'Cause the blog slapfest he discovered yesterday morning was kinda unpretty.
Hold on a sec, while Tboy puts away the third person. The vaguely antic air it adds to things doesn't seem quite right this time. There, that's better.
Now, I'll alert you right up front that I'm not gonna link to anything in this post. I mean, the aforementioned exchange of hostilities between DC theaterfolk is out there, with names attached, so I can't see how anyone could construe a link to it as being mean-spirited. Based on what I've been reading, you all don't need any help harshing on each other.
But I'm still not gonna link to it. I just don't have the appetite, somehow.
I thought for a bit about why that might be, and came up with one possible answer: Perhaps because it's out there with names attached. When you guys attack each other anonymously on this site (and even when you attack me anonymously), it's easy enough to dismiss the bile. But when bylines are appended, an exchange like the one I read over my morning coffee becomes more serious -- a deadly earnest declaration of mutual dislike that the principals can't back away from. And while I certainly have my doubts about some of you, I don't know that I dislike anyone quite that much.
That's part of why Theaterboy came out of the closet a year or so ago. I'll confess that there were moments, when my authorship of this blog was still nominally a secret, in which I was tempted to take a cheap shot just because I could. To avoid the temptation, I put my name and photo on the bio page; that way, I knew, I'd always have to live up to my better instincts.
Of course there are people who think even my better instincts aren't so good--that I still take cheap shots. It won't surprise anyone here that I disagree with that assessment. I think that what I do on Theaterboy, for the most part, is a kind of theater-biz reporting that print outlets don't have the space or the appetite for: short items, inside-baseball items, and other things that theaterfolk are discussing but a general readership couldn't possibly care about.
Nevertheless, when I chase items I do chase them the way a reporter would, and I don't report even a rumor if I don't have it from what I consider a reliable source. And while there may be those who feel that the snark with which I sometimes report those rumors is unbecoming, I reply only this: Have you read the City Paper? We hold everybody's feet to the fire, including our own writers and editors, when they seem to be inviting it. Sometimes we do it in a straightforward tone; sometimes there's snark. It's all part of what we think of as a "high-low" approach to engaging with the world: We write from an informed, intelligent, sometimes even an intellectual position--but we aren't afraid to call things like we see 'em, and sometimes that means taking the piss.
And here, as at the City Paper, I think it's fair game when I hear that somebody's done something bizarre, whether it's in the office, or in rehearsal, or at the pub after a show. Commenting on it is just what I do -- much as I comment when I see something perplexing on a stage.
As I think I've said before: To imagine that it's unbecoming for a critic to raise an eyebrow at what happens behind the scenes is to imagine that a critic must operate under the assumption that good theater is made only by perfect people -- and vice-versa. And that's just naive.
Interestingly, as I type this, Diane Rehm is having a conversation about the art of conversation -- in particular about the disappearing art of raillery, in which intelligent people banter teasingly, but always with a sense of good humor -- and about the corrosive effect of the Internet on that most entertaining diversion. It occurs to me that raillery is a good label for what I've always tried to do here, and that perhaps, despite my best efforts, the format sometimes means it doesn't translate.
Then again, the dustup I was talking about at the top of this post has its roots in a conversation at a cocktail party earlier this week--so things get lost in translation in all kinds of contexts, I suppose. Maybe Person A really is a supercilious, hurtful creature, and meant every condescending syllable. Or maybe not: Maybe Person A meant one thing, and Person B heard another through the filter of an unfortunate shared history, and Person C has gone overboard in the attempt to do something about B's hurt feelings.
One thing's for sure: Names have been called, and not pretty ones, either. And there's no coming down from them barricades.