|Adoration wasn't enough for Jeff Haslam.|
What happens when the artistic director of the theater goes stark-raving bonkers? Leaves a comment, a vile bit of vitriol (just to keep to the v's) on the blog of one of his company's biggest fans that says he never wants her to "darken the doors" of his theater again? And that blogger happens to have one of the most prominent sites in town? Well, dear readers, you have Edmonton.
I picked up on this particular case from the Twitter feed of Portland Center Stage marketeer Trisha Mead, which links to a long post by the similarly prominent blogging boyfriend, Mack Male, of the blogger in question, Sharon Yeo. Male is pretty outraged, and a quick bit of research explains why. Not only is the tone of the artistic director, Jeff Haslam, just about as nasty as it can be, Haslam is just flat-out wrong in his charges against Yeo.
Read even a couple of her reviews, including the one that set off Haslam, and it's apparent that they aren't "snotty" or "arrogant" at all. They aren't even "reviews," really, just the casual notes of a fan of Haslam and his theater. For example, here's the kicker to the post on "The Ambassador's Wives" that roused Haslam to type the comment that will live in infamy: "In all, it was a good night – lots of laughter, fresh licorice, and the chance to see some young performers shine." I'm looking for the arrogance without success, never mind the snottiness.
But let's say that you have a disagreement with one of your biggest online fans, someone who writes that she "adores" you, but maybe something else she said has irritated you. Do you leave the following comment on her blog? "In fact every time I read one of your posts I think 'I am not smitten with this weird women like her icky friends seem to be. I wish she’d stop subscribing to my theatre company, because she seems like such a pretentious doof.'"
For a little balance, I went to another account of the fracas, but Brittney LeBlanc, who works for a local radio station, was totally enraged by Haslam's behavior. After Haslam talked to her, she backed off a bit, defaulting to the journalist's "he said-she said" position, but Haslam's view on the "weird woman" and "her icky friends" hadn't changed: "I think what I wrote was fairly reasonable." He then went on to defend his right to comment on Yeo's blog.
That's a complete red herring -- it's the content of the comment that's the problem, the attitude, sure, which is outrageous and a public relations disaster, but also the apparent inability to read. Yeo ADORES Haslam, she even says so. She loves his company. She's always telling people to go to his theater. And Haslam's response is NOT reasonable or civil, even if she'd written as he said she had.
One more step: It's in Haslam's best interest for Yeo to blog about his company regardless of her comments, even if they were scathing and unfair. Any talk about theater is good talk, really, when the alternative is talk about sports or TV. A company wants to be at the center of debate, in the middle of conversation, the subject of adoration and calumny and everything in between. Have I mentioned "Long Day's Journey Into Night" lately?
But you guys know that, which is why this would never, ever, ever happen in Portland, right? No matter how snotty and arrogant I get? Even if my friends get several degrees ickier than they already are? And I admit that sometimes I like the intermission cookies? Please, Mr. and Ms. Artistic Director, don't leave a nasty comment on my blog! On second thought...