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Friday, May 4, 2012

An Open Letter to Sir Chris Jones, of Berkelyfordshire-on-Thames

Dear Sir Or Madame,

After reading your article yesterday on the summer seasons of Chicago Theaters, we were taken aback! For reasons known throughout our fair city, you are seen as a leading figurehead and proponent of Storefront Theatre and in many cases, help set the future for our organizations.

As we all are aware, you are the number one theatrical critic in town, with the boys and girls at the stalwart Time Out Chicago following a distant second. Basically, what you say goes. Like when you said The House was the next big thing and we all said “Yes, of course they are.” And now look at them!

For you to say to the people of our city that there is no good work happening in town during the summer months leaves us all feeling a little confused and lonely. Like a battered child. We are begging for your love and support, and then you talk about how Rock Of Ages is the only thing happening in town and then you call us ugly and leave for a pack of cigarettes in New York and we think you might not ever come back. And then, we would just be left alone with our drunken mother, Hedy Weiss.

We’ve worked so HARD, daddy. Look at just this small example of our clamoring for your approval: Last night, we attended a show at Steep Theatre, a company that you wrote glowing things about in the very recent past. This show was gorgeously designed, beautifully acted, and brilliantly written! And the people there in the audience loved it! But, who cares, when you go and completely ignore the fact that directing hero Jon Berry is taking the reins of their next production MOMENT which has its U.S. premiere on JULY 12th. Isn’t that the summertime, daddy? Isn’t that the summertime?

Not only Steep, but there are dozens of other shows opening during the summer also. Look, the point is, when you write your articles to the masses, and you have the biggest following of any voice in our community, please be our voice! If tourists are coming to town during the summer and are looking for plays, please don’t tell them that they are out of luck. Rather use it as an opportunity to tout the companies that need the touting. If we cannot rely on you for help, then we are all going to fail.

You have what we all want, Sir, and that is glorious, glorious ACCESS. You have an ongoing column and blog on one of the biggest media platforms in the United States. And you just used it to tell everyone that Chicago storefront theatre has been the victim of a 40 megaton blast north of Division Street and it’s just gone. We all died, or are scrambling for leftover cans of hash in the smoky ruins of a Jewel-Osco, fighting off the Griffin Theater Ensemble, who have all mutated into psychic vampires.

Did you know that The Right Brain Project has a show opening with 29 people in it? Saints preserve us, Christopher. If you do not help us, how can we compete against that? They have everyone in their show! If you do not help us bring new visitors into our homes, then the cast of that show will come to your office and eat your British flesh from your body, and there will be a new leading voice in town. His name will be Tom Williams, because he loves us and he carries a gun everywhere he goes.

Speaking of guns, did you have one to your head when you wrote that article? Was it being held by Broadway In Chicago? I bet you pissed in your pants.

They definitely had a gun, because there is no other reason you would forget about us. We might not “know as much” as the actors in Rock Of Ages, and maybe we don’t have the “street cred” that Phylicia Rashad does, but we try so hard for you. Please, man. Please.


We are here for you, so please be here for us,

Eric and Andy

PS - Will you please write a review of Friday Night Smackdown for our blog? We feel like you would have a nice take on today’s wrestling. Plus, The Rock HAS COME BACK! Come on!

28 comments:

  1. THANK YOU. Jones's article was transparent comment-whoring, a bid for the folks he marginalized to do his job for him and plug the shows he was too lazy to research. If you need any further indication of his regard for our storefront scene, look no further than the sidebars for "Chris Jones on Broadway" and "Chris Jones on Las Vegas." Unforgivable.

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  2. Jones is overrated and overread--he's been at it to long, and like all critics has lost his ability to see things with fresh eyes. His opinions are churned out through the sterilized commercialization machine that is Morton/Letts at Steppenwolf, the New York casting icons of Goodman and Chicago Shakespeare, and the lame Broadway revivals in our "theater district" downtown, (JERSEY BOYS for the 20th time anyone?) It's just the same thing about the same people over and over. It's time for this pompous Brit to take a nice long break, maybe work for Rupert Murdoch, or move to Seatle, and let someone who actually knows what the are talking about take the reins. I would much rather read a Larry Bohmer, Hedy Weiss, or Albert Williams review anytime. Or, maybe he can just go back to reviewing movies, with acting that might be a little easier for him to understand.

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  3. I've never been a fan of ANY of the critics in this town. They tend to be intentionally thick and aggressively contrary. And it seems that one small kitten dies from kitten cancer any time a compliment is paid to any unknown/non traditional company.

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    1. Note to Chris Jones: everytime BJ Jones gets a good reveiew, an angel gets its wings.

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  4. I don't think article is entirely Mr. Jones fault, although he should be blamed for bad timing and the choice to publish it. As we all know, newspapers are under enormous pressure to please their advertisers. They are essentially bleeding money because they have no real answer how to make it in this era of online content consumption. Broadway in Chicago happens to be one of the Trib's most important clients in terms of revenue stream and so Jones and his editors have no choice but to give more attention to that entity. They are at the mercy of those who pay the bills at the Trib. And unfortunately, it's a catch 22 because most theatre patrons will follow Mr. Jones's opinion vs any of his competitors. This is also true of Ben Brantley and The New York Times along with Charles McNulty and the L.A. Times (also owned by the Tribune Corporation). Chris Jones doesn't have the time or space to devote his attention to storefront theatres like he used to and the fact of the matter is that despite all of this, the choice to publish such an article at all is really mind-boggling considering all the offerings that are happening this summer. Jones and the Tribune have done a disservice to the entire Chicago Theatre Community by publishing such an article. He even managed to get the attention of Debb Clapp and the League of Chicago Theatres calling him out on the comments section of this article.

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  5. No single person is responsible for selling more Storefront tickets in any given year than Chris Jones. For any commenter/Facebook sharer/toiling Chicago artist to say he doesn't care about us is willful ignorance. Storefront is not his only or even first priority, but I'm left wondering why anyone would have made the assumption that it would have been in the first place.

    Eric and Andy, much love to you. Irreverence to perfection, all while playing to the honest-to-god truths of Storefront and our relation to the critics. Well done as always.

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  6. How ridiculous..... Chris Jones is Chicagos GREATEST supporter (Along with Hedy) of the Storefront Theatres..Get your PRESS Materials out in time so the man knows what the hell your planning...!

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  7. I have Two Words for your article....NINA METZ....Then we'd ALL be in BIG Trouble.....

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  8. so, wait. anonymous commenter above, so, you're saying since chris jones may not have received some press packets, it's okay for him to publicly announce, "well, nothing is happening this summer, it seems!"
    "how ridiculous"?
    your MOM'S ridiculous.

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  9. I will also echo the thought that Chris has been a huge champion of storefront/off-Loop theatre and an impassioned advocate of same. I thought the article was actually more about downtown theaters being unusually quiet and wish it had been titled as such.

    And for those arguing that this article was a piece sucking up to Broadway in Chicago, I think that's hard to credit. Are we imagining the following dialogue?

    BiC: "We want an article! Because we're evil commercial advertisers!!"

    CJ: "I must bow to my corporate Tribune overlords! What do you have going on!"

    BiC: "Nothing!"

    CJ: "Perfect! Because nothing will show off your organization like an article about lack of business and dark theaters! People love being told they can't see a show downtown!"

    BiC: "We win!!!"

    I mean, wha...?

    I will also point out BiC is also a big supporter of the entire theatre community, as they correctly discern that the city rises together. I think this odd meme of "downtown theaters suck life out of storefronts" is pretty shaky every time it comes up. Look at the Emerging Theatre Award, the advocacy actions, the involvement with the League, etc.

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  10. I repeat get your PRESS PACKETS out in a TIMELY manner....Publications are NOT mindreaders...If you Storefront theatres want to be treated with professional respect act like professionals and hire a PUBLICIST to send out your Production Schedules....There's more too it than pontificating under a spotlight.....

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    1. I love how you assume not getting covered by the Trib is because you don't get out a press kit. That's the most hilarious thing I've seen yet today, which is saying something because I just heard the Chicago tourism song for the first time.

      Also, I will gradually hire a publicist when you, anonymous, choose to pay for him/her. Until then, go climb a tree and let me know where to send our press kits for your approval.

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    2. To generalize that the whole of Storefront theatres are somehow irresponsible and/or have full wallets is a ridiculous assumption. Of course they send out press packets. in a "Timely" manner. They have to to survive.

      That being said, Chris is definitely a proponent of ALL Chicago Theatre. Take "The Inconvenience" for example, their success is a result of doing good work and having an advocate like Chris Jones. Sure, this article of his sucks, but don't assume that he's somehow become a corporate whore. Jesus, the man sees six shows a week in almost every venue.

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  11. My favorite part of JW's comment is hearing it in his voice. hehehehe...

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  12. Hear that all? Hire some publicists! Problem solved, everyone go home! Thanks for reading Reviews You Can Iews, Anonymous!

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  13. The Tribune, and all major publications receive our press materials WELL in advance, and with follow-ups. The reason we're not mentioned is because someone has made a choice to not mention us. And why on earth should we have to spend what is seriously most of our production budget hiring publicists who provide no more of a guarantee of making critics appear than we can?

    Thanks so much for the mention, E&A! MARAT/SADE, gang! Hasn't been done in the city in about 12 years. 29 actors, and only enough room for 21 audience members. June 7th!

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  14. No need to be a mind reader, try google or check out theaterinchicago.com they do a good job of receiving all those "missing" press packets.

    ps, storefronts do have publicity people and press releases are sent, choices are made to read or ignore.

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  15. Last year Redtwist had 3 shows in the best play category at the non-Equity Jeffs and won the award for Man from Nebraska. Jones didn't see any of them. The other two were Delicate Balance and Lobby Hero. This year Opus has 5 nominations and is going to Theater on the Lake. He didn't see Opus either. It may not make a difference on the quality of the show. But it makes a HUGE difference in how many people come to see the show. Isn't the critic's job to find the best, and let the public know what they might enjoy spending their time and money on?

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  16. Chris Jones is a wall-eyed little would-be kingmaker engaged in the joyless and futile pursuit of increasing his own perceived power. The reason this is a hopeless endeavor is that he does not proceed from a conception of advancing the greatness of local culture - he wishes he was in NY or London and has internalized the fallacy that Chicago is an inferior backwater. He is a stoutly middlebrow panderer who fancies himself too clever to function as audience proxy, but must suspect that he doesn't have the critical chops to lay claim to anything like the abiding impact of a Christiansen, or even any of the more thoughtful folks at the weeklies (Hayford, for instance) His legacy is written in dog piss - a bracing rain will wash it away. All that having been said - he's a vindictive little shit heel whom I might have need of one day, and I have many good friends whom he is in a position to harm, so I must refrain from including my name.

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  17. Anonymous commentators are always hilarious in these articles.

    Look, Chris Jones sees a lot of theatre. When he was the #2 guy at the Trib he saw a lot more storefront stuff and spent a lot of energy touting it as what made Chicago Chicago. Now he's the #1 guy, so he sees the highest profile shows and, naturally, tends to write about them more. But he still sees smaller theatres' productions, and he still writes nice things about the ones he likes. The fact that he doesn't like everything simply means he's a human being with his own preferences. The sad thing is when Christensen retired and Jones became the lead critic, no new #2 was hired. And the Reader, which used to be THE source for off-Loop theatre goings on has less and less of a market share. Time Out covers a lot, but they still don't have the punch the Reader has. I mean it used to be if the Reader had you in Critics' Choice you were set. Only Chris Jones has that sort of power now. It's not his fault. But it does mean that if he doesn't see your show, either because you're opening at the same time as Court, or because your theatre doesn't register with him for whatever reason, then the odds of a surprise hit have dropped by a lot. And if he doesn't like your play - again for whatever reason - you're screwed again. We like to bash Chris Jones, but it's not really his fault. The media landscape has shrunk, and he's the last guy with a voice.

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  18. What confounds me about Jones' article is that he definitely knows better. I've long thought that the company for which he works that has yet to emerge from bankruptcy after years and years should consider not spending the money to send him to NYC several times a year, but who am I? Jones has been and shall remain a mystery, consistently contradictory, and this article, very possibly his worst, completely puzzles me.

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  19. Describing Hedy Weiss as our drunken mother might have been one of my favorite parts.

    And I'm guilty of being a contrarian theater critic, but not on purpose.

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  20. The article was clearly about downtown theater, and it was mistitled. Yes its sad that one critic can be influential (NOT responsible) for the breath of your audience, but welcome to real life! That is the world we live in, and to act like you're surprised by that is ridiculous. Hopefully he follows up this articles with " Summer Storefront Theatre" to fully highlight the city's offerings, but don't blame him for your company's success or failure!

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  21. Thanks for your words, Anonymous! You make a really good anonymous point!

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  22. Haha! Anonymous is Chris Jones.

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  23. Chris Jones sees a minimum of 6 shows a week; does his WBBM news review on Thursdays; often reviews on Dean Richards' show on Sunday mornings; writes 6 - 8 reviews weekly (doing the math 6 to 8 reviews a week does not mean it can all be Broadway in Chicago); writes his weekly Fri. column and often a Sun. feature. You will rarely find another writer except for Hedy that keeps up with this kind of workaholic schedule. And for this he is sliced and diced on the plate. He was clearly trying to make Broadway in Chicago more cognizant of summer programming. As he clearly covers the storefronts, why are they the first ones to persecute him?

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  24. Jones is a buffoon. For one thing, the man cannot perform his job. Half of his reviews center around his awful purple prose and ridiculous theories on what the play is about (for example, see his review of DO THE HUSTLE, in which he finds a portrait of the playwright as a reluctant rebel, a theory he appeared to pull directly from ass). His writing style is sentimental, starfucking and impenetrable.


    Strike two is his broad-to-mediocre taste. He keeps it dumb and promotes shallow pap. His is a shallow palate.


    Strike three is his lack of self-awareness and common sense. How he did not get fired when he called playwrights whiners and losers in his (unnecessary) review of OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE, I will never know. What kind of fool attacks the very people who create the product he critiques for a living? The answer to this question is "a total fool."

    Strike four? He changes his reviews retroactively. I will provide an example if you'd like one, but I do not want to harm the artists involved. If he doesn't like a show by an important artist he will often follow it with an article about said artist (see: Bob Falls), essentially apologizing for his own review. His integrity is gone.

    He needs to go, or at least be ignored. His power at this point is ridiculous, both in its scope and its credibility. Are we so weak as to put up with this clown? We have collectively given him influence. We can collectively take it away.

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