...say something, the MTA asks. And so I respond. I think this comment thread is all kinds of wrong. It starts off okay, but then, well, Thomas Garvey starts in and it takes a distinct turn for the worse and just gets worse and worse and worse.
I've thought about this all afternoon and thought about letting the whole thing just go and letting the parties hang themselves with their own words. But...I think there's been too much letting things go and not calling them what they are. And that thread is straight up sexist. By the end of it, they're basically saying that Sarah Ruhl is a sneaky, uppity bitch who has either somehow suckered the world into producing her or a completely incompetent writer who is receiving her accolades as some sort of affirmative action sop. Both are offensive.
The really funny part is that when folks like me, Isaac or Scott Walters talk about the MFA system providing writers a leg up, these are the same folks who leap out to say that MFAs are places where people go to learn their craft and shouldn't be assailed. But here they are, pillorying a high-profile grad as an affirmative action case, whose plays shouldn't be produced as widely because they're no good. As I've said before, it's a complete flip-flop dependent on who they want to trash.
But back to the thread, I'm in full agreement with jmdirexodus: the main charge of Art's post is she's a CAREERIST. And in full context, it reads like a slur. Again, it's just a synonym for uppity. Even the bulk of his comment is more about her interviews, which may or may not be her at her best, but not at all about her work.
She's "positioned herself to have a successful career"? How? By...being produced? By writing produceable plays? I mean, is she kneecapping other playwrights? Insisting that no one else ever be produced? I just don't understand the substance of the complaint.
Even Kris Vire's excuse is her ubiquity isn't much of a fig leaf over the sexism. I've never heard a complaint about a male playwright being ubiquitous. Not even Mamet, who just had two plays running on Broadway, and is the most produced living playwright in America. Not Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, who's been produced more this last season. Not Michael Hollinger, also produced more. Is Sarah Ruhl worse than all of those playwrights? Are her plays worse?
To be clear: I have my issues with some of her work, that's absolutely true. And I have lots of issues with a system that singles out one playwright as the new voice of a generation. Those are not the same things. I have issues with Sarah's plays, but that doesn't mean I can't see why someone else wouldn't. I don't pass myself off as some kind of arbiter of absolute goodness in playwriting. Is Sarah Ruhl the equivalent of other playwrights, older, more accomplished playwrights? That's not for me to say. I guess it's for these guys to weigh in on with absolute surety.
In my couple of years of reading these kind of threads, I've never seen these kind of attacks on a male playwright. Never. I know lots of people with issues about Chris Shinn's work or Adam Rapp's work and I have never seen a thread calling any of them a "fake," like some sort of con artist.
It's one thing to say that she's overrated, or overproduced, but those are issues for the theatres and the press, but they're not her fault. Acting otherwise just demeans the work we all do. And acting this way towards the highest profile female playwright working right now smacks of misogyny and sexism.
It's well known that Thomas Garvey and I don't see eye to eye. I don't know who Jack Worthing is, but we also have had our flare-ups. In general, I have respect for Art at The Mirror Up To Nature. But I think that entire thread is all off-base. And I think those three guys should be ashamed of themselves. I doubt they will be. But if I didn't say anything about it, I would go to bed ashamed. We shouldn't let things like this slide.
(Edited slightly for some spelling issues and clarity to remove one thing that, on further reflection, didn't quite jibe. Jack Worthing's reponse is in Isaac's comments.)
UPDATE: Make sure to check out the thread here and at Parabasis for some interesting additions and updates. For my part, I do want to make clear and reiterate that I don't think the individual commenters on the thread were or are sexist or misogynist, but that the conversation felt that way. See? Anonymous people on the internet can play nice.