Damn it, Neal's right. He reminds me both that my blog is not a place to be politically correct and that my critical asides on the quality of Portland acting are not gratuitous--it is indeed poor, in comparison to the theater I know from elsewhere, at least. No--to head off a retort--my own acting is no better than the average performance, in Portland. But, that's not necessarily the point.
My instinct to pull my punches with an apology comes from two sources: my own deep insecurity about not being a very good actor and my desire not to anger any potential local producer or director, which my anonymous critic may well be. Now, whereas nothing I say will improve or harm my own acting, I could, indeed, run into trouble with overly sensitive local producers and directors. Well, this is what I realize: I have been working enough for several directors to know what I'm like, and I have made solid alliances and friendships in the theater community that will allow me to take part in making good theater, in Portland, regardless of what I say here, or at least, regardless of what I WOULD say here (trust me, I don't say EVERYTHING I think, and I don't name call. You'll note that most of my references to named persons are positive.)
Note that this blog is not anonymous. I think there is a place for anonymity--e.g., Followspot wouldn't be possible without it--but for me, one way I try to be a solid citizen and member of a local arts community is by acting and speaking as transparently as possible. I deeply believe that we change ourselves and others best by acting and speaking with as much transparency, and as little duplicity, as possible, even to the point of risking exposure to those who would take advantage of us. I'll give you an example: when I lived in Missoula, MT., I moved through a community made up of writers, on the one hand, and, through my now-ex wife, social and political activists, on the other. I owned my own, small house, drove a nice car, and had furniture that matched. This made me quite wealthy in comparison to our social circle, and my social circle never quite trusted me, because of it; I think they had a hard time reconciling my self-avowed liberal principles with my economic security. I wanted very much to reassure them, to court their approval, and to hide my access to a family inheritance that made my life style possible. I didn't do any of those things. Everyone knew that I'd inherited money. For me, it was a political act not to hide it. I was saying, "yes, wealth inequality sucks, and there are more people out here who are getting by only because they have help from someone else--I'm an example--so don't believe all those people who keep harping that you should be pulling yourself up by your bootstraps." Of course, since my political act was no more than my choice to live honestly and openly (do you think Karl Marx would have NOT lived on a trust fund while writing Das Kapital if it had been available to him?) the point was, indeed, lost on many. But, I know in my gut that my choice to be as transparent as possible had honor, and contributed to an important debate, even if it could be excruciatingly uncomfortable, for me.
Also, I lived 28 years of my life on the east coast, where standards of debate are markedly stiffer than they are, here. Commentary in Time Out can get as sophomoric and pouty as the most stupefying, immature reviews seen in The Mercury or The Willamette Week, but it tends to have more teeth, too. The skin of artists also tends to be thicker on the east coast than here. They demonstrate more commitment to art than they do their own self-image as "artists."
So, I will try not to censor myself, after all. I'll always try to avoid gratuitous insult--I'll never name call--but I won't boil away my brains to make them bland enough to be served up to some overly sensitive palates.
Another thing Neal is right about: the most average of Off-Off Broadway is stellar next to the average work scene here, and as good as the best. Last year, I saw a series of character sketches at a coffee house in Tribeca better than anything I've seen here, with the exception of Third Rail's productions, which are first rate. I once saw a production of Tartuffe for $15 in a ratty, second floor office space on eighth avenue that kicked the ass of any classical work I've seen in Portland. Last season, one of the best shows I've ever seen was The Trojan Women, done by Harlem Classical Theater (I also saw once a wretched, cringe-producing Lysistrata, in Williamsburg, but the audience was drunk, so it didn't matter.)
Look. I'm a nice guy. Really, I am. I'll buy you a beer if you tap my on the shoulder sometime and mention this blog. And, I'm actually quite positive about the future of Portland theater. We have more good actors than we did four years ago, when I first got back into town after an eight year absence (PATA is doing it's share of the heavy lifting to raise standards,) and I sense the stirrings of a genuine audience, out there, an audience that can only be generated by having seen some theater it likes (I'm thinking of CoHo, which seems to be building a new audience.) I don't snipe that often, in point of fact, though Droubay has tested my resolve and good taste more than once. All in all, I'm a rather bubbly guy and fond of local theater people.
But, this is my blog, and I'll kevetch if I want to.
Thanks for the nudge, Neal.