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Brian Morton Protests Too Much

Posted 2/23/2005

Brian, Brian, Brian, in your zeal to label Republicans and their political operatives as “The New Thugs” (Political Animal, Feb. 16) your true envy shows through.

I find it odd that you don’t condemn the practice. It’s envy. Let’s face it, the Democratic Party used “Mr. Racist Campaigner” himself (Bob Shrum) here in Maryland. All he did was give us Parris Glendening for eight years. Oh yes, that first election was contested and finally settled by Maryland Democratic appointees. Then we have James Carville and Paul Begala with their hate speech spewed in the name of political discussion by day and practiced as paid operatives by night. You want more? Bob Beckel (irresponsible wack job), who said after the 2000 election that he would go to Florida and do anything or get anything he could to get George W. Bush. These three were the fair haired boys during the Bill Clinton years. Still more? I give you CBS News and the Bush/Air National Guard foolishness. They knew it was bogus but still pushed ahead. Let’s not forget Michael Moore and, oh yes, Al Franken on Air America, the new left-wing hate radio network. He reaches dozens of people daily!

Face it, Brian, it’s envy. You are only upset because at this point in time the Republicans are doing it better. Take heart, Brian, this will probably soon change. You now have “shoot from the mouth” Howard Dean as head of the Democratic National Committee and, as the minority leaders of the House and Senate, two obstructionists in Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Harry Reid. Since none of them can offer an alternative to lead our country, they will have to find their own team of “ratfuckers” for the upcoming midterm elections.

C.D. Wilmer

Thanks for such an educational column! Gov. Robert Ehrlich says he was in no way involved in Steffengate; I do not believe that. Moreover, recent articles in The Sun state that Joseph Steffen was a congressional aide of Ehrlich’s for at least 10 years and that a pattern of “dirty tricks” campaigning existed going all the way back to Ehrlich’s first campaign for office, for the Maryland House of Delegates. I believe that is correct. It has long been my view that such tactics have no place in our body politic at any level, and that the people who practice them should either be denied public office or—in this case—be driven from it.

I have been a Democrat-for-Ehrlich voter—first for Congress, then for governor—for the past 12 years. It was also my hope that he be elected president someday and that, perhaps, I might even work with him in that capacity, but no more. I have always tried to deal in issues, not personalities. Thus, I first parted company with the current governor last fall when he dropped the ball and did absolutely nothing about the new “no paper trail” electronic voting machines, to me the most important political issue facing the state—indeed, the very core of our precious democratic process of elective government. I concluded that both he and his mentor, President George W. Bush, were and are in favor of such jaded, tainted elections such as these machines might produce as a means of attaining and keeping political power.

Steffengate, however, has truly earned the members of the Ehrlich administration Brian Morton’s “thug” terminology. Thugs they are, and the governor—as their chief—has become the reigning poster boy of thuggery. This is a shame for all of us who voted for him, and also for him personally regarding his formerly bright future. I intend to help vote the thugs out of office in 2006, but not with our boyishly charming—but hopelessly incompetent—mayor of Baltimore, a very nice man who simply cannot govern. Rather, I shall examine our third, next best alternative: Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan, whom I know not at all.

Blaine Taylor

Russ Smith Protests Not Enough

Bravo, Russ Smith! It is a rare compliment that I admire your writing skills, while deploring the subterfuge to which you apply them.

In your Feb. 16 column, “Low Fidelity,” within three paragraphs you characterize “character smear” and the “politics of personal destruction” as sleazy—but expected—tactics, all the while slyly winking and hinting that Mayor Martin O’Malley’s protestation of innocence alongside his wife—a curious decision in your words—somehow makes him appear guilty of something. You even say it will “strain credibility” for Mayor O’Malley and his wife to make another joint appearance in the face of further attacks. After all, if rumors keep surfacing—let’s say voting fraud or military desertion—there must be some shred of truth. And anyone who pleads his or her innocence too loudly must be covering something up.

And bravo to Mayor Martin O’Malley! Any man brave enough to stand up to the current administration and point out that George W. Bush Bush and his Hole-in-the-Constitution Gang have done more to end the American Century than al-Qaida ever could has certainly won my vote for governor, and a possibility to get my vote for president in the future.

Steven D. Warble

Anna Ditkoff Criticizes Too Much

While I applaud Anna Ditkoff making her way to Spotlighters at all to see a show there, which she hasn’t done in the past several years, I have to take issue with the scathing review of The Tempest (“Musical Errs,” Stage, Feb. 16).

She makes a big mistake by holding community theater up to the standard of the professional theaters in the area. Community theaters just can’t compete with professional houses. I do not walk into a Quiznos and criticize them for not being like Phillips.

Spotlighters provides its productions with a severely limited budget. While some costume choices were awkward, they were created with NO BUDGET. Ms. Ditkoff’s repeated jibes demonstrate that she was more interested in humorously mocking the production than trying to understand it in the context in which it is meant to be understood.

It is true that this version of The Tempest is audience friendly. There are representational dances that accent feelings of the characters in the play; Ms. Ditkoff also did not like dancing in the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival’s 2004 production of The Tempest, either, yet Shakespeare wrote dances and songs into his plays, and so they should be considered a part of the plays. She condemns the play out of hand. In terms of wine, she isn’t saying, “This is a dry wine that sweeter wine lovers wouldn’t like.” She is condemning the wine because it is dry. We all have different tastes.

I would fully expect houses like Center Stage, Everyman, and Baltimore Shakespeare Festival not to make their productions of the Bard’s works simple. Community theaters are places where, generally speaking, you have audiences that are not so theater savvy. I believe that it is director Tim Fowler’s intent to make the production as light as possible. Though a reviewer could take issue with that concept, this reviewer did not.

I think reviewers should try to understand the concept and review based on how well that concept is carried out onstage. If reviewers go into every performance of Shakespeare’s work with a preconceived idea of how that play should be performed, then houses will always fall short of their expectations.

This is a play that parents can take their children to without fearing them getting bored, for it flows quickly and there are dances and songs that help younger people understand the story better. It is interesting to me that Ms. Ditkoff made no comments about the acting of Linda Kent (Prospero) and the fact that this production cast Prospero as a woman. She only barely touched on the very interesting idea of the play being a battle of the sexes. She, instead, chose to devote much of her article to mocking the technical elements.

I am constantly finding a gleeful sneer in the reviews of community theater productions in City Paper.

Concepts are what is important. With VOLUNTEERS the concepts are the reasons they are impassioned about what they are doing. Reviewers ought to think about what the players are trying to show instead of what they want to see.

Brad J. Ranno

P.S. If you are looking for a good theatre critic, I come surprisingly cheap.

Dear (Oh Dear!) Ms. Ditkoff—Where was the actual review of Spotlighters’ The Tempest? You came all undone over a concept you didn’t like and let it color your entire review. We all get it: You don’t like interpretive dance—nor did you care for the dancers’ costumes. But almost an entire “review” given to pouting and the implication that this was a Shakespeare for Dummies production—shame on you! The addition of music and lively dancing—remarkably contained within the limits of the Spots stage (and therefore all the more a complement to both choreographer and dancers)—to a script that was more than 95 percent uncut (hardly just “scenes from The Tempest” or the Cliffs Notes version) adds up to a whole lot more than an “oversimplified . . . musical.”

I know there are those who think Shakespeare is esoteric and reserved for intellectuals (could that be you, Ms. Ditkoff?), and those who think it scary. Kudos to Spotlighters and director Tim Fowler for saying (correctly) that Shakespeare is for everyone and making it accessible to Baltimore audiences through music, dance, and audience interaction in addition to the wonderful words of Shakespeare. The audiences thus far have loved it; what a pity you couldn’t get over that fluffy white costume (is there a repressed childhood memory here?) to quite simply have sat back and enjoyed it!

Linda Kent

The writer was a lead actor in the production reviewed.

Correction: Not only did we spell the name of MaGerk’s wrong in our review last week (Cheap Eats, Feb. 16), we got the address wrong too: It’s 1061 S. Charles St. City Paper regrets the error.

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