Thursday, November 01, 2007

Jewish Theater of New York Megillah, Part II

All of us journalists got another press release today from the Jewish Theater of New York, mostly to respond to the Page Six story that ran earlier today in which Sam Sifton, culture editor of the Times, said the company's revival (revisal?) of Last Jew in Europe is not going to be reviewed because, to put it in strict dramaturgical terms, it's stinky poo.

And while I know I shouldn't add to the (distinctive lack of a) media furor by posting the press release here, the gall, the chutzpah, the nuttiness of this is nihilistically fabulous.

For Immediate Release

Abe Cohen, 212.494.0050
Will The Culture Lords of The New York Times Stop Accusing The Jewish Theater of New York with Classic Anti-Semitic Trash of "Degenerate Art"?

Responding to accusation by The Jewish Theater of New York that The New York Times engages in censorship by its refusal to review LAST JEW IN EUROPE, Culture Editor of the Times, Mr. Sam Sifton, told The New York Post today that the Times refuses to review the theater's works because the theater "has been putting on substandard work for more than a decade and was showing no sign of improvement." To spice it up just a bit, he added some pretty nasty and disgusting comments about our Artistic Director, Mr. Tuvia Tenenbom, assassinating his character, abilities and talents.

Like the good European anti-Semites of ages past who loved to engage in selective quoting of the Bible to prove the lower qualities of the Jews, Mr. Sifton and Mr. Lyman seem adept at their own selective quoting. But the question is: Have we really put substandard work for the past decade? Not according to reviews by The New York Times' own critics. Only last September, covering one of our shows in Frankfurt, Germany the Times called it "bluntly satirical" and adequately reported of its "successful run in New York." This, of course, is not the only review we got in the Times in the past decade. To refresh the memory of the Sam Siftons of the world, we take the extra step of quoting some other Times' reviews of our shows:

"Effectively satiric, provocative and expertly acted." Anita Gates, reviewing THE LAST VIRGIN

"A buoyant play...whose lessons outweigh its laughter." Lawrence van Gelder, reviewing THE BEGGAR OF BOROUGH PARK

"Skin crawling." Peter Marks, reviewing LOVE LETTERS TO ADOLF HITLER

"Irresistibly fascinating, emotionally explosive, seductive and engaging." D.J.R. Bruckner, reviewing FATHER OF THE ANGELS

But we should not go on quoting critics of the Times, let's quote Mr. Sifton himself, in his own comments to The New York Post on March 21 of this year: Responding to our accusation that the Times engages in a boycott against our theater by refusing to review LAST JEW IN EUROPE last spring, Mr. Sifton flatly denied "any boycott," claiming that no review appears of LAST JEW IN EUROPE because "there's simply no room for them all."

How fast the story changes! Mr. Sifton should better read his comments and compare them; and if he's bipolar, he should consult a psychiatrist soon--we're sure the Times has a nice benefits package. And if he has time, and capable of reading English, he should start reading the Times' critics' reviews of our shows before he blows off. If for some reason he can't find copies of past reviews, he's welcome to our website, as we have posted copies of Times' reviews for his convenience.

And what about our current, "substandard" show? Corriere della Sera, Italy's leading daily, reviewed LAST JEW IN EUROPE and this is what they had to say: "Soul-penetraiting comedy of errors by one of the most iconoclastic and innovative of contemporary dramatists." Haaretz, Israel's prestigious daily, called it "Flammable Jewish soap opera." Yedioth Ahronot, Israel's leading daily, called it "an amazing show." Theaterhute, Germany's venerated theater magazine, called it "first rate comedic farce." But, of course, what do they know? Only Sam Sifton and Rick Lyman, both of whom never visited our theater, know what's good for you and your soul. Long live the Spanish Inquisition. Facts don't matter. We will tell you what's good, change the story whenever it fits our agenda--and you better follow us. Or else we'll assassinate your character, your talents, and change your past as well. Because we got power. Behave well, do the shows that we like--kinda bash Bush one more time--and we'll cover you. Anti-Semitism? Give us a break! And do make sure that what you do is also to our taste. You must show "signs of improvement," or we'll make you stand at the corner. And be warned: You must please us. Because if some of our critics don't like what you got to say, like making fun of Madonna and the Kabbalah Centre, watch out: We are going to bury you live. This is democracy, this is freedom, this is culture, this is liberalism. You must do what we like. First Amendment, as brought to you courtesy of The New York Times culture and theater editors.

The last time we heard of this kind of smear campaign was during the Nazi regime of not so long ago. They had a name for it: Degenerate Art. Sam and Rick call it "Substandard Art." Interesting.

To our mind, their behavior is chutzpah at its highest. A thought-police in the heart of Manhattan. Simply unbelievable.


The Jewish Theater of New York
15 Penn Plaza, B53, New York City
Mail: P.O.B. 845, Times Square Sta., New York, NY 10108

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Anonymous said...

Looks to me like some people in this city have real balls and they fight for what they believe--even if risking the ire of the Big God, New York Times. Is that what makes you so mad? I for one vote for them; they seem more REAL folks than you. My advise to you: Stop kvetching and start busying yourself with some other issues.

Leonard Jacobs said...

My advice to you, since you're clearly connected to the Jewish Theater of New York -- is to fuck off. In America, having a too-eager trigger finger for the anti-Semitism card is a terrible thing. Hundreds of theatres aren't covered by the Times every day -- leaping in and screaming "anti-Semitism, anti-Semitism" is just counterproductive. If I didn't think the company had balls, I wouldn't have posted that post. But I think it's penny-wise and pound-foolish and that the name-calling is unsubstantiated and hysterical.