POST

Letter to the editor

Dear Editors,
For 7 years I have worked for Urban Theatre Projects, the company which produced Fa’afafine, reviewed in your last issue (RT47 p38). As you know, I have never complained or taken issue with any review of any UTP show appearing in RealTime (nor any other publication). There have been negative or mixed reviews of our work in the past. Most of these I have agreed with. The rest I saw as valid assessments which I happened not to share. I would never dispute your right to publish them.

But what am I to make of the “Will Rollins” review of Fa’afafine?

Yes, I know you’ll respond that its not a review but a response to the work.

Well, yes. A response that reads as sneering, patronising and utterly unprofessional. No wonder its author didn’t have the guts to run it under their real name.

The clear implication is that Brian Fuata doesn’t need an audience, he needs a therapist. This is dressed up in a kind of why-should-I-listen-to-a-tired-self-indulgent-recitation of “his prose poems about his mummy” because-aren’t-we-all-over-personal-narrative world weariness.

Okay, so it’s trying to be funny and perhaps I’m missing the humour. To publish this opinion in an anarchist zine or an undergraduate paper would probably be mildly amusing. And perhaps a little levity, a little iconoclasm wouldn’t go astray in the oh-so-serious world of contemporary performance. I shall wait with interest to see if this is a sign of a new editorial policy for RealTime. Because at the moment every other article but this one takes itself and its subject seriously. So why is this show singled out for clumsily camp satire?

And why is it published under a false name? You write that “RealTime allows the use of pseudonyms where the writer might be placed in a difficult position in respect of their employment and/or the community they belong to. It is not treated lightly.”

Difficult position? Have I missed something? I know the political climate is grim right now, but are there secret police files on reviewers? Contemporary performance death squads, perhaps? An opening night blacklist?

Call me old-fashioned, but whatever happened to standing up for your opinions? Engaging in public discourse carries responsibilities, as the Heffernan outrage has just shown. Is that too difficult a position for you, “Will Rollins”? And RealTime editors, what were you thinking? No other worthwhile journal would allow such a piece to be published pseudonymously. (The last time it happened at the Sydney Morning Herald was a decade ago—and the writer was sacked.) Imagine the (justified) uproar if I, as the producer of this show, had written in praise of it, under a false name.

I welcome critical dialogue around our work and always have—I’d just like to know who I’m talking with. Brian Fuata, aged 23, had the guts to state his position(s). “Will Rollins”, who are you? From what position were you reading this work? Why don’t you let the readers in on the secret? And don’t tell me it’s not relevant—if that were the case, you’d have published under your own name. I know you well enough to know that.

Harley Stumm
Executive Producer, Urban Theatre Projects

Response

Harley Stumm’s letter includes reference to our response to his first message to us. The relevant points are reproduced here:

Dear Harley,

1. We think you have misinterpreted what is fundamentally a supportive if idiosyncratic review, hardly the “why-should-I-listen” response you portray. We see the writer as attentive to the words, in fact wanting to focus on them more clearly.

In our reading of Rollins review, we saw it as taking pleasure in Fuata’s performance, especially his new persona, praising the director for shaping that persona, astonished at the extremes of what the performer describes, and critical only of the disjunction between Fuata’s delivery and the staging of it.

2. RealTime allows the use of pseudonyms where the writer might be placed in a difficult position in respect of their employment and/or the community they belong to. It is not treated lightly.

3. We do not censor commissioned writers. Commissions are rarely rejected.

Regards,
Managing Editors
RealTime

RealTime issue #48 April-May 2002 pg.

© RealTime ; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 April 2002