A Thespian Scorned | Letters | Chicago Reader

A Thespian Scorned 

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To the editor:

Way back in July 2001, writing in CityTalk, the WTTW/WFMT subscriber newspaper, Jack Helbig inaccurately summed up the gist of my book Mis-Directing the Play on his way to saying that it seemed to make sense to him until he saw a show I directed that he didn't care for, whereupon he began to think that maybe the book was wrong after all, as its principles seemed to have resulted in a show that bored him.

(It is perhaps that his summary of my book got it wrong, as when he advertised the free copy he got from my publisher for sale on amazon.com in April 2002, he vouched for its pristine condition by describing it as having been "never read." When I saw his listing, I had a laugh, printed it out, and filed it away with his article.)

Now [February 14], reviewing my production of Tour de Farce at the Theatre Building, Helbig inaccurately sums up the gist of my book to say that he found it compelling until he came to see Tour de Farce and didn't like it, whereupon he has begun to think--guess what--that the book is wrong after all.

Can this really be? Is Jack stuck in a Groundhog Day-like cycle, in which every 18 months he is doomed to come see a show I've directed and get his mind changed about a book he hasn't really read? Or is his memory so bad that he forgets his own opinions and is continually realizing them over again?

Or is it possible he is disingenuously recycling an ersatz experience because he finds it a convenient hook for a review and figures there is probably not overlap between the readerships of CityTalk and the Reader?

The Reader may not be the most brilliant free paper ever published, but it deserves better than this.


Terry McCabe


Jack Helbig replies:

I didn't say (for a second time) in my Reader review that I found McCabe's book compelling until I saw his show. I simply pointed out that the ideas that sounded so good on the page didn't work on the stage, at least not when executed by the man who wrote the book. I first read the book--as an advance proof--in March 2001, when I reviewed it for Booklist. After the review appeared McCabe's publishers sent Booklist a finished copy of the book, which ended up with me. That's the copy I offered for sale on Amazon, accurately described as "unread."


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