To the editors:
Achy Obejas certainly minces no words in making clear her abundant dislike of my show, Twentieth Century Angst: a Celebration (“A Dweeb’s Guide to Hipness,” May 8). Questions of dislike aside, however, her review contains several factual errors that I would like to clarify:
1. Obejas states that “with less than a handful of exceptions, Cooke’s portraits of the homeless are . . . [taken] from a distance.” She makes me out to be an insensitive lout, afraid to interact with the individuals personally. In fact, of the 60 or so slides of homeless people projected during the show, only five were taken from a distance. The remainder of the pictures were taken up close. Often I spent quite a bit of time talking with the people and getting to know them; more than one person asked me to mail a copy of the picture to relatives to let them know they were OK, which I did.
2. Obejas writes that during the live piece on Alcoholics Anonymous I read “from scripts and cue cards.” It is true that the first person I play, Sally, uses note cards to tell her story. (For the record, the cards I use are blank.) The four other people I play do not use cards.
3. Third, Obejas closes the review by noting that I keep my back to the audience during the video and slide segments, from which she concludes that I don’t have the nerve to look the audience in the eye. How else can I operate the controls? Moreover, at the end of the show I invited everyone back for the next night’s show, INDIANA!!!, at a special discount. Some people called the next day to inquire more about my offer, which makes me feel I was connecting with some of the audience members, if not Obejas. In addition, the phone number given in all the ads and listings was my home phone. If people don’t like the show, they can call me directly and tell me I’m a creep. I’m not trying to hide.
In closing, I would like to address Obejas’s comment that “Angst” “. . . has no purpose whatsoever . . . ” My interpretation of the piece is that on a daily basis we are bombarded with atrocities and sadness: factionalism in religion, flesh peddlers, and homelessness, for example. Those make up the “angst.” The “celebration” is that we all have to look for joy, somehow, or we’d go nuts; my piece documents my own personal quest for that joy. Some people think I’m insensitive because I juxtapose video interviews of homeless people with a video of me stuffing my fat little head with steak and pirogies. But that’s just the point: I know there’s countless suffering in the world, but I can’t let that stop me from enjoying life at the daily level. In the meantime I do what I can about the bigger problems: I have done volunteer work since college days, and I hope my work in solar energy will ultimately benefit all society.