If you are early in your career or questioning the pursuit of your dreams after being reviewed by William Coyle or another of his ilk, don’t be discouraged. If he had reviewed my first, second or maybe even tenth production, with similar false allegations, I might have had second thoughts about the possibility of facing another such ambush in the future. However, after more than twenty years of successful productions in the United States and abroad, with positive audience response and numerous awards, being reviewed recently by William Coyle was merely a gnat bite; I’m already at work on my next play, scheduled for March 2011. Had his review been only in print, it would have disappeared in a day or a week, and I would have ignored it. However, in the 21st century it lives on in cyberspace, a flagrant abuse of an otherwise invaluable tool for theater practitioners and others.
I wrote a historical play about a real life person in 1926, based on eight months of detailed and copious research, including locating her correspondence, news and police reports, letters and diaries of her friends and acquaintances (some well-known) and contemporary journals. I consulted historians, a genealogist and her living relatives. The press kit for my play included a long list of representative sources I used. Coyle, I assume, went home, googled her name and found the same few, mostly incorrect bits of information about her that I found before I started my extensive research. Coyle writes, “Kahn’s Eve is not consistent with what is known of her,” “I doubt that Kahn is giving anything close to the real Eve. At best it’s a wild guess,” “…Ms. Kahn’s account may serve ultimately to further distort the life of a figure about whom we already know so little.” To my knowledge or recollection, I have never met Mr. Coyle. I don’t know his agenda, if indeed he has one. But in reviewing a play written by a lesbian about a lesbian, he includes the provocative and inflammatory phrase, “So, to get this straight, [the play] is a mostly imagined account of an historical figure about whom we know surprisingly few facts.” [all italics are mine]. And there was more of this…
I cannot explain why Coyle opted to ignore the information in the press kit in order to accuse me of fabricating the story in my play. Why would I make up information after taking so much time and trouble to find the truth?
Hopefully, you will never encounter a reviewer like William Coyle. If you do, don’t be afraid, in the age of the internet, to respond. There are places where you can post. Your work is defined solely by yourself, and when gnats bite, you can “keep on keepin’ on” in the pursuit of your calling.
As nineteenth-century French author George Sand wrote, “All I want is for people to question the accepted lies and call out for the forgotten truths.”
Last edited on Sat Jun 5th, 2010 01:37 am by bkahn
Good for you! As a younger person, I received a review from an idiot for one of my plays produced Off-Off Broadway. I will not mention the reviewer's name - not a major publication, but still and idiot. He is most suitably dead and in hell by now.
Members of the Pulitzer Committee, in a totally unprecedented move, came to see the Off-Off Broadway production after hearing of the play.
Fortunately I was making a very good living as an actor - and have continued to do so - and could turn down any stupid "concept productions" of the play with star names aboard on Broadway and Off-Broadway. Although, I must assure you, all producers were well-meaning and totally professional...and I understood they all had "chits" out to some people. I have no complaints about anyone's attitude or behavior. Entirely resoectful. It was just a matter of my being loyal to most of my cast. All who have gone on to do notably well.
All but one of the other reviews were incredible. That other onewas mediocre, from a woman who now writes reviews for mystery novels. God love her.
I have never regretted turning down the productions.
As my Irish father would say to you, "May you live long enough to pee on Mr. Coyle's grave." Which he and several of his friends actually did while he was living, over several graves.
And as my dear NYC mentor, now at rest, said after reading the idiot's review at Ted Hook's "Backstage" said, "DUMB...IS FOREVER."
Your advice to young playwrights is to be taken to heart and heeded with utmost truth. Trust and believe in yourself.
Thanks for your support. All of us who have been at this for any length of time have these moments, don't we?
I have never challenged a review no matter how much I disagreed with the reviewer's opinion. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, even if it comes from ignorance, ill will or even a genuine difference in world view of things. William Coyle, however, attacked my integrity and honesty. The editor of the website where he reviewed my play refused to print my response (somewhat milder than this post) or pull the review. She claimed they are not technologically set up to print comments from "the public."
It's a bit easier for men to piss on graves than women, but the fantasy of actually doing it someday brings a measure of satisfaction.
Yes, the one thing you noted, which I forgot to mention and I thank you for reminding me, is when a critique becomes personal. And even though he did not know me, it went far beyond the level of a critique, and was just vociferously mean to the point of being personal. A bad review is part of the game. Withstanding reasoned and even passionate critique is part of any business or trade, but derogatory, nasty, caustic gutter-behavior critique should be kept for ninth ring of hell slum bars in the core of hell, which as I said, maybe where he is now. At least doing extended time in the hottest part of Purgatory.
I will grant him one thing - which may account for Purgatory. He was absolutely right when he said the set by a now Emmy Award winning designer, was beautiful.
I emailed several colleagues before posting here.
Just thought I'd share this response from a colleague whose work I admire very much. It means a great deal to me.
Barbara, What is this guy's problem? First off as a playwright you don't even have to give an "accurate" portrait of someone. That's not a playwrights job; that's for the historian. Playwrights bring out larger truths. This said, I know what kind of research you do and I have no doubt that your play is based on the best research available and that your play shows the real person. I think the man must have some ego thing going on and he needs to make himself feel like a big shot. I'm so sorry this happened to you. Actually, I'm going to be in touch with you soon to ask your advice about some research I'm doing. You can post this letter if you want anywhere you want. Vanda