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Week of November 19, 2003

Prophet Making
We'd like to thank the Academy... Seeing our theater company as the November 12 cover story was too much [Ben Westhoff, "No More Funny Business!"]. It felt like we went to Six Flags and bought a joke cover of Time naming us "Man of the Year."

We understand that not everyone in our "family" could be named, but there are a few who deserve recognition: Don Goss, Rebecca Moliter and Cary Miller are three of the hardest-working NonProphets ever. Our show rocks because of Don's mugging and Cary's awesome sound designs. Rebecca is in charge of checks and balances. Our box-office bitches and personal assistants, Rachel, Liz and David, take care of us and our door, which lets us wind up before every show. But our fans and groupies (especially Gramma and Pop) make us who we are: the best damn comedy troupe anywhere!
Kirsten Wylder Mitchell
The NonProphet Theater Company

St. Louis

Bowels of comedy: I was so excited to see the talented comedy troupe NonProphets featured in your last publication; however, I am disappointed by Ben Westhoff's inaccurate portrayal of the local improv and sketch-comedy scene.

St. Louis has one of the richest histories regarding sketch, dating back to the infamous Gaslight Square district. Ensembles like the Compass Players, featuring actors Mike Nichols, Elaine May, Del Close and Paul Sills, pioneered the art of sketch comedy revues. (Close went on to start Improv Olympic, and Sills the Second City, both legendary Chicago comic institutions.) During the late 1980s, a small improv troupe called the Network helped launch several local actors' careers into today's Hollywood scene, including the talented Bill Chott. Westhoff also completely omitted the current comedy works of New Line Theatre's NightShift Improv, Left at the Light, Paper Slip Theatre, Magic Smoking Monkey, Joan Lipkin's The Louie Project and St. Louis' only improv comedy club, CITY Improv.

St. Louis sketch comedy is not limited to lesbian sex jokes, men pooping and women pissing standing up. Successful sketch and improv comedy is living well in St. Louis, with many of us making a living at it. Perhaps it is articles like the one written by Westhoff, focusing on just the bowels of comedy, that make it even harder for me to build a wider audience and respect for a real craft like making people laugh -- with or without the wigs on!
Ed Reggi, founder and producer
Saint Louis Improv Festival
St. Louis

Killing Tennessee Williams
Some playwrights never die: In his otherwise splendid interview with Linda Stephens, Dennis Brown states that "Fifteen years ago, when Tennessee Williams saw her onstage in The Night of the Iguana, he proclaimed her one of his two favorite actresses in the role of Hannah Jelkes" ["The Accidental Actress," November 5]. That would be quite remarkable, given that Tennessee Williams died in 1983.

Stephens is a wonderful actress -- the CD of the musical Wings remains a particular favorite of mine -- so I have no doubt that whenever Williams did see Stephens, he would have admired her work.
Robert Wildman
Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Statue of Limitations
The Attucks letters: I want to thank Ben Westhoff and the RFT for the lunch at Culpeppers. What is not appreciated is the slant given to Westhoff's story ["Burnt to a Crispus," September 10]. I'm assuming Westhoff's root beer was alcohol-free, so his faulty memory of our discussion is puzzling. At no time did I use the word "martyr" or say anything that would lead one to suspect I felt like one. I never claimed the Attucks idea to be brilliant. In fact I never said it was a good idea. It's an idea and nothing more.

What is most unfair, however, is blowing out of proportion the response I received from two nitwits at city hall. Of over 200 people I contacted, it was this amusing duo only who became apoplectic upon realizing they might actually have to respond to a citizen who had an idea for Forest Park. I have to shake my head and smile at Ms. Florida's assertion that my efforts were "hostile." My effort? Professional, respectful letters to her committee that an idea be considered.

Westhoff was given over 200 pages of letters and notes and chose two on which to base his story. Left completely unsaid were any references to the business leaders that responded favorably, including Robert Archibald of the Missouri Historical Society.

In any event, the wings were good and the beer cold.
Don J. Smith
St. Charles

T-h-e F-i-x W-a-s I-n
Haunted by the memory: Your cover mocks me [Mike Seely, "Breakfast of Champions," September 3]! By some cruel coincidence, the word that appears in George Thampy's bowl is the very same one that tripped up this speller in Washington, D.C. in 1967. It's been downhill ever since. Why did you pick this word? Why not "onomatopoeia"? FYI, the winning word that year was "Chihuahua," which proves that these contests are all rigged. So there!
Greg Geno
St. Louis

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