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Responding to Hate Mail

January 12, 2007

I feel like Frank Rich, the fabled “Butcher of Broadway.” Received a mauling from Marlin, the creator of the decidedly ill-lit Luma, in my inbox today in response to the rather condemnatory review I wrote about his show. He accused me, amongst other things, of being responsible for the production closing early. If only I carried so much weight! Surely Robert Hurwitt’s glowing review in the much more widely-read SF Chronicle, would wield a greater influence than mine. By rights, Hurwitt and all the other critics who Marlin says have praised his work, would keep the doors open for Luma. I don’t see how one measly little negative review in one of the local rags could pull the plug on such an illustrious display of luminescence. Marlin’s powers of fancy are working overtime.

I encourage people to write to me after reading my pieces. Whenever I receive an email, positive or negative, I always respond. I was very much in two minds about responding to Marlin’s accusations though, as he’d already written an incensed letter to SF Weekly about its “irresponsible” theatre critic. My editor came to the rescue: she very sensibly advised me either to ignore Marlin’s email or send a cursory, polite response. I opted for the latter. Just got a sweet little response from Marlin. He was actually surprised that I bothered to write back.

Writing about a live, local artform like theatre is a different game to writing about things like movies or even live music. With movies, the stars and director are never around to respond to the critic. By the time a film is released, they’ve long moved on to other projects. Even critiquing live music doesn’t come with the same close-and-personal side: most concerts only run for a night or two and then the performers move on. I love the proximity of writing about live theatre. I relish the debates I can have both with my readers and the people who create the productions. They are extremely fruitful, on the whole. There are days like today though, when I wish I wrote about cookery books or TV sitcoms.



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