DEAR BRET FETZER: Your article on the upcoming production of Peter Brook's Hamlet ["Big Fat 'Collaboration,'" In Arts News, Oct 12] deeply troubled us. Peter Brook has dedicated his career to pushing the boundaries of the definition of theater all over the world. As a newspaper that has championed fresh perspectives and leading-edge art, I thought you would have been more receptive of this project. Although Brook is a great artist, he is hardly a household name, and one could hardly classify this production as "starfucking." Brook's choice of Seattle to launch his North American premiere of Hamlet says a great deal about Seattle's identity as a theater community.
Lastly, the Kreielsheimer Foundation's gift and all the other funds raised for this project are not resources diverted from the participating organizations, but new funds raised specifically for this project. Together, the partner theaters and the Seattle Center will be sharing in the financial risk of this project.
If Brook's production has the impact on this community that we think it will, Seattle theaters and artists will be reaping the benefits for years to come.
Sharon Ott, Artistic Director, Seattle Repertory Theatre
Bart Sher, Artistic Director, Intiman Theatre
Gordon Edelstein, Artistic Director, A Contemporary Theatre
BRET FETZER RESPONDS: I agree--and said so in my article--that Peter Brook is a great director. And Seattle does have an excellent reputation as a theater town. However, being chosen as the location to launch this tour has more to do with geography and Brook's schedule. I do believe that the Kreielsheimer Foundation's gift will not divert funds from the participating organizations; it will divert funds that would go to other arts organizations in Seattle. Money is not an infinite resource. This is an example of the "What's good for the big houses is good for Seattle" thinking that has led to a theater landscape of enormous institutions or minuscule-budget groups, and very little in between. All this talk about the production's impact on the community--"benefits for years to come"--is grandiose. Any show that comes through, from the Wooster Group to Parade to Tim Miller (all of which have appeared in Seattle without this level of support), can inspire local artists. Artists learn more by doing their own work than by observing the work of others. Seattle's big houses simply do not provide enough support for the city's indigenous theater artists--as artists, not audiences.
DAN SAVAGE: What a great article on the kinky community ["Fetish Education," Nov 23]! Seattle has long been at the forefront of the BDSM/leather scene.
In 1986, Steve Maidhof returned from the International Mr. Leather Contest in Chicago to start the National Leather Association (NLA). Originally gay and lesbian, the NLA evolved into becoming the first national pansexual leather organization in history. From Maidhof's vision came Living in Leather, a conference providing BDSM education in a format accessible to new and already active leather folks. Local chapters of the National Leather Association were eventually established all over the world, surviving today as the National Leather Association International. The conference returned this year to Seattle to celebrate its 15th anniversary. Also in the '90s, Allena and her partner organized the famous Kinky Couples weekends--the first events to bring together people from diverse communities in an environment of safety and play.
Mercea Strecker, American Leather Woman 1998
DEAR EDITOR: In his excellent article "Fetish Education," Dan Savage asks, "Where have all the kinky people gone? With the fetish parties over... Seattle's fetish community found itself without a home."
It was at this time that an idea was floating around for a permanent home for the [fetish] community. Dan then follows with "Allena... opened a cafe on Pike Street called Beyond the Edge. In between baking cookies and making sandwiches, Allena hosted kink workshops and classes, but running a cafe and playing mom to the kink community was too much for Allena, and she was forced to close Beyond the Edge."
This is, in some ways, simply untrue. I was there when my wife and Allena started discussing this idea. I was there when they were looking for a suitable space, when the four of us--Allena, her husband, my wife, and I--started planning the creation of this space. I was there when we developed a menu; when most of the construction was completed by community members. We all sacrificed blood, sweat, and eventually tears in creating what was to become the "living room" of the community.
I was also there when Michael Decker closed Seattle Kink Information Network (SKIN), and members of the community worked with me to create Edge Forum, which held educational forums at Beyond the Edge for the better part of a year. While it is true that Allena did hold some forums at the cafe, that was mostly after my wife and I left the business to her and her husband in 1997, and after I had a successful run with Edge Forum.
By the winter of 1997, the cafe was in dire financial straits. In November, after exhausting all options and weary of what a failing business can do to what we thought was a strong friendship, my wife and I sold the cafe to Allena and her husband.
My wife and I are proud to have sacrificed what we did to help make Beyond the Edge happen. We feel fortunate to have been part of what was sometimes a very magical place--even if the spell eventually turned sour.
Jenner, formerly Vice President of D&S Services Inc., Assistant Manager of Beyond the Edge Cafe, Web Master of Beyond the Edge Cafe, Host of Edge Forum
EDITORS: In his review of Live Nude Girls Unite!, C. Everett Treacle nearly weeps over the movie's sexlessness ["Where Are the Sybarites?" Nov 23]. "How I longed to see an intelligent unity of filth and political allegory," he cries, unaware that keeping the sex out of this movie was one of the most intelligent things the directors could have done. The film is an insider's view of the sex industry. To an outsider, it would seem that a treatment of the sex industry should joyfully dive into the slippery, salty mess of sex. Actually, to this sex-industry insider, the biggest common ground the sex industry shares with sex is its name. Oh, there are prostitutes who really do reach a climax every time, and girls who strip because they just can't bear those confining clothes. But these people are as rare as natural tans in Seattle. Most of the women I've met in my years of "sexployment" have been in it for the money, and workplace conditions are affected less by the number of orgasms than by the rules management sets.
Live Nude Girls Unite! is not about the type of show that girls grind out until they become erotic robots (although if it had been, Mr. Treacle and his johnson would have been pleased). If Mr. Treacle wants sex, I suggest that he check out documentaries about people who don't do it for money. But don't expect a stripper to do more than make the most money she can. By focusing not on pussy but on business, the creators of Live Nude Girls Unite! made a film focused toward the unexpected: working girls who use the law instead of their labia.
Serena "Mona/Cleo" Burroughs, via e-mail
DEAR STRANGER CREW: You have now crossed the line from irreverence to oppression in publishing C. Everett Treacle's review of Live Nude Girls Unite!. This fool is so far gone in his fantastic theories, he would sabotage a real move to shift the balance of power to the working class because its blue-collar foundation doesn't fit his favorite theory. If Mr. Treacle just wants to whack off, he should go to a peep show instead of a documentary about organizing peep-show workers.
Lloyd Weatherford, via e-mail
CHARLES MUDEDE: Excuse me, but your latest article on The Grinch is absolutely ridiculous ["Letter from Moscow," Nov 30]! You would have anyone believe that a character from Nabokov's Lolita ("Vivian Darkbloom") is a "professor," and post a letter that you translated with help from "Anna Petrovna" (another character--this time from Ayn Rand's We the Living)?!? What I find even more pathetic is your attempt to push the boundaries by saying that Darkbloom would write Representations of Boys and Girls in Sologub's Petty Demon! This type of title would more likely be written by Quilty, not by Darkbloom. Your supposed first major in Russian literature is the only thing that's easy to believe, [since] very few people recognize Gogol as a major force in Russian literature/culture. [But the] next time you decide to write something so obvious, at least make it more interesting and believable.
Kelly Earle, via e-mail