First lady of the theater
Thank you for Don Aucoin’s lovely article about first lady Michelle Obama and her support for theater (“Gratitude for a first lady in the audience,” Arts, Nov. 25). She’s a positive role model and class act whose love of theater and culture feel genuine. Her visibility certainly has to help ticket sales and inspire families to make theater part of their lives.
I enjoyed Robert Campbell’s article about the renovations at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth library (“Brutalism gets a reworking on
UMass campus,” Arts, Nov. 25). I went to school there from 1976 to 1980 and I can’t tell how many hours I spent in that place.
It looks like they’ve opened up the library quite a bit. When I was there they still had book stacks — what a concept — and it was quite a warren. I recall sitting in a chair in one of those cantilevered bays and getting a thrill knowing there wasn’t anything below me for 50 feet.
I enjoyed Robert Campbell’s column, which was about one of my favorite architects and what I consider his best work. I was at UMass-Dartmouth this fall and walked around the renovated library and lecture halls just to the north. I liked the library but am holding my judgment on the lecture halls because they were not complete.
My understanding is that architect Paul Rudolph had three major sight-line entryways in the design of the campus. One was from the west underneath the lecture halls, among the massive piers that Campbell likens to elephants. More than once I walked under there wondering how the whole thing was held up. With the renovations this entryway is lost, but it was the one used least.
I always liked how Rudolph blended interior and exterior spaces in his early work in the Florida houses. Some of that was present at UMass-Dartmouth in the lost entryway. As Campbell points out, the renovations to his later work have resulted in what was once ruggedly exterior space being completely caged in glass. Is this slightly ironic that a design feature common in his early work is now completely gone due to renovations to his later work?
I was dismayed to see two letters critical of Wesley Morris because the readers felt his writing was “obscurantist” and only for those “who share his rarified air.” (Letters, Arts, Nov. 25). I reread both reviews they referenced and understood clearly why Morris disliked the movies and the larger context in which he critiqued them.
One letter stated: “What is it with critics anyhow? Their job is not to bedazzle readers with their vast knowledge of every pertinent fact under the sky, but to precisely inform or alert the reader: Here’s how this movie deserves attention, this book is altogether forgettable, that TV show really is must-see TV, and here’s why.” Really? Um, no. Good cultural criticism is important precisely because it isn’t limited to consideration of the work within the strict limits of its pages or frame, and to save you the trouble of judging for yourself. The good critic does have “vast knowledge of every pertinent fact under the sky.” Cultural criticism is not only important because it’s enjoyable but because it is part of the conversation a society has with itself to decide what is good, what is right, what should be done. This is the human function of art.
In the work of great critics, their devotion to the art always shines through, even if a particular work of it falls short in their estimation. The Boston Globe is extremely fortunate to have not one but two spectacularly talented film critics in Wesley Morris and Ty Burr.
MARGARET ANN BRADY
I was sorry to read the letter claiming that Wesley Morris’s brilliant movie reviews and commentaries torture and insult the reader. I recommend that he stop reading them! I will continue, with the greatest pleasure. Many of us find Morris and Burr’s reviews insightful, artistically and historically informative, and almost always beautifully written. I was not at all surprised that Morris received a Pulitzer, and I’m sure Burr’s turn will come. If Morris or Burr say that readers must see a movie, I consider those my marching orders. Please hang on to these brilliant reviewers; they bring credit to the Globe, to the Boston area, and to the fine art of film.
I felt terrible reading the letters criticizing Morris for his brilliant reviews. I read them even if I don’t plan to see the movie because they are gems! If readers want dumbed-down reviews, they’re not hard to find. Morris (and Ty Burr and Sebastian Smee) remind me why I keep subscribing to the Globe.
The two letters regarding movie reviews are so true. Convoluted reviews, arrogant writing posing as art, premeditated torture to read, readers befogged instead of informed: They said what I have been thinking for years. I start to read a review and then just get turned off. But I do wonder if it is Morris and Ty Burr alone, or the Globe telling them to fill one to two pages of blah blah blah. Get to the point, and don’t go off into never-never land.
I think there’s a reason why Boston audiences seem unaccepting and unprepared for more adventuresome music programs, as Jeremy Eichler discussed (“Takács recital, tailored for Boston,” g, Nov. 19).
When I first became interested in classical music, people like Ron Della Chiesa, Nathaniel Johnson, Dennis Boyer, and especially Robert J. Lurtsema were playing serious music programs on Boston’s strong public radio stations, WGBH and WBUR, along with (earlier in the 1960s) WBCN. WCRB also had full-time classical programs on a strong commercial station, if more popular in nature. Live Boston Symphony concerts were available almost every Friday and Saturday. Now we have only WCRB on a weaker channel, playing an even more watered-down program. The BSO is on once a week, and the Metropolitan Opera has been banished to WHRB.
How can we expect people to know music well and come to concerts expecting to be challenged, if the local stations provide no such challenge? Where are the long surveys of composers and their works? How do young people get exposed to them now?
I really enjoy and appreciate Eichler’s reviews, which continue the Globe’s high standards. Please keep asking these hard questions and trying to help people understand what music and understanding are for.
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