Prosky Pans Peter of the Post in D.C. Scuffle

News   Prosky Pans Peter of the Post in D.C. Scuffle
In a recent letter to the editor of the Washington Post, actor Robert Prosky mentioned an unwritten rule in the theatre, which dictates that actors ought never write to a critic—no matter how disagreeable they might find the reviewer or his reviews.
Robert Prosky.
Robert Prosky.

Prosky, however, recently broke that rule. The actor has this year appeared in two productions at the Arena Stage in Washington: a reworked version of Wendy Wasserstein's An American Daughter, and Ken Ludwig's new comedy, Shakespeare in Hollywood. The Post's drama critic, Peter Marks—who previously served as a second string reviewer for the New York Times—did not care for either.

The double whammy apparently piqued Prosky's temper. The letter to the editor read as follows:

" A Reviewer in Need of Review

I have been an actor for almost 50 years, have done more than 200 plays and I am about to break an unwritten rule against actors ever replying in print to a critic.

I recently have done two plays at Arena Stage that Peter Marks reviewed. Both reviews – one in May, the other in September – were lacking in journalistic integrity and theatrical expertise. The very essence of theater is found in the reaction and communication between performance and audience. Both plays received positive response from the audience: Laughs long and loud the likes of which I have seldom experienced, as well as standing ovations.

Your paper is supposed to report the facts. Audience enjoyment of both these plays was never mentioned in the reviews.

As far as theatrical expertise is concerned, Marks’s review of An American Daughter last season was largely a review of the New York production instead of Arena’s vastly different production, and again no mention was made of the overwhelmingly positive response of the audience. The same reaction was ignored when he reviewed Shakespeare in Hollywood.

Last season he trashed the Signature Theater production of Follies. I wasn’t in it, but I saw it and, along with most other theater professionals and critics who did the same, found his review to be way out in some theatrical never-never land.

Will Rogers once said, “I only know what I read in the newspapers.” I’m just an actor. I only know what I hear from an audience. Unfortunately, many future audiences of Shakespeare in Hollywood will only know what they read in Marks’s review, and the response to the play will diminish considerably as will the chances of its receiving another production, which in turn would rob any future audiences of the great fun that this play offers.

I have returned from films and Broadway to do what I believe to have been two very good plays that were beautifully produced at Arena. Theater in Washington has advanced greatly both in quantity and above all in artistic quality since my first days at Arena. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for your paper’s theater critic."

Prosky has appeared on Broadway in A Walk in the Woods and Glengarry Glen Ross. Last year, he played Off-Broadway in The Golem at Manhattan Ensemble Theatre.

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