Arrogance and egos
In your recent article, you quote Florida State University dean Steven Wallace as saying, "...when I go to the Asolo and see Asolo productions, I've yet to see a single minority in a production." For Mr. Wallace to make such a flippant remark with any impunity, he would have to have seen few, if any Asolo shows, not bothered to read the program bios, and ignored the presence of his own conservatory students in Asolo's productions. He should also be knowledgeable enough to be aware that the kind of classic western theater the Asolo was founded on, and continues to excel at, has few roles specifically written as minority or ethnic characters. The choice of shows each season depends largely on the performers available in the repertory company. It also depends on what audiences are willing to attend. One hardly expects this kind of ignorant remark from an educational leader, but this is the typical red herring that FSU's leaders have been tossing at our community in recent years.
The Asolo has always made every effort to include performers of diverse ethnic and minority backgrounds, a few of which have appeared in minor roles this season. In years past, the Asolo has presented shows with minority casts and themes, which were met with critical acclaim, if not box office success. And, playing to its strengths, it continues to have a strong relationship with Sarasota's Jewish community. That inclusiveness extends to more than just the face we present to our audiences. Our stage crews and administrators show at least some ethnic diversity as well. The Asolo depends on FSU's students to perform in large-cast shows other regional theaters cannot present. FSU itself chooses those students. As a former FSU student, I can tell you that the main campus is hardly the poster child for ethnic diversity, either.
Certainly this is a battle of arrogance, and of professional egos versus academic egos. But, as professionals, we'll always have the advantage of knowing more about our business than those who study us. Merely bureaucratic and political decisions will never have the same strength and value as informed management decisions. The conservatory program is comparable in cost to any other similar program, with the unique added benefit of working onstage with experienced professionals. Both organizations have their faults, but FSU leadership has always been unwilling to admit their own, preferring to stare down their noses and cast knee-jerk insults at the Asolo instead. Compromise will come only when FSU is willing to become an equal partner in this community rather than the most powerful one.
—Bill Atkins, Asolo stagehand, Sarasota
Balancing the news
I am a resident of Tampa Bay and a reader of the Planet for the past five years.
I appreciate your continued analysis and observations from "the other side." As you noted in this week's guest contribution to the Planet, if I want the pro-invasion point-of-view, all I need to do is turn on the TV, or 970 WFLA radio.
—Stephen Heath, Clearwater
Oh, no! Could your hero, Al-Arian, have feet of clay, or is that clay really PBRDX?
I think I get it now. He is innocent because Israel is even more guilty.
Or is it that he really didn't do it himself? How may people did Charles Manson kill himself?
I guess we're just not going to agree on this one, but you've scored many bulls-eyes in the past. Sorry you left the Planet, but glad you're still contributing.
Keep up the good work (usually).
—Howard Smale, Clearwater
Editor's note: Mr. Smale tells us that PBRDX is a plastic explosive, often used by terrorists because of its pliable and powerful nature. It is more commonly referred to as RDX.