To the editors:
After reading Ms. Mary Shen Barnidge’s review of Anita Stenger’s Make Yer Bed and Lie [March 15], I couldn’t help but garnish “nurturing attention and adulation for the confessor.” Think of the hell Ms. Barnidge must endure to “fabricate” her “vague, enigmatic, and largely unprovable memories” of all these performances about incest. Poor, poor Ms. Barnidge. Perhaps Ms. Stenger should have chosen a less “fashionable” subject like rape or murder or drugs. Then she could have easily held her attention for more than just “50 of the 60-some minutes.”
It is so unfortunate that this legion of sexually molested children had to grow up and become performers. If only they had become stockbrokers or fry cooks, then their abuse wouldn’t have become so “fashionable.” Now they pop up like yellow ribbons with performance after performance filled with pain and reconciliation. What a tiresome trend.
I feel for you, Ms. Barnidge, I really do. I’m sure the pain and suffering you experience in reviewing such an “overworked . . . subject for art” is equal to the pain of its subjects. But please remember, Ms. Barnidge, that while you have chosen to be a reviewer of theater (however fashionable this may be), victims of sexual abuse have no choice. They are branded for life.
Mary Shen Barnidge replies:
I thought I had made clear in my review that I do not deny anyone the healing therapy of confession and exorcism in the community of benevolent witnesses. When one invites strangers and charges admission to the event, however, it is no longer simply a matter of sharing one’s personal history. In the process of making the private public, the temptation is always present to interpret the facts in a manner to suit the expectations of those who would reward the interpreter for doing so. Ms. Stenger’s superlative performance skills made the exhibition of her “brands” interesting, but it did not make her story unique–save, perhaps, to herself and her community of benevolent witnesses.