Thursday, February 16, 2006

My thoughts on Tricia Oszlewski

At the risk of shocking, angering, or even offending some of my colleagues in the theatre world, some of whom have respectfully desired my opinion, I'll say this: Honestly--I think what happened to Tricia is absolutely unfair. She got jobbed. The Post should reinstate her.

Yeah, I've fought battles with critics before. But only in a specific sense. If you are serving the Washington Post, then keep your jaunts to the 212 to yourself. No one in DC gives a rat's ass about whatever international tourist pandering nonsense is playing between 7th and 8th, and no theatrical practicioner in NYC cares about the opinions of the Washington Post.

I can't remember if Tricia was nice to me in reviews or not nice to me, whether she aided or abetted the interests of the theatrical company I work for or if she didn't. Probably a generous mix of all of the above. I've learned to be pretty sanguine about critics. My attitude is that if you can't handle a bad review, well, there are plenty of things you can do in your spare time that won't subject your ego to bruising--so unless your primary care physician has prescribed a life in the theatre for you, go fucking do something else. Conversely, if you get a good review as an actor, you should credit your director and your scene partners, because they had as much if not more to do with your success than you did. I mean, let's not get started sucking our own dicks just because we mastered the inscrutable arts of walking and talking. I am happy when the show I'm in gets a good review, sad when it doesn't, and if you've ever been in the position of being told you're the only good thing about a show, well...you probably didn't contribute enough to the project to make it work. There are no solo artists in theatre, people.

So, good humor toward the slings and arrows, a dose of humbleness to praise. You'll find that if you ever get a gaggle of actors talking about their bad reviews, maybe after a few rounds, they'll talk about them with the swagger of a guy with battle scars. Hey, if you know this blog, you know I have the space to set it off as I see fit. If you want it, you can come get my arrogant best for free right here. But if you fork over some hard currency to be entertained by me, then I think you deserve some humility from me, and I'll give you what you're owed. That's just how I roll.

With that in mind, let's get back to Tricia, a woman more sinned against than sinning. From what I can tell, Tricia has been suspended by the Washington Post from reviewing theatre for the singular stupid reason that she made this quip on her blog:

... drama nerds can find my snooty takes on local theatah on washingtonpost.com. Help make MovieBabe a success so I don't have to see any more pretentious plays!

A sentiment she immediately couched by saying:

Disclaimer: Movie Babe is not insinuating that all productions in the Greater Washington, D.C. area take themselves too seriously. Just some of them. And by some, I mean many that I'm sent to.

Now, I tried, really hard, to take myself to a place where I could let myself get, you know, all hot and bothered by this, but, you know what? It felt like a real stupid exercise. Far be it from me to deny someone who'd rather trade discussion of Death of a Salesman for a lifetime of critiquing the sequel to Big Momma's House their dream, thought I.

But let's be honest with ourselves, theater-types, just for a moment. Deep down, you know damn well that you've got that totally awkward and pretentious side to you. Okay? Just admit it. You'll feel better. We all know that if you have the chance to really get down and spill your Really Deep Thoughts about the verfremdungseffekt or Denis Diderot or what chapter of the Poetics is your favorite or how SHKSPR PRJCT is the most trenchant and important piece of drama you ever saw, you're gonna let spill. Seriously. Bring a tape recorder the next time you and your colleagues go out to the bar and listen to yourself the next morning.

You know what? It's okay to have that side of yourself. Really, it is. It's honestly not that great a sin. Anyone who's passionate about something has got that side to them. And most great plays get over on a healthy dollop of sin: pretention, arrogance, larceny...I did a play once that literally involved breaking and entering--hell, I've even indulged in some petty theft! It's all forgiven if you give that paying crowd the bang for their buck. When the curtain drops, you put that shit in the background and, above all, spare your patrons the didacticism.

If we in the theatre community have hounded Tricia out of a job for the grievous sin of jocularly calling us out for being pretentious, then we should be absolutely fucking ashamed of ourselves. I mean...think about it: she's fired because something she wrote--something that harmed no one!--on her blog. It's one thing to take to your own blog and offer a counterpoint--that's all well and good, and hey, go ahead and be as vicious as you wanna be. But to take it to the level of her getting fired? For a trivial, offhand comment? That's just ineffably, indisputably, intolerably WRONG.

I would like to ask the Washington Post to please, pretty please, reinstate Tricia at the earliest possible convenience. And I'd like to invite Tricia to continue to feel free to excoriate me in its pages whenever she deems fit. And if you're out there, Trish, the next time you'd like to catch a flick, it's on me.

POSTSCRIPT:
So, next time I respond to an email harangue, I'll see what Trey says first. Tricia remains gainfully employed at the Post. This makes me glad. I still think the circumstances in which she got shouted out as a theatre critic was bush league. Her bloggy aside just doesn't rise to a threaten-a-persons-employment offense. Anyway, TETS.