• Earnest Evanston

    Here’s is more evidence of black privilege. If any non-black criticizes art from a non-white they are deemed automatically racist and risk losing their livelihood. That’s what happened to Weiss, Chicago values, eh Commie Rahmmie?

  • Amadeo

    “Chicago Theater Accountability Coalition”? Sounds creepy, doesn’t it? Shades of “thought police”, no? Of course, there’s no reason not to think that the “ChiTAC” won’t expand its censorial powers so that they will have veto power over what kind of shows and what kind of scripts will be allowed on stage. I’m sure they’ll be able to detect hundreds “micro-aggressions” that would offend the sensibilities of any number of sub-groups within the American populace. It’s ironic that the very youngish demographic which is heralded for its “tolerance of diversity” should also be quick to call out certain opinions too diverse for their comfort zone as unacceptable forms of “diversity”.
    And, just exactly to whom are “they” accountable?

  • Not “The” Dude

    Perhaps someone will put on a play about Weiss — tragedy about a long-suffering reviewer doomed to sit through one pedantic piece after another and who, because of a talkradio worldview, is completely unable to appreciate any of the work on its own terms. The Banality of Weiss.

  • John-Luke Hamilton

    I just heard Sasha Smith interviewed on WGN radio and I disagree with her. I disagree with her and ChiTac that the most effective way of dealing with Heidi Weiss’ views and opinions are to deny her a free ticket because they disagree with what she published. I disagree with Ms. Smith’s perspective that denying a ticket will “protect the bodies up on stage”. I think she is misguided that someone expressing disagreeable remarks (I don’t personally see them as racist or bigoted, just inappropriate) will allow the actors and actresses to give stronger, better, performances. Actors should feel they did their job whenever they get a response, whether it be applause or boos, bravos or sneers. If ChiTac thinks no free ticket for Ms. Weiss will bring about the protection they feel is needed for their performers, then maybe they need to think about recasting. Acting requires thick skin no matter where the barbs are coming from. One anecdote: When Mike Pence attended “Hamilton” he was booed by some in the audience, and singled out by the cast for a plea to hear their concerns about the administration he was going to represent. Mr. Pence didn’t demand the show be shut down or even ask for a ticket refund. When he was booed, he responded “this is what freedom sounds like”, and to the plea from the cast he said he “wasn’t offended”. If the Hamilton production doesn’t see anything wrong with subjecting a an audience member to their personal and professional viewpoints, why should Ms. Smith feel the need to deny a critic to voice opinions that might not sit right with cast and crew? To paraphrase President Kennedy let us welcome controversial plays and controversial respondents.

  • TLCTugger

    It would seem Weiss is not being criticized at all for her theatrical critique. Rather, she just doesn’t belong in the pages of any respectable periodical because she’s a racist. “Black-on-black crime” is a dog-whistle term used by folks who want to scare white people. OF COURSE criminal people commit crimes against those in their proximity. How can one not notice that we tend to steer people to live in segregated pockets.

  • Willie Sam1

    Hedy has been doing reviews for decades and has a dedicated following. Her politics are not of the left but that is no reason to carry on a witch hunt against her. The crrtics always point to the same 4 incidents out of thousands of reviews she has written. A good solutio is that if you don’t like her reviews, don’t read them. AS for her comments about “black on black crime”, she is reflecting a common question that is raised: why are black activists, intellectuals, politicians and artists obsessed with the handful of incidents of poliice shootings while completely ignoring that a black man is shot every two hours in the streets of Chicago. This is a huge problem and it must be addressed amd tackled instead of ignored.

  • Guest

    “She has proven this by never, not once, apologizing to a party injured by her words.” Good for her!

    • jeffreysweet

      Do you feel the same about Donald Trump insulting women in his tweets?

      • atheist_gumi

        Really, you’re comparing Weiss, who did not hurt anyone, with Trump’s deliberate insulting and bullying of people? It is precisely because the umbrella of political correctness is more concerned with social taboos than with actual issues of right and wrong that people like Trump are able to take advantage of that to claim that their actual racist and sexist speech is merely “politically incorrect.”

  • 25th the 45th!!

    Sounds like Steppenwolf got it’s panties in a knot, worried about ticket sales as their audience is primarily white.

  • Zak Berkman

    Today and historically, the most genuinely impactful theatre critics are those who do everything in their power to provide a context for the piece of art they review: an aesthetic context, a social and civic one, how the piece connects to the artists’ previous endeavors, and an acknowledgment of their personal lens. When critics exhibit this kind of rigor and care, and prove articulate in their illuminations, they can shape, amplify, heal, push, awaken the fractured culture they are paid to observe and enhance. Reviews are not expressions of free speech. They are paid reports on the screams, whistles, kisses, and tears of a tilting planet. And when they fail to report with dimensionality and awareness. When they become editorials of individual taste and the exercising of chips-on-shoulders, then they deserve to be called out for their self-indulgence and harm. That’s not censorship. That’s a community not being served saying “We’re not being served!”. Denying free tickets is also not censorship. Rather it’s an acknowledgement that an abusive relationship doesn’t need to be sanctioned and perpetuated by those who feel abused. Among the many heartbreaks of this story is that so many wonderful artists are having to spend anytime dealing with this instead of creating their next extraordinary expression of grief or joy or wonder.

    • DookerT

      She isn’t being “called out” they are attempting to destroy her. Stunning that so many don’t seem to see the difference. Laymen’s to the theatre world, like me, are looking in at this thing and just double face palming. We see this in the same vein as the Evergreen State students hysterical reaction to Bret Weinstein and the subsequent shutdown of the campus due to that reaction.

  • DWLA

    It’s sad to me that in today’s climate, the only response people seem to be able to come up with to someone they disagree with is to attempt to silence them. It’s Orwellian.

    I know that withholding comp tickets isn’t really going to silence anyone, but that seems to be what they’re going for.

    How about if we continue with the time honored policy of providing comp tickets, let the lady do her job, and then disagree with her when she publishes?

    Are we really so afraid of the public debate?

    • James Ka’amoku Moulds

      Considering the debate happening right now I doubt anyone is afraid of it.

      The debate would be interesting if Weiss considered reviews an opportunity to assess the presentation of the material and the performances. She is under the mistaken impression that her audience wants to hear her political views.
      We want to know the quality of the productions. Since she clearly considers it an opportunity to promote her political ideology she might be better served by presenting herself as a political commentator who happens to like theater.

    • Zak Berkman

      “let the lady do her job” is problematic on so many levels…. but letting that go for the moment: why is it the time honored policy? If we dissect the rationale for this — it’s a belief in the potential for a respectful symbiotic relationship where art is created, experts provide articulate and insightful responses to contextualize and evaluate that art, and everyone grows in the process. That’s why artists offer their work for free to critics. But is such a reciprocal exchange happening in modern day theater — for both the artists and the critics? — or is it time, or at least understandable and fair, to consider alternate modes and models?

    • jeffreysweet

      Public debate? When she pulled something similar a couple decades ago (she’s been writing risible stuff for that long), I suggested we debate in front of an audience. No response. She’s not interested in a debate. Anybody who writes that Tony Kushner is “a self-loathing Jew,” should expect some push back. Anybody publishing the sentence in their newspaper should expect some push back.

  • Mary Tiner

    Waaaaa. Somebody call the wambulance! Grow up actors. Stop complaining. Plays are viewed and interpreted by each person differently, whether a patron or critic. And that’ what’s wonderful about the art. It can help us all see the world differently, whether we agree with it or not. So just do your job. Act your hearts out. And stop being cry babies.

    • Zak Berkman

      And this is a productive comment because?… If you actually value what actors do, then their emotional access is a vital quality you should embrace. If you want actors to relish the audience attending their work and offer their greatest effort to provide you a transcendant experience, why would you want them to imagine a cluster of judgmental and insulting people sitting in the house — which is the image you just provided? I imagine you read American Theatre because you love communal storytelling and are fascinated by all the layers of work and thinking that goes into it. If so, you are aware that this is a major moment of change in the field and with change comes a high degree of discomfort. And with discomfort comes emotional expression and conflict. This is normal and we should thank the artists for not hiding their light.

  • Shantel D

    For the longest time I thought the majority of white people were just stupid. I could never reconcile in in my head how so many of them didn’t understand simple truth’s in life, but now I understand it’s due to their lack of perspective, they’re one dimensional, they see everything either Black or white and they don’t want to change.

    Sure, black people kill Black people, but white people kill white people just as much if not more, it doesn’t stop them from trotting out the Black, Brown and Muslims scare me rhetoric and they have less of a chance at being killed by Black brown or Muslim people than Black people have to be killed by police. But all that is besides the point. Nobody asked her for her opinion on what the show should be about, they asked her about what she thought about the show , but she felt the need to wear her support of the police on her sloped forehead, I hope shes rewarded for it.

  • Michael Yawney

    In the passage quoted above, Weiss says that because there is black-on-black violence, that the playwright is wrong to portray a white racist cop within his work.

    Some are baffled by all the fuss about Ms. Weiss’ writing, but if you ignore her stylistic flourishes, the writing is itself baffling in its illogic.

    The common thread in so many Weiss controversies from Wicked, through Caroline, through Invasion, through Modern Art, is Weiss’ insistence that only plays that agree with her narrow political/social beliefs can succeed artistically. And she seems to believe that her readers share her same beliefs since she alludes to these beliefs rather than fully explaining them (as in the passage above where white racism is cancelled out by black-on-black violence). Maybe Weiss has a ” look of relief when the police arrive on the scene,” but many of her readers do not–and do not see relief in the video she refers to.

    Weiss is lucky that her reviews make little sense to readers outside of her own demographic. If they did, instead of theaters revoking comp privileges, she would have readers taking stronger action.

    • Pete McCutchen

      The playwright is a “her,” not a “his.” Or at least she appears to be female in the picture accompanying the article she wrote in response to the review.

      I really think we should disentangle a few things. First, the theater critic has a First Amendment right to write what she pleases about the play. Second, critics of the critic have every right to engage with and disagree with the critical review. And of course refraining from offering her free tickets is not censorship. She is still free to buy tickets and see plays. Nor do those putting on a play have to be “open to” being reviewed — anybody who wants to can go see a play and write a review of it.

      On to the substance of her review, then. I have no idea whether it is a valid critique of the play because I haven’t seen the play. And I am unlikely to do so, because I prefer to be entertained rather than hectored when I put out good money for a play.

      That said, the attacks on her seem a bit, shall we say, overwrought. I have read her review, and while it may be fair or unfair, valid or idiotic, only the most wildly oversensitive would claim it is racist or bigoted. Nor is it off base to discuss violence within the black community. It’s not a. dog whistle; it’s a very valid point. It may or may not relevant to the play, but it’s not out of bounds.

      • Michael Yawney

        You say that you have read her review, but as must be clear by now, that review is not the issue. Weiss has been doing this for many many many years. If this action were taken on the basis on one, or two, or even a dozen reviews, it would be overwrought. But this has been consistent for a long time. I do not live in Chicago, but read Weiss regularly because I enjoy her bat-shit nuttiness. However, if I ran a theater in Chicago, I might not be laughing as much as I read her reviews.

        • martin woyzeck

          You’re making excuses. She’s been doing what for many years? Giving her opinions? Uh, she’s a critic. You ,and others with your viewpoint need to grow up.

    • DookerT

      No, she didn’t say the playwright is “wrong” to portray a racist white cop , she said it was simplistic. Your whole assertion here lies on that premise, it is false. Nor did she say anywhere, at all, in any place, that “white racism is cancelled out by black-on-black violence”. You just made that up as well. She is questioning the narrative and its ultimate truth within reality.

      • Michael Yawney

        Generally, when people describe a portrayal as “simplistic” that means it is distorted or untrue in some way. If my use of the word “wrong” was taken to mean that Weiss was passing a moral judgement, I am sorry. I meant to say that she was describing this portrayal as inaccurate. I should have used Weiss’s own word, which was not “wrong” but “wrong-headed.”

        However, Weiss did indeed say “To be sure, no one can argue with the fact that this city (and many others throughout the country) has a problem with the use of deadly police force against African-Americans. But, for all the many and varied causes we know so well, much of the lion’s share of the violence is perpetrated within the community itself.” She is clearly saying that black-on-black violence somehow negates racist violence against African-Americans.

        And yes, you are right to say that she is questioning the narrative’s ultimate truth within reality–or rather attempting to do so. The larger point that Weiss’ sense of reality is colored by her own parochial vision, so she is really questioning the narrative against her biases.

  • atheist_gumi

    The Chicago theater scene is leftist, but it is certainly not liberal if it reacts to a critic’s opinion in this manner (and it is just an opinion, not hate speech, which, at least, would’ve made this overreaction understandable). And don’t be fooled by the “we’re not denying anyone free speech” excuse either. What is organizing this campaign, which includes smearing and attacking a person’s character in this egregious manner (often by deliberately misinterpreting quotes or taking things out of context) if not trying to punish or to limit someone for the crime of expressing an unpopular opinion. To then claim in the same breath that you are not against free speech is downright laughable. This identity politics group-think, the moral panic, the shaming by internet mobs, this intolerance to differing views (it seems that to many in the Chicago theater community, diversity is limited to race and sex only) – it’s all unfortunately indicative of a certain segment currently on the left, and as an old lefty, I find it all unprincipled and shameful.

    • Vincent Vizachero

      When a reviewer is unskilled and unable to do their job properly, who is in a better position to point that out than the community they are reviewing?

      • Willie Sam1

        If she is so unskillful then why has she had her job for decades?

        • Vincent Vizachero

          That’s a very good question for her editor.

          • martin woyzeck

            That’s quite the lame answer, since you’re the one that made the accusation that she’s unskilled. You’ve lost all credibility

          • Vincent Vizachero

            It’s rhetoric, bud. As a fan of literature and drama you should recognize it.

            How would I know the reasons she’s been able to hold on to her job for so long despite being very good at it? I could guess but I don’t see what purpose that would serve.

      • atheist_gumi

        And who better to shame Hester Prynne for adultery if not the community, right? First of all, this isn’t “pointing out.” No one is stopping you from critiquing Weiss’s review on blogs, theater sites, comments to the Sun-Times, etc. If you don’t like her reviews, don’t buy the Sun-Times. However, an organized public campaign which aims to shame, defame, and ostracize someone for expressing an opinion (Weiss has been straight up accused of racism, homophobia, and god know what else) is something else entirely. Not only is it incredibly cruel, but the charges are spurious. Art is interpretive, and you can’t just decide what everyone’s interpretation should be. It is perfectly reasonable, for example, for different people to view the role of the sole cop in this play as either a simplistic, ugly stereotype or as a depiction of a particular individual representing a real problem. What if, say, a black critic thought that the role of a black criminal type in some other play was a racist stereotype, would the “community” have a similar reaction? Besides, Weiss doesn’t write for the theater community, but for the public. Regardless, let’s not white-wash this internet lynch mob (I saw this ridiculous anti-Weiss petition going around) as a mere act of a “community expressing itself,” because 1) Weiss did not do anything unethical, and 2) the “community” is out of line.

        • Vincent Vizachero

          You aren’t stopping anyone from “critiquing Weiss’s review on blogs, theater sites, comments to the Sun-Times, etc” because you don’t have that authority or power.

          You do, however, seem to be suggesting that “critiquing Weiss’s review on blogs, theater sites, comments to the Sun-Times, etc” is “unprincipled and shameful”.

          So, do you support free speech or not?

          • atheist_gumi

            I suggest you reread my response because you clearly misunderstood what I wrote.

          • DookerT

            Do you not see the difference here between free speech, and a blackmailers charter? That there is absolutely something shameful about saying that Weiss is a racist, a homophobe, an anti semite, and that she is “behaving” in these ways, when that is obviously untrue to any reasonable person? Doing all of this while simultaneously trying to destroy her career via those accusations and in organizing a blacklisting of her all based on what any reasonable person would deem valid critique? To most, what Weiss wrote doesn’t look “unskilled” or remotely like she can’t do her job, it looks like a bunch of hair trigger ideologues who can’t handle a critique of their worldview. To most of the people I’ve seen on this thing looking in from the outside, like me, the behavior of the theatre in this is shameful.

          • martin woyzeck

            I agree. What’s happening nowadays in many situations is social media lynch mobs.
            The public has discovered the power of social media, and now they’re abusing that power as immature vigilantes.

          • martin woyzeck

            What you and others have become is a social media lynch mob. So not a lot of credibility . What you and others are doing is not free speech, it’s vigilantes making demands,and having tantrums.
            What a croc, you’re truly asking if someone supports free speech, as if you think you do, and then try to shut down this critic. What immense hypocrisy

          • Vincent Vizachero

            She’s free to write whatever she wants. I’m free to tell her I don’t like it. Neither of us is the government.

            Where does the First Amendment even come into play?

        • David X Novak

          In what is either a very serious charge (albeit unsubstantiated) or bit of defamation, the “offended playwright” elsewhere on this site (“When Critics Don’t Like Their Reflection”) makes the astonishing claim that Weiss’s “decades-long career is peppered with…downright unethical comments”. I’m no fan of Weiss but she’s serious about her business, and one should be hesitant to impute ethical lapses so casually—“smearing and attacking a person’s character” indeed!

      • martin woyzeck

        Considering the reviewer has been around for a long time, doesn’t seem like she’s unskilled.
        Realize that is merely your opinion, and a childish one

    • James Ka’amoku Moulds

      It is probably wise to remember that all of this has absolutely nothing to do with free speech rights. Free speech rights, as written into the Constitution, deals very clearly with governmental restrictions on speech. Private entities can refuse to provide a platform for any speech they disagree with. What Weiss is dealing with is the private push back on her objectionable reviews. Unless the government gets involved, there are no free speech issues being raised. Weiss is being subjected to “smearing” and “attacking” on the merits (or lack thereof) of her own words. If she wants to be a political pundit then perhaps she should identify herself as such. It is her pretending to be a theater critic when clearly wanting to push a political agenda that is getting her the negative response.

      • atheist_gumi

        Obviously, the First Amendment is not on trial here, but some of the principles behind it are. Do I have to explain to you how censorship works in this country? You can scare away advertisers and the public, and you can cause enough of a ruckus that the employer fires the offending party. You can defame a person, destroy their reputation, and hurt their financial and psychological state, which will have the added benefit of making others wary of what they say for fear that they will be similarly targeted. And for what? Did Weiss lie or commit a crime? She simply pontificated about a play. So, yes, this is a free speech issue and what makes it so is the form that this “push back” you mention has taken.

        And so what if Weiss got political. It was a political piece, after all. And even if she was to out herself as a conservative, what of it? Can’t conservatives review plays, or would Steppenwolf issue an edict against George Will if he were to suddenly become a theater critic?

      • Tom Denman

        The Play itself was political, therefore to review it was to enter the political arena.

        David Denman

        • DookerT

          So what? That doesn’t change the unethical nature of the backlash against her.

      • atheist_gumi

        This is about ethics. Just because something is legal, doesn’t make it right. And there are many ways of achieving censorship without government involvement. For example, the “community” can pressure companies to fire people whose speech they dislike. Additionally, targeting a person in a way which aims to shame, defame, and ostracize them can not only greatly damage them psychologically and financially, but this also has a chilling effect on free speech because it makes others wary about what they say for fear of being similarly targeted. I can understand using such methods to fight corruption or hate speech, but pontificating about a play is not some immoral act. So, yes, this is a free speech issue, and it is made so by the extreme form that this “push back” to Weiss (edicts from Steppenwolf, internet campaigns, etc.) has taken.

        And so what if Weiss got political. After all, she was reviewing a political piece. And even if she were to out herself as a conservative, what of it? Can’t conservatives review plays, or would Steppenwolf issue an edict against George Will if he were to suddenly become a theater critic and they didn’t care for his review?

        • Drewy Dale

          But you are not making an ethical argument because you refuse to weigh the harms you mention with the harm her reviews cause the community.

          • martin woyzeck

            BS….. You all have created an edict that it has harmed the community. That’s not fact, that is you choosing to believe that. Her review harmed no one.
            No one. It’s all of you as a theater community that need to grow up, act like adults, and realize not all reviews are going to be to your liking. That’s the bottom line….grow up.

      • DookerT

        The hollowness of this argument is becoming tiresome. “Free speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences” , is such a vacuous and weak response. What this argument is pleading for is a Blackmailers charter (coined by Gary Edwards as far as I can tell). It can be used to shout down, de-platform and destroy the career of anyone who steps out of ideological orthodoxy. As the atheist gumi here says, its about ethics, not legality.

      • martin woyzeck

        What a croc! She doesn’t have an ‘agenda’. Learn what the word is.
        Possibly a political slant, which everyone does.
        I’ve seen many critics bash Oliver Stone, not because his movies are bad, but because of his political view. Same with Michael Moore.
        And they take it like grown ups. But I forgot, we’re in a world of spoiled, crybaby millennials, who have tantrums if it’s not their way.
        No, you’re 100% in the wrong.
        And I don’t really know the critic. I heard about this uproar,and read her review.
        All of you are reading way too much into it. Realize that your interpretation of what she said is just that, an interpretation,nothing more.

    • martin woyzeck

      I’m too the Left, but yes, this is like liberal theater vigilante lynch mobs.
      And as you said, that they are saying they are for free speech is embarrassing, since they are obviously not for that.
      Being on the Left, I am surprised to see now a lot of immature tantrums from liberals and those on the Left, seeming like we can do this, but you can’t.