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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The show Mark Belling, Badger Blogger, the religious right, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel didn't want you to see

by folkbum

In a fit of misoverestimation of my own talent, I once upon a time hauled my guitar, my many capos, my nasally voice, and a dozen songs into a Real Live Recording Studio and hauled out a professionally produced CD.

That recording studio was Walls Have Ears, which is located in an historic Oakland Avenue building on Milwaukee's East Side. The studio has both produced WAMI-award winning artists and records and been a WAMI-award winner itself. A relative unknown, I was able to afford such a swanky outfit because I was the learning-curve project for now-expert engineer Sandy Weisto. The project was then mastered by Walls's owner, Bill Stace.

For making my warbly self sound almost listenable, I owe both Sandy and Bill a tremendous debt, even though it was years ago.

The historic building housing Walls Have Ears is actually the Miramar Theatre, also owned and operated by Bill Stace. It has re-invented itself as a home to eclectic performances of all kinds, hosting plays ("Late Night Catechism" had two long runs there), music, films, and the best Tuesday-night open stage in town. (The open stage is run by Sandy; for two bucks you get an appreciative audience, 15 minutes on the big stage, and a complimentary CD of your performance.)

So I got my dander up a bit when I saw this a few weeks ago on my usual rounds through the Milwaukee blogs:
The Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel chose Good Friday to start running an ad for a play called Puppetry of the Penis. [. . .] The show isn’t until mid-April, but they have to run the ad this weekend to get the full shock value for their perverted show. Mark Belling spoke about this outrage today, he called and spoke to some vice president of advertising at the paper, he wouldn’t give a straight answer to anything.
The show is at the Miramar from April 15-20, as you may have noticed from the BlogAd running there on the right hand side of your screen. And as it turns out, all the bullying from Belling, the religious right, Patrick and others on the blogs must have done a number on that nameless "some vice president of advertising" since the paper caved and pulled the ads. I got this email from Bill a short time later:
March 28, 2008


After receiving complaints regarding a PUPPETRY OF THE PENIS ad which ran on Good Friday, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is refusing to run additional ads for the show, which will appear at the Miramar Theatre in Milwaukee April 15-20. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel had no problems running ads for previous engagements of the show and ran an ad without complaint prior to Good Friday.

In keeping with the comedic tone of the show, return engagements such as Milwaukee, are being referred to as part of the “Res-erection” tour. It was an unfortunate coincidence that an ad featuring this language ran on Good Friday. Producer David J. Foster and William Stace, owner of the Miramar Theatre sent a letter to the editor of the Journal-Sentinel on March 25th apologizing to those who may have been offended, and explained that the same ad runs year round wherever the show is being presented, and was never intended to make light of the religious holiday. The newspaper declined to run the letter.

PUPPETRY OF THE PENIS is a comedy. It is not sexual and there is no swearing. And, we certainly make no references to the Bible, Christianity or any other religion. “We have even received a clean bill of health from the Bishop of Colchester, who said, ‘There is nothing wicked about the human body. I refuse to condemn this show.’”

PUPPETRY OF THE PENIS sent the Journal-Sentinel a revision of the ad with the words the “Res-erection Tour” removed. Instead, a quote from the Journal-Sentinel’s review of the show in 2004 (“Silly, not salacious”) was included. The newspaper still refused to run the ad. Speaking from his office in New York, show producer David J. Foster said “It’s a shame that the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is being swayed by a small minority of people who are afraid of seeing the word ‘penis’ in the newspaper."
I don't think I'll be able to make it to a show (there are already a couple of other
things on my agenda for next week), but anything that irks Mark Belling has got to be a good thing in my book. So I'm helping Bill promote the show since your local daily paper--the same daily that gave it a fairly favorable review a few years back--apparently doesn't want you to go see it. I say, go; support local independent venues like the Miramar and show the bullies that they don't get to decide for you what is and is not appropriate entertainment.

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