THE EUNUCH WITH THE BITING TONGUE
Years ago Ross Wetzsteon, the theatre editor of the Village Voice, solicited a series of essays on the subject of the artist/critic relationship. He was asking for not just critics but also artists in the community to reply. I think I remember him titling the series “Crritic!!” after a Beckett quote from Waiting for Godot.
ESTRAGON: (with finality): Crritic!
(He wilts, vanquished, and turns away.)
Along with the Critic/Artist allegory I wrote telling him about our theatre’s experiences with the press in 1987 while producing the world premiere of Fassbinder’s controversial play Trash, the City and Death. Specifically I highlighted the unethical actions of two prominent critics in their relationship to the production. Without naming names or going into details here, I spelled out to him how these two critics (dramaturgs) had betrayed our private and personal communication with them.
My letter to Ross Wetzsteon was as raw as my emotions were at that time so I never really expected a response from him. But he may have answered me in his own way, first by sending me a check for the article, and then by his atypical editorial choice in the Voice issue in which it was published. At that time the Voice rarely had any articles in the theatre section other than reviews or features of New York productions but in this issue there was the out-of-place article about an obscure theatre production in France. Byline belonging to one of the critics I had ranted about! I believe this was the only time this critic was published in the Voice during Wetzsteon’s tenure so the editing seemed clearly an inside joke. The publication layout was such that the backside of my one-time Voice clipping has his name on it and vice versa.
So two sides of the same coin. Critic and artist.