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August 26, 2011


Kevin Landis

A lovely explanation of the signs that caused so much controversy. It is disappointing, however, that artistic nuance needs to be explained in the theatre. It seems to me that this play deals precisely with that: Christians and Jews who cant set aside their own "hammered in" beliefs to see and understand nuance in other people. MERCHANT is certainly rife with discomfort and no production can or should answer for every moment of discomfort. The sophisticated theatergoer, essentially 99 percent of the THEATREWORKS audience, must know that the artistic director and THEATREWORKS in general is not anti-Semitic or insensitive to real life discrimination. That leaves that theatregoer to ask, "Hmmm. Ok, provocative. What is Murray trying to do here?"

It seems that much of the angry response from Jews and non-Jews alike wasn't so much about their own discomfort with the signs or the on-stage degradation of Jewish symbols. Rather, people were upset because they believed that their friends and neighbors couldn't handle it. It came up over and over in the Prologue Roundtable. "Don't bring this to Colorado Springs, our community cannot handle it." That response is utterly baffling (though, I have to admit that I had it too, at first). Censoring based on what artistic leaders believe their community can or cannot handle is a dangerous path to tread. It is their responsibility to open eyes to the ugly side of life and, yes, of our community. If some don't get it and use it for bad, that is an unfortunate reality but one that we must face. It is never the job of art to gussy up reality and make it safe for the masses. In fact, sometimes it is the job or art to poke the masses in the eye and say, "this is you."

-Kevin Landis


Mr. Ross still seems to miss the point. Neither Wm. Shakespeare nor his play were the cause of protest. It was about the signs.

Yes, in context, they were intended to reinforce the play's stereotype of "Jewish moneylenders." Nailed on a tree, they might also be taken as a diatribe against all Jews, based on the Far Right mythology of an International Jewish conspiracy controlling global finance. I'm fairly certain that the International Jewish Conspiracy is a myth... not one of my Jewish family or many Jewish friends have ever been able to profit one cent, shekel or drachma from it. (BTW: If you are a member of the Far Right, please forward the name and address of a Conspiracy official... so I can apply for some piece of the alleged action.)

Personally, I think the signs may have been far more relevant taped to the streetlights on Wall Street - a genuine global conspiracy which has managed to plunge the Nation and much of global finance into recession. Wall Street greed is non-deniminational - thieves of every race, creed and color are welcome.

In any case, Mr. Ross, sort of thanks for the sort of apology. Keep on producing interesting and provocative work... just, uh, curb your enthusiasm a bit on the promotion side.


The Missing Steps

After one month of deserved superlatives about the Theatreworks production of Patrick Barlow’s “The 39 Steps” and the success of the director and the actors….
In the Gazette review and interviews with the director we didn’t hear a single word or name about the costumes, scenography, lighting design, sound design, props or production management.
In theatre as a collective art form, it is a moral crime to fail to mention the highly professional and successful hard work of the designers and technicians, real people with skill, talent, dignity and pride in their dedication to THEATRE. Trust me, they deserve to be appreciated … they deserve to hear their names. They are not doing this for the miserable money they receive but for their “unfortunate”

Jane Spencer’s lighting design makes a lot of atmosphere in a difficult space.
The colorful sound design of Breton Parks Christopherson is an irreplaceable component of the success of the show.
As a professional European Scenographer-Set/Costume/Lighting Designer and Director, I am very pleased with the accomplishment of the Set Designer, Roy Ballard. This is the most successful theatrical balcony I have ever seen in a Theatreworks production. The scale and proportion in the space are exactly right!
I am professionally impressed (and a little bit jealous ☺)
with the great success of the costumes of Jan Avramov and her crew. After comparison with the Broadway, Denver Center and other productions I can honestly say Ms. Avramov is a highly talented Professional.
From the many good costumes:
-the simplicity of the old men, achieved with only a few successfully chosen theatrical pieces, serves to make the scene and the actors colorful and memorable…
-the dress ensemble that brilliantly captures the character of Pamela…
-in comparison with other productions, given the specifics of the actor’s body, the great execution, the perfect/happy choice of stripes on the vest under the black tailcoat with the whiteness of the actor’s face, serve as a “theatrical skin” for the most successful scenes in the show, making THE best MR. MEMORY character/costume !!! Period.

I do understand the difficulty for one critic to equally and professionally know about Visual Art, Music, Theatre, Directing, Acting, Dramaturgy, Scenography – Set/Costume Design, Lighting Design, Sound Design…..
But my friendly advice is:
-Never forget that in team work, there are always real people with real feelings and real pride…. who deserve moral appreciation for their work.
-Always ask for the opinion of professionals (like me,for example :) who understand the specifics and creative components of the process….
-We must respect them to avoid falling on the Missing Steps!

Ars Longa – Vita Brevis!
Life is Short, ART (truly good ART) is FOREVER!

Encho Avramov


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