Week of December 10, 2003

Unfortunately Caucasian,
Dylan Hassinger
University City

Stage Whispers
Miller misses: I feel compelled to respond to Scott Miller's latest rant against theater critic Dennis Brown [Letters, November 26]. As usual, Scott feels that anyone who disagrees with him is wrong and in need of an education. Not so. I saw Starlight Express in London shortly after it opened and was totally enchanted, as millions have been ever since. It did break new ground. As for Miller's assessment of Lorenz Hart, Mr. Hart was a confused, complex, sexually ambivalent talent who longed for the affection of women and men. To write "Larry" off as anything less would be to misunderstand him. And regarding the books of current musicals, if you had sat through Sondheim's latest, Bounce, as I did, you'd have found any issue of the X-Men more challenging.

I don't think Dennis Brown needs to take any musical theater courses, but if you choose to do so, Mr. Brown, might I suggest steering clear of any ones Mr. Miller might be teaching? You'd get a better, unbiased education through Diplomas by Mail.

Miller begins his diatribe begging the question, "What would we do without Dennis Brown to make fun of?" The answer is clear: We'll always have Scott Miller.
Christopher Jackson, theater columnist
EXP magazine

Pining for the old Jewish theater: Dennis Brown wonders why the New Jewish Theatre doesn't revert to being the Old Jewish Theatre in selection of its programs, lamenting so few presentations of established works and playwrights [Something Old, Something New," November 26].

Just for the record, through the 1990s groups prior to the NJT at the Jewish Community Center presented such old-guard Jewish authors as Arthur Miller (The Price, Broken Glass), Lillian Hellman (The Little Foxes, The Children's Hour), Paddy Chayefsky (Middle of the Night), Woody Allen (Don't Drink the Water), Kaufmann and Hart (George Washington Slept Here), Neil Simon (The Odd Couple, Rumors, Biloxi Blues, God's Favorite and the musical Little Me), plus such other musical standards as Fiddler on the Roof and Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific, to name a few. As Brown suggests, these productions did indeed "give the actors -- and the audiences -- something worthy of their time."
Robert Beck
St. Louis

Heartthrob for President
Ooooooooh, Blake! If Blake Ashby were only a vegetarian, I think I would be in love [Unreal, "The Many Moods of Blake Ashby," November 26]. I hope he doesn't get elected, because that would just mean he'd move out of town like all the other cool guys.
Nicole Young
St. Louis

Minstrel Context
From blackface to hip-hop: For the amount of fuss that historical re-creations of minstrel shows can raise, it seems mildly ironic that the negative black stereotypes as violent, drug-slingin', horny men are moving the most units today [Darren Keast, "Play That Funky Music?" November 19]. Label execs know that violent portrayals of black men sell rap records, and major-label rap artists are pressured accordingly.

Ask Nas about this; Columbia wouldn't let him release his pick of tracks for 1999's Nastradamus for fear that they wouldn't sell. So in place of a number of introspective and intelligent songs, Columbia dropped an album of jiggy pap like "You Owe Me." (Luckily, last year Nas put out Lost Tapes, which, thanks to many of the songs that Columbia cut, is one of his best.)

Regardless, I have no qualms with a DJ playing some ignorant stereotypical shit; more often than not, a hip-hop crowd is a multiracial group of people who can and do see beyond what pop music says. Similarly, one would hope that a historical re-creation of an extremely important time in America's history would be taken as that, not a step backwards for race relations.
Andrew Friedman
St. Louis

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