Week of November 2, 2005

"I am awestruck when I see how people, young and old, rave over Nelly."


Nelly on the Telly
Moving asses, making babies: Chad Garrison's "A Day in the Life" was hilarious [October 26]. I am a native of East St. Louis and I am awestruck when I see how people, young and old, rave over Nelly. His music is trendy, and none of the songs have a message. And I am so glad he finally took off the Band-Aid. Hip-hop music has gone down the tubes. It used to carry a message and move people in a positive direction; now it just moves asses and makes babies.

Thanks for the laugh, it was indeed hilarious.
Aliyah Ali
Norwood Court

Strip Search
The pressing problem: It was with some consternation and empathy -- and a sense of urgency -- that I read of Hugh Jardon's plight in Joe Henry's Ask a Negro Leaguer column [October 19] and [October 26]. Having worked as a DJ for some time in one of the East Side's adult nightclubs a few years ago, I unfortunately was often privy to the customers' dilemma of not being "finished off" by one or more dancers.

Although this is indeed a frustrating and perplexing situation for the patron, it was put into a new, and I might say revelatory, perspective for me by one of the more sagacious girls. She explained it this way: If someone would go to a comedy dinner club to see an entertainer such as Roseanne or Pee-wee Herman and began to laugh so hard that they began to gag and choke, that would be the patron's problem. Roseanne or Pee-wee certainly wouldn't be expected to come down off of the stage and administer the Heimlich maneuver. The distressed customer would be left to their own resources or perhaps that of a nearby helpful Good Samaritan. Likewise, dancers are entertainers and entertainers only. They can't be held responsible for the biological or anatomical responses of their audience, even if that response is, God forbid, life threatening. Thus, the customer is pretty much on their own.

I hope this perspective sheds some light on what has become a consistently pressing problem.
Philip Gounis

Yo, Dawg
Thanks from the Bloodhound Gang: I wanted to pass my compliments on to Jordan Harper, who wrote an amazing preview for Bloodhound Gang's concert ["Sweet Caroline," October 19]. I am the band's manager, and this was one of the best pieces I've seen written on the band -- and I've seen a lot of things written on them over the years!
Brett Alperowitz
New York, New York

Bank Job
Hood wink: I really enjoyed Kristen Hinman's "The Gang That Couldn't Dress Straight" [October 12] This is the best article that I have read in a long time that defined the words in the hood. I continued to laugh and be amazed, because the areas Hinman mentioned, I have been to. I will be cautious when going to a bank in the morning.

Also, please keep us updated on the outcome.
Tarcia Robinson

Naked Launch
No bare necessity: I am grateful that the RFT reviews college theater. It is an important service to our theatrical community. That said, I must confess that I was disappointed by Dennis Brown's review of my production of Hair ["The Unkindest Cut," October 12]. Dennis mostly focused on the "nude scene," which he found to be "a dark murky mess that cheats the play and cheats the audience -- and cheats the actors."

I chose the play because I thought it made an important statement today. The nude scene was not foremost in my mind. Dennis may not know this, but the play-script contains no mention of nudity at all. The nude scene is famous by tradition and it is usually done with the "tribe" in a circle, all of them exposed for the audience to see. This was shocking and powerful in 1968. It would have been "cool" to do it that way, but this is not 1968. In 1968 there were no "Women's Studies" programs where students, particularly women, learn about "voyeurism" and "The Male Gaze."

When I cast the play, I told the "tribe" that no one had to appear nude. When we blocked the end of Act One, I told them, as there was no indication of it in the script, that this was "the nude scene." It was clear to me at that moment that some of the actors wanted to appear nude and others did not. I decided to stage it in a way that would not draw attention to those who chose not to remove their clothing. If I had done it in the traditional way, I would have been putting those who wished not to be naked in an awkward situation ripe for the worst kind of coercion. That would have been "cheating the actors." It would not have been fair or appropriate for me to do such a thing.

Without question our opening night was a little glitchy, but I think Dennis' desire to see more lingering nudity clouded his perspective on the entire evening. I am writing this letter having just learned from our box office that this "lethargic" production is poised to be the best-selling show the Performing Arts Department has done in the seventeen years I've been at Wash. U. I suspect it is word of mouth and not Dennis' reductive review that is creating the lines at the box office.
Jeffery Matthews, senior lecturer, coordinator of acting and directing
Washington University

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