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Soldier'e Tale criticism unsupportive


To the Editor:

I was dismayed to read Mr. Richmond's review of The Soldier's Tale in the March 15 Tech. At the outset allow me to state the biases which contributed to this dismay: 1) I am currently President of the MIT Dance Workshop, and in this role am committed to supporting the arts here at MIT, and 2) as an undergraduate I served for two years as an editor for the Cornell Daily Sun, where I learned that neither deadline pressure nor journalistic freedom justified the publication of carelessly prepared articles or reviews.

I believe the Tech Editors are at fault for permitting a review of a performance to go to press which so totally fails to address the journalistic questions of "WHO?" and "WHAT?" This performance of The Soldier's Tale, regardless of its aesthetic merit, is of "news interest" because it was the first joint production of the MIT Chamber Players, the MIT Dance Workshop and the MIT Dramashop.

Mr. Richmond inaccurately refers to it as "the Dramashop production" in his opening line of text and therefore totally obscures this fact. Also, we are told that this unusual piece is rarely performed; such information is valuable to MIT community members who read Arts reviews for other reasons than to inform themselves of the personal likes and dislikes of the reviewer.

I believe the Tech Editors are at fault for permitting a scathing review of a new work of choreography to go to press without placing the criticism in the proper context. That is, although Mr. Richmond dismisses Beth Soll's choreography as "unimaginative," he does not discuss his criteria for "imaginative" choreography; he calls the dancers' movement "unsophisticated and stylized," but does not tell us what aspects of the choreography were unsophisticated, or why he here chooses to use the expression "stylized" in the pejorative sense, given the "stylized" context of the Ramuz/Stravinsky score for which the choreography was created.

I believe it is a breach of editorial ethics for a newspaper to allow unsupported personal opinions to be printed as Arts reviews; Arts reviewers must also reveal the aesthetic foundations on which their opinions are based. The proper place for mere personal opinions is the Opinion pages; the Arts pages should be reserved for pieces which attempt to discuss Arts events in legitimate critical contexts.

Thank you for your consideration.

Matthew Sachs G->

Richmond responds: I continually face the problem of how to deal with the criticism of on-campus Arts events. My conclusion is that the Arts at MIT are generally of such a high standard that they deserve the same high level of critical attention. It would be insulting to treat them on the same basis as a football club, where one is always expected to root for the home team. In the end, being fair means telling the truth, even when it's unpleasant: That's what journalism is all about.

The Arts section has tried to give maximum exposure to campus events, and of late there has been unprecedented coverage of these activities, much of it highly positive to reflect the great talent of so many of the performers at MIT.

I was saddened by the inadequacies of The Soldier's Tale, and did not relish having to write the review it unfortunately deserved: My standards in this case included excellent recent performances by the MIT Symphony Orchestra and Dramashop, and the Abramowitz Memorial Concert performance of The Soldier's Tale given on Feb. 28, 1980, which I reported on most favorably in The Tech.

I'm sorry if Mr. Sachs expected more detail: When I'm excited by a performance, I frequently provide considerable analysis and commentary. When a performance fails to meet even minimal artistic standards, a short, honest report is often most appropriate,as long as it covers the principal points in question; this is exactly what I provided.