“Shut Up,” He Explained

4. November, 2010 Theater 3 comments

I got a pretty great email today in response to my less-than-favorable review of Dead Man’s Wake.  Here it is in all its unedited glory:

hello, if this is the true Sam Hurwitt that reviewed dead mans wake, i shur think you need a review of your own. Staring off who are you to judge peoples pieces of work. People have put alot of effort into this play. I hope you know that if people reviewed you they would say that your single, desperate, and lonely. Do you have any friends… I thought not. just stop being such a jerk and leave your snobby little opinion out of everyones life. Good day sir!

Now, I always appreciate feedback, and never really feel I get enough of it, because often people are pretty shy about responding to their critics (at least to their face). Usually when I get an email about a review, even a negative one, it’s either to thank me or to say something like, “Don’t tell anyone I said this, but man, that was a train wreck.” Once in a while I’ll get a thoughtful email challenging me on my interpretation of something, or pointing out a factual error I may have made, but not nearly often enough.  But unless you say nothing but nice things about everything (in which case you really can’t be trusted), you’re always going to get emails like this. They’re usually either from someone involved in the production or one of their friends or family members, they almost always go straight to the ad hominem insults and just amount to, “If you can’t say something nice, just shut the hell up.”

As it happens I usually do say some nice things, even in this review, but man, sometimes it’s not easy.  I never actually set out to pan a show, because if I think I’m going to hate it I’d rather not go to it at all. But if I do go and it’s terrible, it’s my job to say so, and I don’t have any mixed feelings about that.  Although I certainly don’t intend to piss people off, I also figure if nobody’s feathers ever get ruffled I must not be doing my job right.  So it doesn’t bother me when I get stuff like this (and in this case it’s actually kind of hilarious). But it does make me reflect, not for the first time, that there really should be more dialogue about criticism. I always love reading letters to the editor and online comments on reviews, and it’s particularly interesting to me to see the occasional playwright or other theater artist critiquing the reviews they get on their own blogs.  And if you have any thoughts about things you read here on the blog, don’t keep ’em to yourself.  I’d love to hear them.

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  1. 11 / 4 / 2010 11:17 pm

    Well, I can confirm that Sam is married, and happily so. So much for the single, lonely, and desperate angle.

    What I love the absolute most about this letter is that the author bothered to put the most horrendously misspelled word into bold. I mean, it’s kind of a cheap shot to knock people on their spelling, as it’s really not that big a deal, but the fact that ‘shur’ is in bold… priceless!


  2. Sam Hurwitt

    11 / 4 / 2010 11:21 pm

    Blissfully so, you mean!

    To be fair, I think that particular one was probably playing off of my “shurwitt” email address. There’s certainly no shortage of misspellings there, though.


    • 11 / 4 / 2010 11:24 pm

      It crossed my mind as well, but what I find most amusing is that because there are so many other misspellings and grammatical mistakes, if s/he was trying to make a clever point, it was lost amidst the rubble.

      If I have to disqualify that favorite, though, then I’d have to say my next favorite part is the sign-off, which I imagine in a persnickety, Surrey-toned huff: Good day sir!





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