Friday, September 28, 2007

Arts Advocacy Update XV

The content below has been appropriated from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv, a product of its Arts Policy Information Center.

I have worked as a journalist and editor with Americans for the Arts in the past, and endorse and support their work. I am therefore pleased to appropriate this content with their permission. I do, however, urge everyone to check out their
entire website and to visit it regularly as a great source of news and information for the arts community.

I also urge everyone to
join the listserv so you can receive the same email blasts I do, from which the content below is being taken.

I'm now THISCLOSE to finishing up the book, which is why you've haven't seen me posting all week. Very strange not posting much, but I've been pretty buried under this thing. The good news is that three of the four binders with the images has been shipped off to the publisher, so we appear to be all-systems-go.

I'll have an announcement about what the book is about very shortly.

In the meantime, here is this week's Arts Advocacy Update, beginning with a new study from the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, which documents the $1.3 billion economic impact of the Greater Philadelphia cutlural sector. It actually makes terrific reading, and for New Yorkers offers a lot to think about.

And for those of you in La-La Land, there is an upcoming event called "The Power of the Stage: Drama as Diplomacy," scheduled for Oct. 7. If you're interested in what happens at the nexus of stage work and politics, check this out.

And now...

Council says yes to artists colony
Daily Nonpareil (Council Bluffs, IA), 9/25/2007
In Iowa, "[t]he idea of building apartments tailored to the needs of artists looks pretty good to the Council Bluffs City Council. The council Monday night approved the rezoning of land where two vacant International Harvester buildings. . . . The Minneapolis-based Artspace Projects Inc. has plans to create up to 35 live/work apartments in the east building."
Must be nice to live in a place with space...not much encouragement for the New York scene in this, but it is nice to hear about such plans from the heartland.

Economic study touts benefits of arts scene
Houston Chronicle, 9/24/2007
"There's a connection between the arts and economic development, and a group of civic and political leaders said Monday that Houston could benefit by doing more to promote its cultural life. To make their case, the Houston Endowment, the Houston Arts Alliance and the Greater Houston Partnership , presented a study Monday that estimated the economic benefits of the local arts scene. The study, 'The Business of the Arts: A Look into the Economic Impact of the Arts on the Houston Region,' found that the economic impact of the symphonies, art museums, ballet and opera is nearly 2 1/2 times the economic impact of the convention industry in 2005. And more than twice the number of people attended exhibitions and cultural events in 2004 than attended Astros, Rockets or Texans games the following year, according to the report."
Very glad to see Houston getting onboard the same statistical train that so much of the country has been on for the last five years. Thing is, when I first read information like this about NYC and other major metropolitan areas, I didn't think it could be true -- more cultural attendance than sports attendance? But when you think about it, it makes sense: there usually isn't a major sporting event every day of the week, and if there is, there's one team or maybe two that you might see, whereas there are often hundreds or thousands of cultural events to choose from. So the arts simply have to do the research and state the facts.

How Artists Influence Real Estate Prices
NuWire Investor, 9/18/2007
"Investors may deepen their appreciation for the arts after they realize how much influence artists can have on real estate values. . . . . Once an area has heightened cultural activity, people with money tend to become more interested in it. But culture does more than draw wealth; it can also draw workers, improving an area's job market and thus its economy."
Unfortunately, there's also a lot of anger here -- you get the artists to help fix a depressed neighborhood, and then as soon as property values begin to rise, you kick them to the curb. Sure, let's have investors aware of the value that artists bring, but let's also discuss legal ways in which artists can ensure that their sweat equity isn't swatted away but a gutless, guiless, greedy sonofabitch developer who'd sell his mother to make a buck, and probably already has.

Miami Beach's CANDO Hopes To Attract Artists
CBS4 (Florida), 9/2/2007
"In an effort to bring new artists to the city, Miami Beach commissioners are expected to give preliminary approval on Wednesday to measures that would create affordable housing in the new Cultural Arts Neighborhood Overlay or CANDO. . . . Mayor David Dermer came up with the CANDO idea as a way to not only lure new artists to the city, but to also encourage new arts-related businesses to open up there."
Great idea.

More Than 400,000 City Students Lack Quality, Well-Rounded Education Without Access to Arts
PRNewswire, 9/24/2007
The Department of Education's 2006-2007 Learning Survey "found that 41% of parents say that their children currently receive no arts education in their public school. These parents represent more than 400,000 of [New York City's] children, more than four in ten in a system serving 1.1 million city youth."
I'm just so tired of reading this. When is the community going to DEMAND some kind of change?

Reasons to keep the arts
Escanaba Daily Press (Escanaba, MI), 9/25/2007
An opinion piece in the Escanaba Daily Press of Michigan worries that new state curriculum requirements for high schools will lead to cuts in art, music and drama. Author Richard Clark notes, "In an ironic twist we are moving to a test-driven curriculum while our economic rival is discarding it. China is moving from a test-driven curriculum to one that encourages creativity."
(Referring to the story above...if Michigan, of all places, can get it, why not New York?)

Cost concerns stall digital media tax break (Hackensack, NJ), 9/23/2007
"New Jersey's digital media bill cleared both legislative houses in June, but now "sits on Governor Corzine's desk, stalled by his concern that the state can't afford the $20 million-a-year price tag. . . . Florida, Texas, Massachusetts and Connecticut have all passed similar bills in the past two years. {Senator] Sarlo and others say the New Jersey bill could create thousands of highly paid jobs and boost the state's struggling economy."
Um, couldn't Corzine just donate the $20 million? And hasn't the state of New Jersey already spent a ridiculous amount of money helping Corzine recover from not having worn his seat belt?

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Arts Advocacy Update XIV

The content below has been appropriated from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv, a product of its Arts Policy Information Center.

I have worked as a journalist and editor with Americans for the Arts in the past, and endorse and support their work. I am therefore pleased to appropriate this content with their permission. I do, however, urge everyone to check out their
entire website and to visit it regularly as a great source of news and information for the arts community.

I also urge everyone to
join the listserv so you can receive the same email blasts I do, from which the content below is being taken.

I'm still drowning in the book, but I wanted to post this week's Arts Advocacy Update anyway.

Dance Dilemma: Schlock Triumphs Over Ballet
Washington Post, 9/16/2007
"The sharp rise in reality-show dance on TV is matched by a dizzying drop in public television broadcasts of the pros. In other words, the washed-up celebrities and adventurous athletes of "Dancing With the Stars" are all that the viewing public knows of dance these days, since ballet and modern dance companies have been virtually voted off the air."
Great piece, but is there really a shock about schlock?

Giving Artists Space to Create
Washington Post, 9/15/2007
Washington, DC, has a growing number of projects "aimed at making homeownership a reality for low-income artists." In nearby Maryland, the nation's first state-wide Arts and Entertainment District program requires districts with the designation to "either already have affordable housing units or a plan to develop affordable housing. So far, the state has established 15 such districts, in such places as Hyattsville, Bethesda, Frederick, Hagerstown, Silver Spring and Wheaton." Virginia, too, is "turning its attention to affordable housing for artists."
As New York City, of course, builds more condos that no one can afford and gives a big F.U. to anyone who questions the moral superiority of rampant development, especially if comes at the expense of American artists.

New York is for Artists
New York Press, 9/4/2007
"Last week, Gov. Eliot Spitzer signed into effect a new bill that will help artists actually live in the neighborhoods they helped change from gritty to glamorous. The bill makes artists eligible for grants of a few thousand to $20,000. A single artist can apply for a grant of up to $12,000 to subsidy his or her work over a two-year period, and groups of artists can apply for up to $20,000 in grant money for live-work space in neighborhoods where they previously could not have afforded."
Then again...

Proposal Would Give Cultural Groups Dedicated Funding
WNED (Buffalo, NY), 9/17/2007
"Calling them a 'vibrant and growing sector' of the local economy, a group of Erie County legislators is proposing an annual dedicated funding source for Western New York's arts and cultural organizations. The resolution calls for three percent of the county's property tax revenue to be dedicated to 40 area cultural agencies. That translates to roughly $5.3 million."
Read this. This is the trend, and I support it completely. It is just good governance.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Monday, September 17, 2007

Congratulations to Paul Haber

My dear friend Paul Haber has been really making some headway as a filmmaker. Check out this page to see how amazingly he's doing.

And there's also this one, too:

I'm looking for a link to the film for which he's currently winning some awards. It's a short, so if I find it, I'll post it.

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Arts Advocacy Update XIII

My apologies for not posting an arts advocacy update in the last few weeks. Way too busy with Le Book, which I should be finishing as I write this! Nevertheless:

Despite Demand, Libraries Won't Add PCs
Washington Post - AP, 7/12/2007
"A new study from the American Library Association, scheduled for release Wednesday, finds the average number of public Internet terminals largely unchanged since 2002, yet only 1 in 5 libraries say they have enough computers to meet demand at all times. Besides cost, limitations in space, electrical outlets and cabling are cited as the chief factors preventing libraries from buying more computers. . . . Meanwhile, three-quarters of the libraries say they are the only source of free Internet access in their communities, increasing pressure on them to meet demand."
And we've got to prevent those terrorists from reading Gawker, too.

Art and the city
Economist, 9/6/2007
"When New York agonises over its place in the world, it is usually because it fears losing its position as the world's financial capital. That has certainly been the case in recent months. Yet Elizabeth Currid thinks that policymakers should be fretting less about credit markets and more about culture. The contribution made by art, music and fashion to the city's economy has, she argues, long been overlooked. And unless something is done about it, another crown could slip."
This should be required reading for all of us, and it should also be a call to action. Comments definitely encouraged.

Theater Classes Help Docs' Bedside Manners
Forbes - AP, 9/7/2007
"New evidence suggests that a bit of theatrics can help doctors become better caregivers. The finding is based on the experience of a small group of internal medicine residents who went through six hours of theater workshops and lectures led by university theater professors. Focus was placed on the impact that body language, eye contact, verbal cues and attentiveness have on patient-doctor communications, and the skills taught appeared to significantly improve both a physician's bedside manner and patient trust."
Oy, doc, I have a pain, I have a pain...

Non-profits face tough economic times
Somerville Journal (MA), 9/5/2007
"The [Massachusetts] state agency that distributes funds to local nonprofit arts organizations and artists received a budget increase to $12.3 million for the current fiscal year. And another $5 million was added to a fund dedicated to repairing and expanding cultural organizations. But that’s still about $7 million short of the state’s pre-9/11 level of funding. Add in the fact that private donations are down and there’s been a sharp increase in the number of Boston area nonprofit arts organizations and individuals seeking funding, and you have a perfect storm of factors that have made this a treacherous economic time for the arts."
A cautionary tale, to say the least. You could apply this conundrum to a lot of similar localities, although arguably not New York City at the moment. Not to say it couldn't happen, though.

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I Am Back and I Am Very Blank

Today is a very sad day for me -- seriously -- because of blank.

May my favorite TV game show idol forever rest in piece.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Britney's Biggest Fan

For my 200th post, I wanted to do something special, so I chose this. I'd also like to add that he (Chris Crocker, of MySpace fame) will star as Linda Loman in the Okefenokee Swamp Theatre and Crocheting Circle's upcoming national tour of Death of a Salesman, running in rotating repertory with Medea (title role) and Tennessee Williams' The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore (lead role of Sissy Goforth).

He says he is maintaining his plan to turn the 1980s prime-time soap opera Falcon Crest into a musical -- an idea that died on the vine until Jane Wyman's death the other day, and which can now finally press on.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Reports of My Death III

Still working on the book - and will be taking some R&R for the Jewish holiday starting Thursday -- traveling to NC with Ken and thinking of something other than theatre.

Had a great lunch today with Rob Kendt. You rock, bro.

That will also be the first and last time I will ever use the phrase "You rock, bro."

I'll be posting again regularly as of next Monday. Breathe easy, y'all.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Reports of My Death II

Well, 30 hours at the library this week -- oy. But all the images for the book have been selected. Now I just have to finish the writing. Please pray!

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Reports of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

No, I'm not dead. But I'm brain dead -- have spent the whole week at the NYPL for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center working on the book. Will also be there today and tomorrow and Saturday. Keep your fingers crossed.

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

If Larry Craig Were Gay, or Starring in 'Avenue Q'

I just noticed this clip on BroadwayStars (James Marino, you are the best!) and I just had to post it here.

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Thank you, Tom Garvey

There are some comments on the Hunka fracas over at the Mirror Up to Nature blog, and finally, someone who makes sense -- my colleague Tom Garvey. Now, why don't you all go pillory him, hm?

He writes:

You know, Hunka probably has some twisted rationale for his behavior, but frankly, he's so far over the line it's almost funny. And the naive marketing ploys of Playwrights Horizons have little to do with his own decisions, I think; ditto the quality of the play in question (it would be just as problematic to deliver a rave based solely on the first act). Hunka accepted an invitation to blog about a show before it had opened - that was a mistake. He then left at intermission - another mistake, if he intended to review it. Then he panned it - strike three, I'd say; Hunka's out - and has probably given all of theatre blogging a black eye in the process.

I'm sorry if I didn't make clear that I disagree with Playwrights Horizons' actions in this case. Based on the late opening night, and the pathetic attempt to generate "blog buzz" without letting in professional reviewers, I'd say they're well aware they have a bomb on their hands. (The case of "Young Frankenstein" is a little less clear, I'd say, as technically the show is in "development" all the way to New York, but certainly it's debatable.) When it comes to previews, yes, I agree, they should be cheaper, and obviously marked as "previews," but I also have to agree that the audience doesn't seem to care half as much about these issues as reviewers do. (Indeed, several local theatres have been charging full price for previews for some time.)

In the end, producers have no real incentive outside of market repercussions to abide by any of these rules, and if the market will pay full price for a preview, it's hard to see why they shouldn't take advantage. As for pushing "opening night" as close to "closing night" as possible - again, that simply means they have to market the show sans reviews. Hunka's mistake was stepping into that situation - of reviewing a show that was transparently trying to dodge reviews. If he wanted to pan it, he should have bought a ticket and just avoided the whole mess. On the other hand, though, perhaps his actions were a good thing - in that they've demonstrated to Playwrights Horizons, and no doubt other producers, that at least some bloggers won't play ball.

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Moving On VI

Alison Crogan writes,

Leonard, quite clearly I left an important word out - that if you thought that bloggers should NOT be "separate but equal". A typo that was quite clear from the context. If that's the case, as I said, then bloggers should get opening night invites like everyone else. End of story.I worked as a professional msm journalist for a decade. I am now a totally msm theatre critic (I am the Melbourne critic for the national daily broadsheet). You're talking through the wrong orifice.All I can see in your weirdly hysterical denunciation of George (but not, I note, of other bloggers who also - albeit favourably - reviewed the show) is fear that you will somehow lose your job. Or your "authority". Whatever. I have a review to write for my newspaper and then another for my blog. Pip pip.
I reply,
You did leave a word out, and no, it wasn't clear from your comment.

And if you've read the blog, you know I am also in favor of bloggers being on the first- or second-night lists here in NYC. If you haven't seen those posts, please let me know and I will send them to you in their entirety.

It seems unbecoming to discuss my orifices, or yours.

My denunciation is neither weird nor hysterical -- your cavalier dismissal of the subject is short-sighted and ignorant. And my issue is with anyone who reviewed the show, period. If you want me to find all of them and call all of them out, is that not an invitation to more accusations of weirdness and hysteria?

And I have no fear whatsoever about losing my job. Period. None.

And as I have said repeatedly -- and as I will continue to say -- it is not about "authority." It is about ethics. You are free to disagree, and free to be wrong.

Oh, and I've already written my reviews for this week, thanks. Care to have all the links to those? Probably not is my guess.

Pip Pip.

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Moving On V

I am driving a good deal of the upset over what happened with George Hunka and I plan to continue to do so. (You can click here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

If I may without being pilloried for having strong views expressed strongly, let me explain (well, re-explain) why. Below is part of a comment, occasionally paraphrased, I added to a comment that was left on one of my other posts.

If blogger-critics are good enough and valuable enough to be given professional comps, then blogger-critics should be viewed as part of the critic and journalist community and put on the first- or second-night lists along with everyone else. If you toodle around the Web, you'll find more than one blogger talking about this. I've already received a few emails from elsewhere around the country telling me that this is increasingly standard practice -- I know, for example, that it is the case in Washington, D.C. Seems simple and fair and appropriate.

[this portion of the next paragraph has been redacted at the request of individuals connected to 100 Saints You Should Know.]

And please, please tell me what else George's post could be construed to be? (In an off-the-record phone chat I had yesterday about this, someone actually said, "That's not a review...that's an expression of one person's opinion.")

If what George wrote and posted was unquestionably and indisputably a review (and everyone seems to agree about that) -- a review written and posted in exchange for accepting professional press comps -- why is he exempt from the same expectations as other critics: to wait until the agreed-upon day to publish his review? (Oh, and if Playwrights Horizons did intentionally hide the date of the show's opening, as some suggest, you can find it very clearly in the theatre's press materials as well as on Martin Denton's website and, among other URLs. And what prevented George from asking when the opening is? What's to fear? What is Playwrights Horizons going to do -- say "We're giving you these comps, George, but only if you don't ask us when the show opens"?

My problem is George is only too happy to say this is all Playwrights Horizons’ fault, issue and problem, and that ethical standards in this matter do not apply to him -- that he was offered tickets with no restrictions, that he chose to advantage of it fully, and that he owes absolutely no one, least of all any of the artists that we are all supposedly in favor of supporting, anything at all. The fact that he left at intermission is, yes, a whole other issue, but he could have written and posted the same review whether he had stayed for the second act or not.

Ethical standards must be expected of anyone who accepts professional comps in exchange for writing, publishing, uploading or posting something, including reviews, on their blogs or sites. If it wasn't a review George or anyone else wanted to post, well, hey, post all your want. You want to write a review? Wait until the press day. And I frankly don't care what games Playwrights Horizons wants to play on this issue. If this is what they wanted for Kate Fodor and her play -- great PR and upset and chatter -- so be it.

Blogger-critics are not, and must not be viewed as, a second class of citizens -- what is why I'm harping on the "separate but equal" analogy, which I think is entirely apt (Matt Freeman can disagree all he wants—I’m still using it).

I want blogger-critics to be part of the fray, equally valued, not some relegated second class. Yes, that means adhering to the same ethical standards as everyone else. And what on earth would be so shockingly terrible about that? It would give blogger-critics tremendous respect, power and influence over and above the voice they have right now. And I support that 100%.

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Moving On IV

Just caught more apologias on Alison Croggan's blog. I posted some responses to what is now becoming a free-flow of attacks on me, including from one person, posting anonymously, who now accuses me of fucking people's pets. And I'm hyperbolic? At least now we know what Dick Cheney does when he's hiding in his bunker.

Anyway, the fight goes on. If you don't want to read, please don't visit, and please don't link. Let me just assure you -- there is no agenda here other than what is right, what is ethical. And if you can't understand that part of this is to demand that blogger-critics be part of the critic-journalist community, not a segregated second class, then please, again, please, please don't stop by. You don't get it.

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Moving On III

Much as I want to move on, if people keep posting comments requiring responses, I'll respond. As always, you're welcome to move on if you don't like what I post. Please, please do.

Allison writes,

I think you've got your targets mixed up, Leonard. If you want "separate but equal", then theatres ought to invite bloggers along on opening night like everyone else. (That's what happens here). And your beef - if indeed it is a question of professional ethics - seems to me not to be with George, who transgressed no understandings, but with the theatre company that issued the invitations in the first place. Have you taken this issue up with them?
I reply,

I think your targets are mixed up, Allison. I am not advocating for "separate but equal." I think "separate but equal" is wrong, and if you've read the post you'd know that. Indeed, the headline of the post in question read "Why Do Bloggers Endorse and Embrace "Separate But Unequal"? and the last line of my post read "Why would anyone, in 2007, endorse and embrace the idea of separate but equal? Didn't we resolve that a long time ago? Maybe you're drinking out of different water fountains, too." So I'm not embracing it, I'm saying it shouldn't be as such.

[this paragraph has been redacted at the request of individuals connected to the production of 100 Saints You Should Know.]

You can also call the three press agents I have called so far to discuss this matter and ask them what we discussed. My solution -- which is explicitly stated and, I think, quite clear in Moving On II, is: " position is to bring certain blogger-critics into the fold, not to keep them out of it. If they're good enough to be comped, to publish reviews, to be used to generate buzz, they're surely good enough to play by the rules, whatever they might be." That's not 'separate but equal,' Allision. That in the fold with everyone else and considered quite equal.

Further, my beef is with George and Playwrights Horizons. This idea that George, because he was given comp tickets, is suddenly freed like some shackled animal from any ethical questions or professional concerns or expectations is nonsense. And Playwrights Horizons is breaking its compact with its artists and with the rest of the media by saying bloggers are fully welcome to review a production in an early preview but the rest cannot. That must not and will not stand, and no, I will not drop it.

Statler writes,

"Dear oh dear. Way to go about making a fuss over nothing.

2 separate issues going on here and it's best to treat them seperately. Firstly the part about reviewing a preview - this is almost entirely about being fair to the production. Given that Playwrights Horizons provided George with the tickets on the basis he would write about it, and with no suggestion of any form of embargo there really shouldn't be anything else to be said on this. As Alison says, if you really have a problem with this take it up with the company.

The second aspect of publishing a review having left at the intermission I have more of a problem with. Given that George has stated the tickets were on the basis he would write about it "after seeing the performance" it does seem inappropriate to write about it after seeing half the performance. To me, this has breached the conditions on which the tickets were provided. I think George really had 2 options at the interval - stick it out and write his review or alternatively leave, pay for the tickets and not write the review.

For my own site, we decline press tickets as it allows us more freedom to react honestly and means we are under little or no obligation to the theatre to write anything at all. But we also generally try to avoid commenting on previews.

But seriously, this really shouldn't be a big deal. Let it go.

I reply,

There are indeed two separate issues going on here, but I maintain and will continue to maintain: "This idea that George, because he was given comp tickets, is suddenly freed like some shackled animal from any ethical questions or professional concerns or expectations is nonsense." And I have taken it up with Playwrights Horizons, a representative of which called me yesterday because now they're concerned, apparently, that negative publicity might be a problem, or to explain their "side" of the story, or something like that. I would advise you not to tell me what to do or what to write. If I choose to make this a public issue, that's my choice.

When you discuss the problem of George having left at the intermission and that being wrong because it "breached the conditions on which the tickets were provided," the problem here is precisely that no conditions were apparently provided whatsoever, and George took that to mean that was required to hold, or to demonstrate, or to espouse any personal ethics or responsibilities in that situation of his own, only one of which is to see the entire performance if you're going to write a formal review of it. According to Matt Freeman and Aaron Riccio (that defender of all things George Hunka, apparently) -- and I'm more or less paraphrasing, not quoting -- Playwrights Horizons basically said they could write anything they wanted to, so George did. I'm not saying Playwrights Horizons is innocent here by any stretch. I'm saying that just because Playwrights Horizons or any other group says, "Here are the comps -- equal to the comps we give to all the critics -- but we're not going to hold you to any ethical standards whatsoever," that doesn't mean George or anybody, as part of a community, really is freed of ethical or professional questions or concerns or expectations or responsibilities.

And as far as letting it go, no. Period.

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A Good Example of the Blogger-Critic Problem

...can be found at this string at That Chat.

The difference is these people bought tickets to see 100 Saints. Yes, anyone can buy a ticket and write whatever about it they like. The difference is these people are not sanctioned by Playwrights Horizons with professional comps and encouraged to write reviews before all the other reviews come out.

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