SOAPBOX Tuesday, March 18, is the fifth in the Town Hall series on war and peace called "The World on the Edge." The Soapbox forum sponsored by Seattle Weekly runs from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and features guest speakers and audience members sounding off. Following is a panel discussion of a war's political fallout. Admission is $5. Please join us. DETAILS ON THE SERIES
I have heard some glib, shallow, uninformed, and downright silly arguments both for and against a war with Iraq, but Tom Robbins' "analysis" has the distinction of combining ignorance with repugnance ["War or Peace?" March 5]. Pimple-faced, adolescent America's strongest supporter against Saddam Hussein's regime has been the country with the longest continuous government and a genuine member of "old" Europe, Great Britain. A case of grande dame crankiness, perhaps? No, I'm afraid there are more complexities in the world than exist in Robbins' philosophy.
As to his wish to see the U.S. get its comeuppance yet not to see Americans die, I can only respond with a baffled "How?" Witty put-downs and obscene gestures? Oh, those stupid Belgians! If only they had dropped their pants and pointed their arses at the kaiser's bullying troops, millions would've been spared the slaughter of the War to End All Wars. One can legitimately oppose on moral grounds a war against Iraq, but to then desire the humiliation of the U.S. when such a punishing lesson can only be accomplished through the death and maiming of Americans is hypocritical. "Butt-kicking" and "thrashing" are just euphemisms for the violence of war.
Creative types (celebrity and otherwise) may be the unacknowledged legislators of the world, but they shouldn't take that as license to make a shameful, fatuous spectacle of themselves.
PAT'S TORTURED LOGIC
I doubt that Pat Buchanan could be counted upon to be much of an asset to the anti-war movement [Mossback, "Right Wing to the Rescue," March 5]. On his TV show, he jumped on the bandwagon endorsing torture as long as it was for a "good reason," of course, in order to "save lives."
Buchanan is what is known as "the loyal opposition," which means the phony opposition. He has taken the conservative patriot types for suckers over and over, and even now, few of them have caught on to him. Do you think he would jeopardize his lucrative contract with MSNBC? No, and he would not be on the air unless the network had absolute confidence that once Bush unleashes his killing machine upon the defenseless Iraqis, good old Pat will put his past criticisms of our foreign policy behind him and cheer on his fearless commander in chief. No deviation from the party line is to be tolerated by the controlled media, even by former darlings and TV stars of the liberal establishment such as Phil Donahue, who came out on the right side of this issue and got canned.
"Axles of You-Know-What"what a great article [Spring Books: "Dubya Is for War," March 5]. I see all sorts of anti-war signs in people's yards, and SUVs in their driveways. I have no idea how people in a relatively well-educated city like Seattle can still get away with driving SUVs with their conscience intact. Personal comfort is a good thingI wouldn't disagree with that, or even the feeling of "safety" that people who drive these things think they havebut to blatantly drive such gas guzzlers at a time like this seems like a narcissistic act of ignorance. (But aren't those big RVs environmental campaigners drive just as bad? Hmm??) If you drive an SUV, you should also be able to point out where Venezuela is on the map and be a major contributor to the survival of Alaskan wildlife.
THE REICH STUFF
Thanks to Tim Appelo for the most profound, disturbing, and analytical cinematic criticism I've read in the pages of the Seattle Weekly for a decade ["Adolf the Aesthete," March 5]. Brilliant. Appelo's argument against Claude Lanzmann's viewpoint that representing the Holocaust in art is immoral is well made. There's an emotional tyranny on behalf of victims that holds some subjects and themes unsuitable for art. It is the artist's task to push the boundaries of "decency." Censorship is a merit badge for the artist. To show Hitler as neither monster nor cartoon, but to humanize him, is the right and duty of these filmmakers and is not immoral. However, the Holocaust was not art. To call it art (even the art of a lunatic) is inaccurate. The meaning of our common language does not support it. If we reach the point where we can behold the Holocaust itself as art, then the concept of the word "art" ceases to have meaning or relevance in the language.
GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER
Someone once said that you should never pick a fight with someone who orders ink by the barrel. In over 25 years of directing and producing, I have obeyed that warning. But Roger Downey's grossly inaccurate and venal attack on me, ACT, its board of directors, and many other arts organizations in town compels me to break this rule ["Dream Weavers," Feb. 26].
Downey gets so many things wrong, I hardly know where to begin. But let me limit my comments to things about which I have direct and personal knowledge. He claims that "most of it [productions at ACT] cost three or four times as much as it earned." Wrong. ACT's average production budget during my tenure was $300,000 from soup to nuts. Its average subscription revenue divided evenly among six mainstage shows was about $240,000, and the average single ticket sales per show was somewhere slightly above $60,000. We can all do the math. Downey's claim is both irresponsible and incorrect. He is so off base, in fact, that I wonder if Roger has cooked up his "facts" to support his thesis.
Also wildly misleading is his charge that I, as artistic director, catered to "big out-of-town names" who used, in his words, "ACT as a sandbox to develop projects in." During my tenure, ACT hired at least as many, and some seasons more, local artists as any other equity theater in town to perform in our four spaces.
We also opened our doors to many "fringe" theater companies, such as House of Dames, Book It, and Printer's Devil, and allowed them to rehearse for free and shared many of our resources with them. The sad truth is that in many cases the excellent work of local artists (Lauren Weedman, Kevin Joyce, etc.) did not sell nearly as well as our imports. Shows featuring Alan Arkin, Jane Alexander, Julie Harris, and Philip Glass were among our biggest sellers and helped underwrite the work of less-well-known local artists. I see that as a contribution to the Seattle art scene, not a betrayal. We grow and learn by seeing the work of distinguished artists from outside our immediate environs.
Regarding the frou-frou that Downey claims characterized our physical productions, I am not certain which plays he is talking about. In my own directing work, I tended toward the spare: Salesman, Crucible, and Randy Newman were bare stages; Skull in Connemara a dirt floor; and other productions very simple sets. There may have been a designer or director who from time to time cluttered the stage with too much stuff, but it was hardly the house style.
What is most disturbing and most hidden from view is Roger Downey's huge conflict of interest as an arts commentator in Seattle. To be sure, Downey is an erudite, witty, and excellent prose stylist. He also on numerous occasions has attempted to enter the Seattle theatrical community as an artist. For example, he pitched projects to me as a director, adapter, or translator in the first years of my tenure. I did not hire him. He has had a long and complicated relationship with many arts leaders and artists in this town, and those relationships seriously compromise the objectivity of his views. I am surprised that the Seattle Weekly still permits Downey to comment on arts matters when his conflicts are so well known.
How ACT got into the terrible mess that it is now in demands careful and fair investigation, but Roger Downey is certainly not the person for the job.
New Haven, CT
Here is Roger Downey's latest take on the ACT crisis. -Editor
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