Tuesday, February 19, 2013

After Dark, February 19, 2013

When Mirvish says, "Jump!"
...what to do when a big producer throws its weight around
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

As a critic I have so been there/done that: refused reviewer's privileges by a specific company. This means no tickets for opening night (or any other night) and, in some cases, being cut from the mailing list. I've been down this road with Centaur Theatre, Espace Go, Cirque du Soleil and productions involving lyricist Luc Plamondon. In most of the cases, bridges were rebuilt and cordiality returned with the new season.

Now I'm a publisher and there's Mirvish, in Toronto, and the gentleman I've been trying to deal with there, John Karastamatis (or, as he is known in the city's theatre circles, John K.). I must name John K. because the operative word in the previous sentence is "trying". 

I love this about the site and this will never change.

It began with an op-ed by our columnist Joel Fishbane.  Whether I agree or disagree with Joel is not really germane (though, in this case, I very much agree with him). What is important to know is that the guiding philosophy of The Charlebois Post is to encourage all sorts of dialogue on all sorts of theatre. You will see opinions stated on this site with some of our own writers disagreeing in the comments section. Read, for instance, Cameryn Moore's response to Shannon Christy's review of Tristan and Isolde. I love this about the site and this will never change.

Who cares whether commercial theatre is of any value?

However, from the moment the op-ed appeared John K. took umbrage. Now, do not get me wrong, Mirvish had a right to be upset, but as we do in all these situations, we invited them to write a comment or, even, an article about the issues Joel raised. Mr. K.'s response was in fairly certain terms, "I'm happy to be part of any discussion about the value or lack of value of commercial theatre -- although I do think it is a spurious discussion. Who cares whether commercial theatre is of any value? It is what it is and those who want to go see those shows will go and those who don't won't go. End of discussion. But Mr. Fishbane's posting is not about that. It is specifically about why he thinks this particular THE WIZARD OF OZ is not worthwhile as a production. He can certainly have this opinion after he sees the production, but to state this publicly before he has seen the production is offensive, distasteful and, frankly, disingenuous. Shame on him for this kind of bullying and shame on the Charlebois Post for providing a platform for such so-called 'discussion.' End of my participation of this topic. Good luck."

To this point, I had let the Toronto Editor-in-Chief handle the business. Émilie Charlebois is one of the most level-headed people you would want to deal with and I can't say I was fond of Mr. K.'s tone towards her. As I expected, however, we were refused reviewer's tickets to Wizard of Oz. I contacted Randy Alldread, on Mr. K.'s staff, who had refused us tickets. "I was wondering if you might reconsider your decision for reviewer's tickets as the gentleman we would like to send [Stuart Munro] spent two months reviewing - and enjoying - every episode of Over the Rainbow in a lead up to your opening.  He is also one of our top reviewers on musical theatre. If not, could you tell me why we are being refused reviewers' privilege? I'm assuming it's because you have huge demand for the show, but I'd also like to state our case that we are now a nationally-read media outlet with a single website and, let's admit, this opening is national theatre news. Cheers!"

Mr. Alldread did not answer me. So be it. 

In the off season was a remount of Clybourne Park

Then things took a decidedly uglier turn. As those outside of Toronto may not be aware, the Mirvish organization has created a separate season called Off-Mirvish in which they present smaller productions, many of which are delightfully alternative or remounts of shows seen in Fringes or in smaller venues. In the off season was a remount of Clybourne Park, a show we had loved in its original Toronto production and very much wanted to see how it would work in a new venue. When we requested tickets we received a terse, "Thanks for your interest, Emilie. We will pass on this," from Mr. Alldred. 

It was now clear we were off the list. I stepped in again. "I am writing to find out what has happened that we are now being denied tickets to Mirvish productions. Since we have had a cordial relationship with you for over a year (and especially since our rave review of War Horse and our intensive and positive coverage of the series Over the Rainbow), I find it difficult to believe it is simply because of Joel Fishbane's opinion piece. It is important for me, and our thousands of readers, to know if there are other reasons as it is now becoming glaringly obvious to even the most obtuse that - although we are received at, and review companies of all sizes across the country - we are missing the productions of the biggest commercial entity in the nation. Clearly this has an effect on our reputation. Could you fill me in directly, please."

Everyone who had dealt with the organization told me it was virtually a lost cause.

None of the three members of Mirvish's PR team to whom this was cc'ed - Sue Toth, Mr. K. and Mr. Alldread - exhibited the common courtesy it would have taken to answer me. I began asking around and was given advice about handling this situation. Everyone who had dealt with the organization told me it was virtually a lost cause. Last Wednesday it got worse still, when I was reading discussions of Mirvish's new season all over Twitter and Facebook. So no longer was it a question of opening night privileges, it was now a question of Mirvish PR choosing who would be informed first (or at all) of their plans. We had been, in essence, black-balled.

Now, again, Mirvish has every right to deny us whatever kindnesses it extends to our colleagues and competitors. However they surely know that outlets like The Charlebois Post (and many of our fellow online publications) cannot even pay ourselves let alone buy outlandishly priced tickets so, in effect, Mirvish has shut us down. 

But there is more here: Mirvish has sent a clear message to all the outlets like ours to behave and, more chillingly, has reminded even the major outlets that if they get out of line they might not lose tickets but they may lose that swag, that invitation to the opening night bash, or, much more important, that ACCESS to Mirvish creators, movers and shakers and, especially, stars.  

Yes, The Charlebois Post can do without reviews of Mirvish. But let me put this bluntly: Mr. Karastamatis, it is you who should be ashamed of your piteous and profoundly misguided public relations and, in passing, an apology to all involved might be a good way to begin mending fences.


  1. They don't need you, that's the bottom line. They've got Ouzounian from The Toronto Star in their back pocket. There'$ the $tory you $hould pur$ue.

  2. I had not read any of the comments and looked for but did not find Mr Fishbane's original piece. I do not always agree with him as I don't always agree with anyone. I am inclined to be unimpressed with much that the general public ballyhoos about, and prefer smaller pieces, yet I don't usually care for 1 man shows. I like tight ensembles, not party tricks. So what. My opinion, Joel Fishbane's opinion, Gaëtan Charlebois' opinion: we've all got them. If there is any reason for art to exist it is to promote thought; to be thought provoking and to initiate a dialogue. For Mirvish productions to blacklist a writer and the entire team of writers of that organization he is representative of, seems to me to strengthen Fishbane's original argument. There is no value to a production that stifles the dialogue it is supposed to inspire and encourage. If it stays like this Mirvish has become the WalMart of theatre, but without the low prices.
    Jim Murchison

  3. Ouzounian from the Star in the pocket of Mirvish? Then why did he give Wizard of Oz a scathing review? Mirvish doesn't need outlets like the Charlebois Post not because they have 'bigger' reviewers in their pocket but because they're the only game in town. Not too long ago they tried to dictate when their shows would be reviewed. A few years ago Mirvish bought up a couple of Toronto theatres from under their sole competitor, effectively putting him out of business in the downtown, and now is trying to say that the city has too many theatres so they can demolish our newest and best venue to make way for a Mirvish vanity condo tower project. Commercial theatre in Toronto is in the sorry state it's in because of the Mirvish Monopoly.

  4. Piteous? Really, Gaetan?

    Reality check. Mirvish Productions is a going commercial concern that actually employs people - including large numbers of artists. The company pays a great deal in taxes and receives little or nothing in government grants. It puts up mainstream musicals, but also bold plays by Canadian creators including, next month, Mary Walsh's latest work. Mirvish Productions does more tangible good for Canadian culture and society every single day than all the delusional vanity websites in this country combined.

    You published a piece attacking a Mirvish show which the writer had not even SEEN. John Karastamatis at Mirvish got annoyed - not without reason - and took you off the comp list. You could have been classy and, without necessarily apologizing (though that would have been the decent thing to do), at least expressed regret for the prejudice, in all senses of that word.

    Instead you have written a petulant complaint in which you imply that you have a moral right to tickets you proceed to characterize as "outlandishly priced."

    You seem to have lost sight of your own place in the grand scheme of things. So here's a reminder. You've had an open question posted on your site for weeks: How much would people be willing to pay to subscribe to a website like this?

    Total number of responses: 31.

    That's not quite one row of seats at "The Wizard of Oz". Seats for which actual people pay "outlandish prices" every night.

    Piteous, indeed.

    Don't get me wrong. Self-publication is not in itself prima facie proof of triviality. Proust was self-published (at first). So was Virginia Woolf. And perhaps posterity will come to judge the Charlebois Post as having an equal, or at least non-zero, claim to cultural immortality.

    But perhaps not.

    Pending that judgement, you might consider being a little more modest in your claims and a little more conciliatory in your tone.

    If John K. decides to recant and give you your freebies back, it will be an act of charity.

    The saddest part is that even then, unlike most beggars, you may sincerely think you've earned what you got.

  5. Having read Mr. Fishbane's article, it seems clear there has been a misunderstanding. Mr. Fishbane was not attacking Mirvish or the production itself, but rather the play and the rationale behind it. If anything, he was attacking Andrew Lloyed Webber and the people who originally produced the show in the West End. Has anyone asked whether Mr. Fishbane saw the show in the West End?

    This is clearly a case of people not understanding the difference between a production of a play and the play itself.

  6. Well, Mr. Holden, you've certainly put me, the 30 writers who fill this site and our 5000 readers in their place! Mind, last week you wrote on my op-ed, "The existence of this web site testifies to an abiding love of the art form - a love that is, in its deepest essence, the very opposite of boredom. For that, Gaetan, I honor you." So forgive me for being confused.

  7. Your confusion, Mr Charlebois, probably derives from a distinction which you are plainly failing to make - between your love of theatre, which is laudable in itself, and the importance you seem to think that love confers upon your website.

    The citation of 5,000 readers and 300 writers is meaningless. Is that 5,000 readers a day? A week? Over the life of the site? Are they general readers or theatrical practitioners who come to learn what other practitioners think in a more or less closed system of commentary and response (in which I, as you can see, am a willing participant)?

    Why, among those thousands, have so few actually bothered to respond to the surely crucial questions about subscription which appear on every page of the site? Can there be so few in the throng who care?

    And what about these 300 writers to whom you allude? Are they gifted journalists and academics whose writings we are likely to find published in better-known outlets? The variability in style one finds on this site - to put it kindly - suggests not.

    Let's be honest, Mr Charlebois. This is a vanity site. This is a place where people whose views aren't likely to be published elsewhere come to air their thoughts. And that's great. I honor that.

    What this site is NOT is a professional (or semiprofessional, or incipiently professional) forum on which general readers depend for information about theatre or anything else.

    Which is why, when you publish an obnoxious opinion piece about the Mirvish company and one of its shows, Mirvish is perfectly entitled to say, "No more comps for you," without anyone but you thinking the effect is chilling.

    This is the Charlebois Post: the name says it all. It's a personal undertaking in which you have been joined by an enthusiastic group of fellow theatre lovers. Good for you. Keep it up.

    But your subtitle, "We are Canadian Theatre", remains an expression of hope untainted by reality. The difference between this site and, say, the Globe and Mail, is one of kind, not of degree. Freedom of the press in Canada bears no relation to freedom of theatre tickets for you.

    I hope this helps dispel your confusion.

  8. Correction. Not 300 writers. 30.
    My apologies.

  9. Is it this review I wrote, Mr. Holden?
    Or is it this glowing profile of you written by a writer I am now trying to defend?
    Either/or - you certainly are taking all of this rather personally.

  10. A comment has been removed by the moderators for redundancy.

  11. And now you censor my comment?

    How sadly appropriate.

  12. Mr. Holden, 21 paragraphs without a point germane to the above discussion is enough. It was not censored - it was removed for precisely the reason stated. Please read the guidelines before posting again.

  13. Would it help if I got some measuring tape?

    Seriously, I think this conversation would benefit from taking a step back for a breather and sleeping on it. Passions are high and we're all very emotionally invested in this subject. Let's put our egos in check and and revisit this tomorrow with fresh and calmer eyes.

  14. I have already read your guideline, Mr Charlebois. I would observe that you are in flagrant violation of it yourself. You have misused your editorial powers to suppress an argument you find uncongenial. Since you are demonstrably lacking in objectivity, can you not muster the intellectual self-respect necessary to let your readers decide the relative merits of our arguments?

  15. Gaetan you have completely lost the plot here my friend. Everything Mr. Holden says is absolutely accurate. It's actually sad. Mr. Fishbane's opinion is just that...an opinion. Yes. But once again we have a person who is given a public forum and uses it to bash a production/company even before he's seen it! Go see the show and then give your opinion. Why do you feel the need to criticize it before you've even seen it? It makes no sense. It's the cliched putting someone down to make yourself feel better syndrome. As a matter of fact...this whole controversy feels like it's all about that! Everything you get from companies is a privilege not a right. What don't you understand? I respected you before Gaetan but reading this nonsense coming from you has made me see you in a different light. A petty, sad light. Just quit while you're behind because I'm sure not many people will back your opinion on this. Move on...please! Before it gets any sadder!

  16. Heated debate isn't pleasant, Shayne, but it can be revealing.

    Gaetan Charlebois found it chilling that John Karastamatis refused free show access to critics from this website. Yet in the face of unflattering commentary about his own stance, he attacked the commentator personally and, when that didn't work, actually deleted one of the commentator's arguments under the convenient rubric of redundancy.

    That's not chilling. Just unworthy.

    If vigorous disagreement is suddenly unbearable because the behavior under scrutiny is our own, fine, let's all take a breather. I look forward to Gaetan's explanation, in the calm light of day, of his apparent double standard.

  17. Oh, I revel in heated debate. Any of my friends can attest to that. But this isn't a debate. It's a contest of words and egos, and a pool of ad hominem arguments on both sides. We have such a small and fragile community, and such passion and intellect could be better put to working to support our community rather than tear it apart. Now get some sleep.

  18. You're a good man, Shayne. Permit me three disagreements and one agreement.

    First, there really is a debate here. Gaetan makes a claim on behalf of his website and against the Mirvish company which, for the reasons I've set out, I believe is demonstrably wrong.

    Second, while I've lapsed into offensiveness more than once - and I offer Gaetan my apologies for that - I don't think it's accurate to characterize this as an undifferentiated ad hominem scrap. I started out by making a substantive argument and was subjected to an unqualified imputation of bad faith followed by outright suppression. I think a fair reading of the exchange bears me out.

    Third, your small-community argument is valid, but doesn't it cut both ways? Surely we respect each other too much to let significant lapses in good sense and fairness pass without comment.

    On your final point, you are one hundred percent right. It's time to sleep.

  19. I attended last night’s production of Clybourne Park (which I loved!) and a friend mentioned this incident, so I have just read Mr. Charlebois’ After Dark Feb 19, 2013 and Mr. Fishbane’s Theatre for Thought Dec 1, 2012 which started the chain of events. I must say that as Mr. Fishbane’s “Op-Ed” seems to be endorsed as Charlebois Post’s editorial position and opinion (as opposed to just printing a “Letter to the Editor” which is not the site’s opinion), then I have to agree with John K and the Mirvish position.

    I am a Mirvish subscriber, as well as regularly attending performances at Soulpepper, Tarragon, Stratford, Shaw, etc. I used to be a performer many years ago, but have long since retired from that profession and have an entirely unrelated career now, but am still passionate about the theatre. I was excited about The Wizard of Oz coming to Toronto - a musical that, to the best of my knowledge, has never been produced in Toronto, and certainly not this new version with additional material by Andrew Lloyd Webber. So to read an op-ed saying “I’m having trouble finding anything redeeming to say about this production. At the risk of hyperbole, it strikes me as the greatest evil to appear on stage since Mephistopheles first graced us in the inaugural production of Faust.”, feels like a direct insult to me, as an audience member looking forward to seeing this production, and is certainly a direct insult to the Mirvish organization bringing it to Toronto. Mr. Fishbane may have his personal opinion about whether he is looking forward to seeing a show or not, but to say that he (and therefore Charlebois Post) can find nothing redeeming to say about the production?!? That is an outrageous statement to make about any professional production, never mind this one based on a classic such as The Wizard of Oz. If Mr. Fishbane wants to write that in his personal blog, by all means. As an op-ed of Charlebois Post - well I absolutely understand why Charlebois Post would be removed from all further media comp lists. You have clearly shown the kind of disdain that you have for the choices that the Mirvish organization make (and frankly the disdain you have for me as an audience member of that show) - now you are upset that they are not providing you with free tickets from which you can continue your disdain?? I fully support the Mirvish’s position on this over yours. Good luck.

  20. Mr. Smith, your very reasoned opinion deserves a comment. It is important to note that though an opinion is published in The Charlebois Post it is - as with all opinions, one person's viewpoint. As I have personally stated, I agree in this case with Mr. Fishbane, but that is not the purpose of this site or - if you think of it - any media. When a liberal pontificates on Fox News he is not speaking for Fox (though he receives a pay check from them). Here in Montreal, our English-language newspaper employed a columnist who was an ardent separatist (she certainly did not represent the paper's nor the publisher's viewpoints). Indeed - a columnist - which Joel is - represents the columnist. I ask ours to write for us because they all express strong and personal opinions which are meant to provoke conversation. I do not always agree with them. Nor do I always agree with reviews we publish on this site because theatre is just that - a back and forth of different opinions which go to broaden the art form itself. (And, besides, the reviews come from all over the country so I clearly have not seen all the plays.) Joel is a musical theatre enthusiast and so, in my own view, has every right to ask the hard questions he did in his op-ed. We have two other musical theatre enthusiasts writing for us - Stuart Munro and Christian Baines - who might have written something very different about the very same production. The only op-eds which represents the guiding principles of The Charlebois Post are mine - and even mine are meant, sometimes, to provoke thought. Theatre, and the dialogue which surrounds it, should provoke. Otherwise, we might as well all be in our living rooms, watching repeats of Golden Girls and munching - loudly - on Cheetos.

  21. Of course, I absolutely recognize that was Mr. Fishbane’s opinion (and therefore noted in my original post absolutely appropriate for his personal blog), but Charlebois Post chose to publish it. I’m certain you do not publish every opinion sent to you. You made a clear decision to publish this particular opinion. And then gave it further credence through Mr. Charlebois’ admission that he agrees with it. So Charlebois Post agrees with Mr. Fishbane that one would have trouble finding anything redeeming to say about this production, a Mirvish production that they and audience members (like me) were looking forward to. That is an astonishing statement to me. Absolutely nothing redeeming to say. Doesn’t seem much like a “hard question” to me. Nothing redeeming to say about a musical with music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by Yip Harburg, additional music and adaptation by Andrew Lloyd Webber, additional lyrics by Tim Rice, directed by Jeremy Sams, choreographed by Arlene Phillips, starring an incredibly talented all-Canadian cast… but he can’t find anything redeeming to say about this production. And Charlebois Post stubbornly continues to support that position. Wow.

    Well, I firmly believe you have that right - the right to disparage and deride a production that you haven’t even seen - but as a result also firmly believe that the Mirvishes have their right and ARE right and justified in denying Charlebois Post further complimentary media tickets to their productions. If any party is to apologize, I believe Charlebois Post should do so, which may go some way towards mending fences.

  22. I agree that Mirvish does have the right to do what it wants with us (if you read my column I say it not once, but twice). They should, however, tell us out loud this is there decision and why it was reached. But getting back to my original argument, which you are not addressing, is the point that columns - whether in the newspaper, CNN, Fox or any other outlet - are by the columnists and do not represent the outlet's points of view - they represent (by the very nature of the concept of "columns") the opinion of the columnist. If you go back over our archives, you will see many cases where Joel and I have disagreed and discussed this disagreement in his column or mine or in the comments section. And please admit that you have heard the expression, on news show opinion sections, "The comments of Mr. X do not represent the opinions of this station." That is what I find frustrating about this debate: that it has stalled on this point. There are many many writers at The Charlebois Post who likely disagree with Joel but, as of now, none of them has quit writing for us because of it. They also know that I will stand up for their opinions (like their reviews) when the time comes. A theatre news outlet would be pretty damn dull if everyone had the same opinion and with dozens of writers (you can see who they are here: http://www.charpo-canada.com/2011/06/about-us_27.html ) it would not only be dull...it would be impossible.

  23. I do understand your original argument, that it represents the columnist and not the outlet's point of view. But (to take an extreme example), if Charlebois Post chose to post an opinion piece where your writer states (again, just an extreme example to make a point) "I see absolutely nothing redeeming about any Black actors - none of them can act." - it must accept responsibility for that, even if it's not your point of view. You didn't have to post that piece. Of course a theatre or any news outlet must have writers with varied opinions, but if one of those opinions is extreme or controversial, and the outlet still chooses to publish it, there should be consequences for that outlet.

    And let's be clear that Mr. Fishbane's piece was not a review. If he saw the show and hated it and wrote so, and as a result of a bad review the Mirvishes revoked CharPo's privileges, that would be an entirely different situation. This was a piece written BEFORE seeing a show, disparaging and deriding it. And I thought John K DID tell you out loud why they reached their decision: (quoting from your column) "He can certainly have this opinion after he sees the production, but to state this publicly before he has seen the production is offensive, distasteful and, frankly, disingenuous. Shame on him for this kind of bullying and shame on the Charlebois Post for providing a platform for such so-called 'discussion.'"

    Seems a pretty clear rationale to me.

  24. The fact is, we now live in an age in which theatre process is as visible and accountable as theatre product. Critics and commentators at all levels DO weigh in on the worth and potential of productions months before opening night.

    Cases in point - Rebecca, Spider-Man, and Love Never Dies. A good PR department in any industry must know the lay of the land and be ready for any challenge its new product might face. And, shock horror - it might just have to prove that product's worth. EVERY review of this production asked the question 'What new element does this bring?' So for Mirvish to be surprised when a commentator says as much prior to opening is, at best, naive. John K's response shows a PR department unprepared for the baggage it took on with ALW's Wizard, getting in a flap over questions it should have been more than ready to address months ago.


    1) A classic movie musical that in 73 years has never been successfully transferred to stage. That, coupled with the film's iconic status, persuades many to the view that this particular ship has long since sailed. This invites subsequent attempts to be written off as mere cash-ins. BAGGAGE

    2) Reality TV casting. It's a gimmick, and cultural commentators are almost universally cynical about it. One exception, being CharPo's Stuart Munro, who devoted hours to following said gimmick with optimism and interest - a fact Mirvish has chosen to ignore. BAGGAGE

    3) Andrew Lloyd Webber. Not a man to be reflexively bashed, IMO. He has after all written at least five pretty fine musicals over the years. But his name is still synonymous with the mega-musical, that pet-loathing of many a faithful theatre fan. He also hasn't had a hit since 1995. And let's be honest. Love Never Dies... didn't exactly help his brand. BAGGAGE

    So Mirvish (or any other company taking this beast on) has to juggle these three double-edged swords in the months leading up to opening night. Each of them represents a challenge to the production's artistic credibility, but also an opportunity to reach a mass audience who - as the West End Whingers put it in their review of the London production - "were all just here to see that girl off the telly in the sequel to Wicked." Cheeky, yes. Untrue? Not entirely.

    Mirvish's response to what is a fairly innocuous opinion piece by a Montreal-based writer (which was vastly outweighed by positive coverage from Munro) is an overreaction of Rob Ford-esque proportions. Had the producers of Spider-Man accused the New York Post of 'bullying' and denied it review privileges over Michael Riedel's continual attacks on that show, they would have been far more justified than Mirvish is in this situation - and still, they would have been laughed out of town.

    Oh, now of course, CharPo is hardly the New York Post. And Mr Fishbane, at this stage of his career, is far from being Riedel (and Wizard is, by all accounts, thankfully no Spider-Man!). However, this only brings us back to the very first sentence posted in response to this op-ed. Mirvish have taken this action because the difference in scale allows them to. They don't 'need' independent outlets. And that leaves Mr K's 'bullying' accusation looking like a ridiculous and desperate attempt to control the dialogue around the show, which no PR team on the planet can hope to do. Ever.

    A more mature response would be to shrug it off with a 'Just you wait. We'll show you.' Provided you have a show that can deliver on that promise, of course.

  25. Blisteringly?

    What a curious and revealing word.

    Christian Baines's remarks on the evolving relationship between theatrical producers and serious journalistic outlets are certainly cogent. But I suspect he never remotely intended them to be blistering. In any case, they're beside the point, because the Charlebois Post is not a serious journalistic outlet.

    I made that observation earlier, Mr Charlebois. It goes to the heart of your original claim that your website is entitled to free show tickets. I think you took my argument personally. In any case, you abandoned any pretense of editorial reserve and resorted to ad hominem attacks, followed by censorship - thus proving me right.

    You continue to bear out my argument with your use of words like "blistering" - as though the purpose of this website were not to engage in fair-minded discussion, but to polemicize; to score points; to blister the enemy; to prove something about your enterprise and its perceived allies, rather than arrive at deeper insights about the art of theatre.

    No one can stop you, Mr. Charlebois. This is your site.

    At the same time, you have no right to feign outrage or to invoke an intellectual chill when John Karastamatis concludes quite fairly that you are an unserious commentator and takes away the freebies to which you have no objective claim.

    There is a streak of emotionalism in your writing and in your editorial style, Mr. Charlebois. The startling non sequitur about munching Cheetos above is a case in point.

    So let me repeat that this is not a personal attack. This has nothing to do with the merits of Joel Fishbane's original article. This is a criticism of substantive and editorial choices you have made and continue to make: choices which undermine the intellectual credibility of your website.

    Several times in the above exhange, you have been called upon to acknowledge that your position was not just wrong, but pettily wrong. You have been called upon to apologize. You have failed to do so. You have failed even to admit, as a fair-minded editor might, the coherence of the criticisms voiced here; and in so doing, you have borne out, more eloquently than anyone else could, the disheartening substance of those very criticisms.

    Please don't respond as though you were being attacked on a personal level. Please don't turn this into a contest of recriminations. I don't know you personally, but I take it as a given that you are an honorable man with the very best of intentions.

    Which is why I urge you, before you respond in this space, to consult a dozen friends and objective observers on whom you can count for honesty. Ask them if the Charlebois Post's style is too often characterized by polemics and point-scoring. Listen to their answers. Then come back here and tell us honestly whether you think there isn't - at the very least - room for meaningful improvement.

    It's your website, Mr Charlebois. Your choice. This isn't about free tickets. It never was. It's about the intellectual standing of the Charlebois Post in a small but vibrant community. The time has come for you to apply to your own work the same critical standards you apply to the plays and playmakers you have taken it upon yourself to judge.

    Unless you do so, you will not fully deserve John Karastamatis's respect. Or even your own.


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