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Goodbye, Ann

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I just got word that (CL Associate Editor) Ann Wicker's last day is May 16. For those of us who have had the pleasure of working with Ann at Creative Loafing, it will be a sad day indeed.

Ann is one of those steady workers every business covets. Her smile, jokes and general good nature were welcome assets to CL's editorial department. And I would bet my bottom dollar that no one could get through to some of us hard-headed and egotistical writers better than Ann. She had a way of making us see the light without diminishing our confidence -- a rare feat.

May the creative juices continue to flow in your latest endeavor, Ann. Congratulations on the fine job you did for Creative Loafing.

-- Mary Coyne Wessling, Greensboro

Inhuman TreatmentGreat article ("Sheriff Giving County A Black Eye," by Tara Servatius, May 14). I have a brother in the NC Prison system and the way the DOC is run on a state level is outrageous! They change rules when they what to and enforce how they want to and if anyone questions anything they (Prison officals) do, they take it out on the prisoner.

My brother belongs there -- don't get me wrong -- but he still is human and deserves to be at least treated as a human. Just thought you would like to know.

-- Charlene Shoe, Charlotte

Progress On The CoastThe article by Hal Herring is just exceptional ("Battle At The Edge Of America," May 14). I spent my early years fishing all along the NC coast with my daddy, and I recall when these areas were pristine. We used to stop on Bald Head Island to explore. It was mysterious and wonderful. The old lighthouse, covered in lichens, seemed to be part of the natural landscape. A few years ago, Daddy and I approached Bald Head in a small boat and the sight of "progress" washed me in sorrow. A group of people on the pier looked at us as if to say, "Why are you here?" Why, indeed.

-- Donna Clark, Asheville

Sen. Hoyle & the Outer BanksWhat a great man that Senator Hoyle is. The first word that comes to mind is magnanimous. With such selfless eloquence -- "I guess you could say I did the community a favor" -- how could I think otherwise?

Whatever. Because he is not putting up "a big, orange tiger's ass," we are supposed to cheer his over-development of one of the most unique places in this country. I have an idea. Let's stand arm in arm as he bulldozes the land, grateful to not have to look at the crematorium he suggests. Who are these threats directed at? Are we supposed to shudder at the thought of his money going straight to his lawyers instead of building a high school or fire truck with it? Is this really a Senator advancing such petty, childish arguments?

I read this article still clinging to my belief that some places will always remain the same. Call me naive. But I do recognize the sad truth that, whether or not Sen. Hoyle's development plan is tasteful or even gets completed, there will always be others lined up behind him in search of a dollar, and often that dollar will take precedence over all else.

Admittedly, I know little about Sen. Hoyle. But, after reading your cover story, I couldn't help but think that I knew too much.

-- Deron Nardo, Charlotte

You're In ViolationLetters recently exchanged here between Perry Tannenbaum and me (Letters, May 14) have sparked a healthy debate throughout Charlotte's theatrical community. I propose that we keep this important discussion alive.

Before this season's New Play Festival, the Rep did request that CL refrain from reviewing the plays (cue Tannenbaum flashback: Smelly Cat Coffeehouse), although it was vaguely implied later that this request should have been made in writing. We also invited CL to consider an article exploring the artistic development process that our newly revamped festival provided for the chosen pieces -- a fitting way to cover a festival that is intended to serve as a secure laboratory for developing new theatre.

Although CL believes otherwise, the Rep continues to firmly declare that printing reviews of works-in-development is in violation of a national industry standard. In a March 2003 letter to the field, Ben Cameron of Theatre Communications Group (an association of 446 not-for-profit theatres in 47 states) reported on the stormy debate over the New York Times' decision to send critics to preview performances at New Jersey theatres. Theatre professionals fervently opposed the decision, since preview performances (especially new works) often see significant changes to and refinement of productions, and most shows do not reach their finished form until opening night. After energetic dialogue with the theatre industry, the Times has ceased reviewing preview performances.

If the Times and the national theatre industry agree that previews shouldn't be reviewed, it certainly stands to reason that readings of uncompleted works should be accorded the same (or more) respectful protection. Critical reviews are ingested by the community as final judgments of products; in your mission to serve your readers, it is appropriate for CL to print critical reviews of post-preview performances only.

We appreciate Mr. Tannenbaum's cited examples of previously reviewed festival pieces that moved on to subsequent productions. However, this does not diminish our strong belief that subjecting these playwrights' efforts to premature published criticism undermines the New Play Festival's overall intention of ensuring an outlet for safe artistic encouragement and improvement of new works.

We are confident that we can find some common ground here. Regarding our New Play Festival, we suggest that CL would better serve its readers by encouraging them to attend the readings, whereby they can participate in appropriate and relatively private feedback to the works via post-reading discussions.

While attending TCG's national conference next week, we look forward to sharing the specifics of this debate during a roundtable discussion with professional theatre colleagues from around the country, and we'll report back with their views.

-Matt Olin, Managing Director, Charlotte Repertory Theatre

Editor's Reply: The differences between CL's position on this issue and Mr. Olin's are fairly subtle but clear. As I have previously communicated to Mr. Olin, we agree that it is unfair to readers, as well as to the production company, to review a preview performance of a soon-to-open play, as readers could easily assume that the kinks mentioned in the review would not have been worked out by opening night. However, as Perry Tannenbaum expressed last week, we do not agree that the same applies to readings of works in progress which are not slated for full production anytime soon. These readings are assumed by audiences to be, and are publicized as, incomplete works, and are the only locally scheduled performances of these works for the forseeable future. Our reviews of these pieces are clearly snapshots of incomplete works, not a final grade on the value of the work written in stone for all time, and it's hard to believe that any reader would think differently.

We appreciate Mr. Olin and Charlotte Rep's ideas for other Rep-related stories, just as we appreciate story ideas from all our readers. All story ideas (well, many of them) are taken seriously and are judged according to the needs of the paper and its mission of serving readers' interests. In the end, however, as Perry so aptly put it last week, we reserve the right of a free and independent press to cover a public event as we see fit.

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