherent it gives incoherent a whole new meaning.” In this second e-mail, I was continually accused of being in on the review – of destroying great art and great theatre or as he put it, “If you were not ignorant, one might think you would recognize great art, great theater and not destroy it.”  Now mind you I haven’t seen his play and yet I’m destroying great art, great theater.  Check. I’m not makin’ any of this up, dear readers.  And on and on it went.

I responded again, basically saying “You’ll want to stop right about now,” and again clarifying that I am not a reviewer and have nothing to do with the reviews that are on this site.  I merely host the reviews in the same way I host our radio show, which belongs to Donald Feltham.  I wrote, “If you think your play is ‘great art’ shouldn’t that be enough for you?  If your friends and friends of your actors come and enjoy it, shouldn’t that be enough for you?  Apparently not.  Seriously, get some sand, get a spine or you will not survive.”  And off I sent it.

And then I began to think about this guy’s name – it had seemed familiar to me and when I finally read Rob’s review the name of the play seemed familiar, too.  It took me a few minutes to figure it out, but this guy and I had had a little set-to on Facebook, on a post our very own Pogue had made about self-indulgent actors.  This guy came in and said all this pretentious acting crap (he’s written a book on ACTING), and many of us took him on, me in my own amusing way because what he was saying was frankly so silly I just had to. At some point I looked at his page, saw the play title, and eventually that thread died a happy death.

I then received yet another missive from the Angry Playwright who clearly does not understand the wise words, “Walk away.”  And he, too, had remembered that we’d done that little dance on Pogue’s post, so now his new thing was to go into full on conspiracy mode: “Now you are pretending that you don’t know me.  Is it a strange coincidence that a bad review about my play appeared on your blog?” Well, no, you unmitigated piece of dog snot, a bad review did not appear on my blog – it appeared in a section of the site called Now Playing, which is where Rob’s reviews appear.  I responded one final time, telling him that I was going to put this amusing story here for all to see (I’d already told him that one more e-mail would result in that).  He then wrote back and asked if he could publish rebuttals to what I wrote. Well, no, you can’t because this isn’t Facebook, this is my personal blog.  I then told him that any further correspondence would go directly into the trash unread.

Now, I have since read two other reviews of his play – they weren’t horrible, but neither were they very good – in fact, both had major reservations, one mostly about the play, and the other about the direction.  I wonder if those critics got e-mails?  But this is a textbook way for an artist not to behave.  I remember once having someone on Goodreads, some little fifteen-year-old girl review one of the Hofstetter books – she HATED it because she didn’t feel the character was real and that anyone that age would not call their mother “mommy.”  Of course, I work with lots of young performers of that age and they absolutely call their mothers mommy, as did the girl I based Adriana on.  For a moment I thought about responding just about that, but Goodreads knows when it’s the author of the book and you get a warning that it is best not for the author to respond to a critical review.  And they were right, I bit my tongue, and yes, walked away.  And there you have The Mysterious Case of the Angry Playwright (in three parts).

Yesterday was kind of a day, frustrating in one particular way, and fine in most other ways.  I got up after seven hours of sleep (or was it six), saw the frustrating thing, which happens every month at this time and is just relentless, shined it on, and then Adryan Russ and Shelly Markham arrived for a meeting.  They played some songs for me, I offered opinions, and we chatted about the project and offered them more opinions.  That lasted about an hour.

Then I went and was thinking about Marie Callender’s for food, but Ventura Blvd. was a mess, so I just pulled into a Taco Bell and had that. I came home and did some work on the computer, had some telephonic calls, and then got a text from Hadley Miller’s dad asking me if I wanted to join them for some food.  I said I’d maybe have dessert and it turns out that’s what they wanted, so ironically we ended up at Marie Callender’s after all and with further irony Michael Sterling was just finishing dining there.  We all had a nice chat, then Hadley and her dad and I sat and had pie.  Hadley’s fourteen now – unbelievable.  She did her first show with us at nine.  But even the growth in her since we did Levi last year is astonishing to see.  She’ll be back with us in our November show.

Then I had to get ready and then moseyed on over to the Group Rep to see a cabaret-type show of one of the members, there for a three-night run.  As I’ve said so often, cabaret is hard.  I felt what I saw needed focus and a strong point-of-view and point, and to have the entire thing be more personal.  All we have in cabaret is the performer – the audience (and I don’t mean friends and family) have to instantly get to know the performer, and why the performer is doing that particular act.  It may seem easy but it rarely is – it’s a real art form. But I always enjoy and appreciate someone who takes the chance and gets out there and does the thing.

After, I came right home.

Today, I have a few things to do, I have to finish casting the October show, and then several of our cast members from our show are coming to set keys for their songs.  That will actually be very interesting – the men’s keys are all fine, but because I tend to write in keys that I can sing in, I’m sure the female keys will have to come down a bit.  After that I’ll relax.

Tomorrow I suppose I’m going to attempt to see the Shakespeare show I know is three hours long.  One simply must do what one simply must do.  Not sure what the weekend holds, but miracles are needed – again.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, finish casting the October show, eat, hopefully pick up packages, and then set keys, after which I shall relax.  Today’s topic of discussion: Pie.  Favorite pies, fruit or cream, homemade or best pie out at restaurants.  Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, where I shall absolutely not try to solve The Mysterious Case of the Angry Playwright.

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