Well, that was interesting. As you may have seen on Facebook, one of my quickie posts promoting my latest theater review on Centerstage caught the eye of the playwright for that show. Neil LaBute, a nationally known playwright, screenwriter, and film director, somehow found my personal blog and responded to my criticism of his characterization of women in his works. (I was able to confirm with someone who knows his email address that it really was him writing in, and not a random Internet LaButist.)
I know this isn’t an original thought, but what a strange place the Internet is! Connecting people who would never meet in real life, and allowing for real-time interaction. Usually when I have an “oh, Internet!” moment, I’m smiling at a friend of a friend offering travel advice, or a total stranger sharing an experience that relates to one of mine. Having an “oh, Internet!” moment when a major contemporary playwright is sniping away at me is quite a different thing.
He’s done this before, with another young woman critic. He wrote a frame for Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s 2010 Taming of the Shrew, and Caitlin Montanye Parrish reviewed it for Time Out Chicago. He took to the comments with great gusto, others joined in, and it was quite a long thread. Sadly, TOC seems to have taken down the comments on that post, which is way too bad. Still, there is evidence out there of the storm, and one blog post even copy/pasted the comment that started it all.
Now, before I get in trouble for writing another “hyperbolic” (LaBute’s term for my writing) sentence, let me say that I was going to point out that his misogyny continues apace because he only tore down my (lady) review and not anyone else’s (dude) review. But no worries, he hates all the haters, not just women. Such growth! (Or maybe he continues to hate TOC after that 2010 dustup, I don’t know.)
So okay, he goes after all his critics because, like many artists, he sees critics as the enemy. Some critics are dicks, sure, just like some artists are dicks. But most of us work real hard to be thoughtful in our reviews. As I mentioned in the comments of that post, the post-show conversation is a place for productive conversation, not petty bickering.
LaBute didn’t fight fair–pretty much every comment was undermining and defensive, rather than engaged and interested in the other commenters’ positions. That’s too bad, because the discussion could have been a lot more interesting for everyone involved. But he picked a fight on the Internet, and that’s a losing proposition. So I let him have the last word–on every thread–since that seemed to be really important to him.
It was a funny little interlude in the life of this blog and a reminder that people with Google Alerts on their name can turn up where you least expect them.