Nicely written, Mr. Belz.
Re: "Vesper, a white person born in the 1970s..." I think this might be the same Pamela Vesper who ran for the NC Court of Appeals in 2010 (see: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/pamela-ma…) and was born in 1966. She's almost 50 years old, and she's worked in a profession (law) that is all about research. I think she could have pieced together a few essential facts about blue-collar black comedians and the intent of this play had she wanted to. I think there's a political angle that's being buried here. She cites visual artists Serrano and Ofili, who were both used during culture war battles about what should and shouldn't be considered art. If she's tried to seriously engage with playwright Lee or with Serrano and Ofili, you can't tell from the review excerpts we see here. Vesper's writing about this play and Serrano and Ofili comes across as reactionary, and paints all of this art as a grift meant to separate decent people from their money. It all may well be mediocre art, for all I know, but it's the job of the critic to explain that a little better than "because I say so."
I believe one of the artists mentioned is actually Sally Van Gorder, not Gordon.
Damn good read. You summed up my thoughts precisely with this text:
In order to write about such negative representations, a critic must know about them. But one way in which white privilege manifests itself in our culture is by sheltering a white community from the true history of neglected adjacent communities.
I don't understand why Pamela Vesper has received the bulk of the criticism. Kurt Benrud is also credited with co-writing the review. I take it he wasn't even present, but then, why was his name attached to this review?
Also, if you visit the website, the review has been replaced with a retraction, but this retraction is also credited to Kurt Benrud and Pamela Vesper! Did they author the retraction as well?
Or... are we talking about a website that has a very tenuous understanding of the basic rules of attribution?
Oops, no, it was James Morrison (sorry Craig, if you're reading this!)
Ah, takes me back to the time an Indy reviewer (was it Craig Livingstone? I honestly can't remember) walked out on Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, declaring it fascist, pro-Bush propaganda, without staying to the conclusion that undercut that exact theme.
Critics -- they're human too. Who knew?
Thank you for this insightful and incisive analysis, Byron!
Thank you for these comments, DeafBowTie. We always seek the most widely accepted, up-to-date and respectful terms for different abilities, and we appreciate advice as to what they are. I would note that we never use the phrase "hearing impaired people" in the story. We do say "patrons with impaired hearing" in the headline, a phrasing we hoped would make it clear that the patrons are not impaired as people or defined by their hearing status -- rather, it is something they have.
As arts editor, that is my standing policy: We say "people with ___", not "_____ people." I welcome feedback on this policy, and I do take your point about the word "impairment" having a negative connotation regardless of the syntax. We'll think carefully about our usage of the word in the future.
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Please be advised that the term, “hearing impaired” is unacceptable. Here is the explanation:
The term "Hearing Impaired" is a technically accurate term much preferred by hearing people, largely because they view it as politically correct. In the mainstream society, to boldly state one's disability (e.g., deaf, blind, etc.) is somewhat rude and impolite. To their way of thinking, it is far better to soften the harsh reality by using the word "impaired" along with "visual", "hearing", and so on. “Hearing-impaired” is a well-meaning word that is much-resented by deaf and hard of hearing people. This term was popular in the 70s and 80s, however, now is used mostly by doctors, audiologists and other people who are mainly interested in our ears "not working."
While it's true that their hearing is not perfect, that doesn't make them impaired as people. Most would prefer to be called Deaf, Hard of Hearing or deaf when the need arises to refer to their hearing status, but not as a primary way to identify them as people (where their hearing status is not significant).
We are deaf, and not people with impairments (obstacles) in life!
Hope that you and your people respect by refusing to use the outdated and offensive term. Hearing loss is more acceptable for everyone who is not just deaf.
Criticizing Grayson's wife's appearance does not contribute to the conversation. The comments section is the equivalent of the INDY's bar. If you don't follow the rules, you don't get to drink here.
What rules did it violate? It was no different than some of the other comments that still stand here. Also, he can attack others in his editorial, but people attacking him is not allowed? Lame.
CJ's most recent comment was deleted because it violated the INDY's comment policy.
Thank you for your advice, CJ. I'm glad this year-old article spoke to you.
Grayson Currin is a jaded, snark try-hard. Left out a huge detail as to why this is event was created in the first place? Not shocking, it would undermine his ability to mock the people involved and over-contextualize the meaning behind it in order to appear intelligent. Hey Grayson, you're a clown and Raleigh knows it. Even your friends speak ill of you behind your back. Grow up and get a life.
Byron, thanks for all your kind words!! However, as much as I'd like to take partial credit, as one of the readers and a director of this year's 10x10, I think the credit must go to Artistic Director Jeri Lynn Shulke!! She upped the ante this year by asking for submissions that were 'about something'! Scripts that reflected our life and times. I think this was a brave move; it made it a very different festival, and as you, and all the other reviewers, have stated, it payed off, big time. I am very proud to be a part of this years 10x10, and equally proud of Jeri Lynn! Sometimes you have to take a chance and not underestimate your audience!
Another reason for the strong lineup this year, and I would agree that it is the strongest lineup of past years, was the decision by Artistic Director Jeri Lynn Shulke to take a risk in the plays she called for. In her submission request she asked for socially conscious pieces that dealt with economic and politically charged subjects. I applaud her for venturing outside the normal lineup for this event. As a director this year I was proud to be a part. As an actor part of me was disappointed not to be involved in some of these strong scripts. I also give much credit to the illustrious group of local directors and actors involved. I am proud to have contributed my small part.
Well, at the Republicans can't be blamed, which must disappointing to Indy!
Byron Woods review of the Color Purple presented by The Justice Theater Project (JTP) negates the brilliant performance by incorrectly focusing on the lack of enough portrayal of physical homosexual acts to satisfy Mr. Woods. This appears to be what Byron Woods would like the Color Purple stage play to be about but this is not what the author requires it to be. It’s her script. Her play. It does not belong to Mr. Woods.
Mr. Woods insists the central character is a “lesbian”. That label, and the implication that love means physical sexual acts, is precisely NOT how the author wants you to see Celie. The author rightly does not focus undue attention on homosexual physical acts. It could lead the audience to miss the crucial points of the play and of the importance of the relationship between Celie and Shug, and the other characters. For me, the main point is recognizing the abuse we rain down on each other through with-holding love, affection, respect, and caring. And conversely, the redemptive power of love and finding one’s own self-worth. This is not a play about homosexuality in 1920s/30s. It is a play that relates to each of us today regardless of sexual orientation. These themes in the play are critical not just for understanding the Color Purple performance but as a point of discussion relevant to our history, our present, and our future right here in Wake County. This is the reason JTP picked this play as part of our theme this season, which is “Voices that challenge … History, Race, and Education”. Our mission is not just to put on a performance but to be a ministry to “call to the fore of public attention the needs of the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed”.
The following, based on notes from the director, Deb Royals, can perhaps provide some insight to understand the play and the Justice Theater Project’s portrayal as being true to the author’s intent.
Alice Walker's novel was about Celie finding Celie - loving herself and other women - not necessary sexually or nonsexually - women like Sophia and Nettie and Shug - the story is NOT just about her sexual relationship with Shug - it is about all her relationships including the one she finally creates with herself.
The story as a whole is a "womanist" novel. The screen play and the script we bought rights for, and which Alice Walker approved, did not solely focus on the sexual relationship with Shug. JTP would have been in breach of our rights contract to try and change the script. It is bigger than that - it is Celie's story about finding and then loving herself despite herself - her realities as a black woman living in a time when the repercussions of our country's history continued to take a toll on black women. Remember also that what we see in both the film and then the stage play is not the novel. If you are expecting the novel - the play is not that.
Walker was motivated to capture the experience of black southern women in a deeply personal way. It was important to her that the novel speak to black women through the novel's tone and language. For her this included writing in African American folk speak (Luaret, 2000). It was also essential then for Walker to capture the unique experience of black feminists. For her the black "feminist" experience did not align with that of white feminists and it was essential that this distinction be made in her novel. She describes The Color Purple as a womanist novel. Walker coined the term “womanist” in her subsequent work, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens as a way to explain the worldview captured in The Color Purple. Walker explains: “The word feminist is fine, but it leaves out the particular background and culture of black women. Also, womanist is a word I thought the women in my community would understand. I remembered when I was [a] child if I got dressed up sassy in high heels or perfume, someone would say, ‘She looks like a womanish woman.’ So it sounds something like that” (Rosenfeld, 1982). This definition is key in understanding The Color Purple, who Walker is as a person, and the ultimate trajectory of her authorship and politics.
Jim Falanga, Vice-chair Board of Directors, The Justice Theater Project
JTP Education Action Committee
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