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Open Letters to Purple Haze

By Nick Fracaro at 10:28 pm on Saturday, September 23, 2006

McSweeney’s has more than a hundred entries at its fiction section titled


The writer of the open letter to Vice President Cheney first offers condolences for the loss of Scooter Libby, then applies for the open Chief of Staff job. The applicant begins his list of qualifications with

1. I am pure evil. I can provide letters of reference from former girlfriends, as well as from my previous landlord, to attest to this fact.

2. I can keep a secret, especially if it involves your criminal and immoral conspiring against other Americans, State Department officials, intelligence agents, or the leaders of the U.S. military.

Edward Einhorn, Artistic Director of the Untitled Theater Company #61, currently producing the Havel Festival, writes an Open Letter to President Bush that probably wouldn’t fit that well at McSweeney’s.

Of course Edward’s is a real letter not a work of fiction or theatre. I think it’s real, anyway, although the letter does require an obvious suspension of disbelief. The President and the administration are People or Entities Who Are Unlikely to Respond to his letter.

So to whom is Edward really writing? Who is his real audience for the letter?

Plainly the letter was written, at least in part, as an element in the PR package promoting the Havel Festival. So a piece of the audience is that potential audience of People or Entities Who Are UnLikely to Respond to the plays of Vaclav Havel. But the letter doesn’t seem completely willing in its suspension of disbelief, as if that “other audience” were really there listening.

During the Communist reign Havel believed that only half of his self was truly a dissident, the other half of his self actually supported the totalitarianism under which his country suffered. Further he believed each of his Czech countrymen were split in a similar manner.

In other words, no blue or red states. No liberal and no conservative. But everyone and everywhere a blend of both. More like a purple haze as in this alternative to the red/blue map graphic we usually see. So Edward is right, as Havel was right. The other audience is there listening because the other audience is one in the same with us.

The speeches the nation leaders recently presented to the U.N. General Assembly attempt to function as Open Letters to the larger world. Thursday El Presidente from the South branded the Northeamericano President the devil.

And the devil came here yesterday. Yesterday, the devil came here. Right here. Right here. And it smells of sulfur still today.

Making the sign of the cross, lifting his prayerful hands and eyes to the sky, there was a trace smile on Chavez’s face as he said this. The purple haze audience was definitely watching this piece of theatre; it was the most downloaded clip from CNN. And these do sound like fighting words. But to whom? Politicians mostly. Doing something the politicians cannot, Chavez and Venezuela are committing 25 million gallons of discounted heating oil just in New York City alone. If it were all used this winter as many as 700,000 city apartments would be heated at 40% off the wholesale price. If Chavez ever wants a day job as mayor here, he could win the vote next election.

Another Presidente from South of the border brought a prop onto stage with him. An illegal prop. Cool. And who would have thunk it? The coca leaf is not white, it’s green!

Theatre often preaches to the choir. How much more interesting theatre is when it seeks to speak to that “other audience” of the purple haze.

Scuse me while kiss the sky.

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Comment by Nancy McClernan

October 29, 2006 @ 1:01 pm

I find it incredibly amusing that Edward Einhorn would compose a pious, pompous letter to President Bush, quoting Havel on “the seemingly powerless in society.”

This is someone who runs a theatre production company specializing in off-off Broadway productions who feels no sting of conscience whatsoever about exploiting non-Equity actors. This is someone who believes that actors get the glory of being onstage and so “they are usually happy to work for free.”

This is an utterly, transparently self-serving belief for someone who engages actors to perform in his shows. Apparently Einhorn believes that by simply staging the works of Havel, it somehow gives him the right to take on the mantle of the champion of human rights.

And then there’s Einhorn’s belief that he can try to create a legal precedent for a “director’s copyright” with a laughable scheme cooked up together with his lawyer brother, in which they defraud the US Copyright Office and cost another theatre production company (and one that DOES pay non-Equity actors) over a hundred thousand dollars so that Einhorn could settle a dispute over $300.

Thus it ever was for sons of privilege, who have no idea what it’s like for the rest of us to struggle to get by: shamelessness and hypocrisy in equal amounts. Or perhaps not hypocrisy, but a pathological lack of self-awareness.

If you would like to get a better sense of the real Edward Einhorn, beyond his PR and his self-satisfied pronouncements, check out my article “The Strange Case of Edward Einhorn v. Mergatroyd Productions” in the latest issue of The Dramatist. You can also read it online here:

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October 31, 2006 @ 12:14 pm

[…] A couple days ago Nancy McClernan posted a comment here at Rat Sass on a month old blog entry where I referenced Edward Einhorn’s Open Letter to President Bush. I find it incredibly amusing that Edward Einhorn would compose a pious, pompous letter to President Bush, quoting Havel on “the seemingly powerless in society.” […]

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