Re: Re-review of That’s the Way It Is, By Golly [January 24]

Dear Jack Helbig, Albert Williams, and the Chicago Reader,

While the critic reviews the play, the play also reviews the critic. There should be no debate that the review of a body of art is an opinion of the quality of the body of art expressed by the reviewer. An opinion comes from one’s own experience of a subject and therefore, the concept of opinion should be celebrated as an achievement of the human ability to reason. But when the reviewer strays from opinion and moves into reporting fact…the reviewer must…report fact.

It is the intention of this letter to inform the re-reviewer of Nomenil theater company’s That’s the Way It Is, By Golly that fact has not been reported. The point which we address can be found smack-dab in the middle of a set of parentheses (that we feel sure fought against playing a part in this “report of fact”): “(Conkle is playing not only his roles but helping fill in for two actors who’ve left).” (Helbig, page 37).

Let it be reported that not one of our actors, since the show’s debut, has “left” the production. This reported “fact” is false. The performance that the re-reviewer witnessed, truthfully, was sans two actors (one actor awaiting a flight from a Nevada airport, where he was stuck, and the other absence a product of a miscommunicated reopening date after the holiday break). As it was “reported” and assumed in the re-review, it was made to sound that the actors quit the show. No one took the time to research the fact that the two missing actors gleefully resumed their roles the following show date. So, did two actors leave? No. That’s not the way it is by golly.

Had this “fact” been researched…perhaps a “triumph of the human spirit” piece could have been written.

When the two actors failed to show…we had a choice to make: (1) cancel the performance or (2) pull together and do the “show must go on” thing (recasting over seven parts, ten minutes before curtain) for the 25 people who had made reservations, including a re-reviewer from the Reader (who had been made to reschedule two weeks prior due to cancellation because of an influenza-induced cast) and also a member of the German Catholic Press (who was in the country for one week only, seeking out what was new in American theater). We opted for the latter choice because of the press in attendance and because we did not want to send the audience away…yet again. And let it be expressed (at the risk of sounding New Age)…it was an empowering decision to arrive at that has bonded the cast with reliance and trust. We attempted to pull out of the bad situation with positivity and love. Not once did we doubt that it could be done. And because of that…it was the most rewarding show we’ve ever had. So to have this negativity forced on us is most definitely a blow to our strength. (Perhaps there’s a “broken spirit” story here?)

The feeling in this letter is addressing both fact and opinion. It is not written in vindication but with the intent to state our discomfort at being misreported.

Fact: We would like a retraction to report that the two actors did not leave the show.

Opinion: Journalism with integrity separates fact from opinion and reports the unassumed truth.

We greatly appreciate and expect a response. Thank you for your time and attention.

Courtney Evans

Allen Conkle


Jack Helbig replies:

I misunderstood Nomenil’s preshow announcement. Thanks for the correction.