By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
As members of the Actors’ Gang, we are writing to express our disappointment in Steven Leigh Morris’ cover article “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” [August 3–9] and our disbelief that the L.A. Weekly would allow Mr. Morris to write the article —a piece of advocacy, not journalism —in the first place. Mr. Morris is not an objective reporter of the recent developments at the Actors’ Gang; he is an advocate of a particular viewpoint with close personal and professional ties to one faction within the company. Morris’ play Moscow, which recently played at the ASK Common Grounds Festival, was developed in workshop at the Actors’ Gang. It was directed by, and included in its cast, several of the presently disgruntled Gang members. That Mr. Morris would ally himself with the faction that can best help him achieve his goals as a playwright is not surprising. That your editorial staff would be unwilling or unable to make the conflict of interest clear to Mr. Morris is a shame and a disgrace.
Mr. Morris never spoke to us about our opinions on this issue, even though he had ample opportunity to do so. (Ann was the costume designer on Moscow.) Nor did he speak with any of the other members of the company who served in leadership positions in Tim Robbins’ absence and continue as active members today. If he had, he might have discovered that the Actors’ Gang is nothing more than a large group of talented individuals who often have trouble getting along. Were it not for the presence of a movie star, the story would hardly be worth writing about.
The simple fact is, we have never billed ourselves as the Great Infrastructure Gang, or the Can’t We All Just Get Along Gang, or the Democracy Is Better Than Dictatorship Gang. We have always been the Actors’ Gang, and we let our work speak for itself. It is our hope that the theater community will judge the Actors’ Gang on the quality of our shows, and not on our ability, or lack of ability, to manage our daily business or get along behind the scenes.
STEVEN LEIGH MORRIS REPLIES: How stupid do the Farleys think I am? Infuriating Tim Robbins hardly serves my goals as a playwright. And to write a cover story trumpeting any friend’s agenda would be to flush my years-earned reputation for journalistic integrity down the toilet. Details of my artistic involvement with the Actors’ Gang, including the principals’ names, were fully disclosed on the first page of the article. Ten of the troupe’s 40 members were contacted, from all sides. Most chose to be strategically evasive, or to remain off the record.
Steven Leigh Morris’ article on Tim Robbins’ return to the Actors’ Gang is one of those classic sleight-of-hand stories that disguises itself as dogged investigative journalism, while in fact being little more than a writer’s cheap ploy to milk the celebrity teat and score a cover story.
Not that Mr. Robbins’ return to the L.A. theater scene isn’t newsworthy. It is. Not that the artistic shakeup at a local theater as influential as the Actors’ Gang doesn’t deserve media attention. It does. The fact is that, since Mr. Robbins lessened his presence at the Actors’ Gang a few years ago, the theater has indeed fallen into a state of general disrepair. The work has been okay, but not consistently excellent. The physical space has grown shabby and rundown. The energy waned. I felt it. I’m a patron. I’ve been to the shows.
Would I, if I were Mr. Robbins, founder and financial benefactor of the company, have been upset with the state of affairs at the Actors’ Gang? Yes, I would have been. Would I have felt that it was within my rights to step back into the company that I created and helped keep afloat over the years, and attempt to jump-start the dream again? Yes, I would have. And would I, if I were Mr. Robbins, upon suspecting that a newspaper journalist was seeking to blow a relatively simple story about an artist trying to maintain his artistic vision into an übermythic tale of ego and power, have resisted participating in that same story? Yes, I would have.
Mr. Morris ends his article by intimating that Mr. Robbins’ reluctance to participate in the Weekly article somehow proves that Mr. Robbins has something to hide or be ashamed of. Perhaps it’s just that Mr. Robbins felt it counterproductive to participate in a “he said/she said” tug of war in the newspaper, and decided rather to spend his time working with his gang of actors.
Many thanks to the Weekly and Steven Leigh Morris for “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.” For some of us living by and working in L.A. small theater, there had been a vague unease as to what was happening to the Gang, long a model for a lot of us. In recent months, among actors, when the Gang was brought up, heads would shake, â eyes would be averted, mystery abounded. Finally, one can read this piece and draw one’s own conclusions. Thank Christ we’re talking about it.