Cutting Ties with Teatro la Quindicina

I saw my first Teatro la Quindicina play in 2001 – the summer after I graduated high school. Cocktails at Pam’s had received a 4 1/2 star review in the Journal, and it seemed to be on everyone’s must-see list.  At the time, I was a volunteer, and redeeming volunteer appreciation Fringe bucks at the time meant waiting in line twice – once to get tickets at the door, and again to get seats. My friend and I waited over three hours total to see the production, which probably didn’t help our expectation level. Both of us came out of the show not having understood the humour – when the audience laughed, we didn’t even know a joke had been made. It happened to me then, and it has happened since then – sometimes a show just doesn’t jive with an individual because theatre, like other forms of art, is subjective.

In 2004, I attended my second Teatro show,  a remount of Shocker’s Delight during the regular theatre season. The show, about growing up, friendship and love, featured Ron Pederson, Jocelyn Ahlf and Josh Dean, and to this day, remains one of my all-time favourite productions. Every theatre patron has those handful of plays that they go back to, year after year, to be referenced as what cemented their love of theatre. Shocker’s Delight was one of those shows for me, so much so that I purchased a copy of A Teatro Trilogy: Selected Plays by Stewart Lemoine soon after.

Since then, I’ve been attending Teatro la Quindicina productions regularly – Pith!, The Oculist’s Holiday and last season’s Everybody Goes to Mitzi’s!, have been highlights over the past six years. Two years ago, because Mack and I were finding that we were attending most, if not all, of Teatro’s plays, we decided to purchase season subscriptions, figuring that was one way we could support the company.

For that reason, I was shocked to read Teatro Artistic Director Jeff Haslam’s comment, written on Saturday:

You come across as snotty and arrogant. I absolutely despise your pretension that you are “a reviewer” in any professional way. In fact every time I read one of your posts I think “I am not smitten with this weird women like her icky friends seem to be. I wish she’d stop subscribing to my theatre company, because she seems like such a pretentious doof. I wonder if she knows that her endlessly stuck-up self-important little reviews are deeply offensive to those of us who bust our buts for next to nothing to bring a little entertainment to this distant northern city? I wonder if she knows that her crappy 19 bucks goes to less than 40% of what it costs to pay all the artists she isn’t always smitten by? Do us all a favour lady. Write about food and take your entertainment dollar elsewhere.
Jeff Haslam

When I started this blog back in 2006, I wrote about many things, including theatre. One reason for this was so I could maintain a log of memorable shows, actors and playwrights as a personal reference guide. Another – which has become the driving force of my blog – was so I could showcase all that I love about Edmonton – local restaurants, area producers, festivals, and yes, theatre.

I have never claimed to be a professional reviewer. But like anyone who watches any production, I will have an opinion. Sure, most theatregoers may not take the time to express their opinion as I do, but they likely do so in other ways – telling friends, commenting on a review, updating a Facebook status. Though I doubt they would believe me anyway, I never meant to hurt or offend any of the Teatro actors; my intent wasn’t malicious, or personal, even though he has interpreted it as such. I was, in my mind, recording my experience of the shows (my posts about Teatro can be found here).

Mack wrote more about the process of confirming that comment was indeed submitted by Jeff Haslam, and I thank him for willing to be the go-between. I will admit to some cowardice on my part – as personal as their reaction seemed to be, mine was equally so. Six years of history with anything can do that to you.

Perhaps what’s most upsetting to me is when and how Jeff Haslam chose to disclose his feelings about my blog. There are numerous other routes he could have taken – an e-mail, for instance, or, in person, at one of Teatro’s shows (as a subscriber, I would have to call in to reserve my seats, so he would have known when I would be attending the plays). Also, last November, when I contacted him by e-mail for a post I wrote about shopping locally, he responded, but did not mention his opinion in his reply. The most opportune time in my mind, however, was in April of this year, when I renewed our subscription to Teatro. Could he not have communicated to me then of his preference that we stop attending his shows earlier, and save us from all of this? I think about all of the productions I have attended in the past few years, sitting in the audience unaware that the theatre company putting on the show really didn’t want me there.

He will ultimately get his wish – I can say with confidence that any production Jeff Haslam is involved in will never earn another dollar from me. And though I am saddened by how this happened, I look forward to supporting other theatre companies with my patronage in the future.

August 26, 2010 update: Mack and I received a handwritten apology from Jeff Haslam in the mail today. It was accompanied by a signed copy of Stewart Lemoine’s At the Zenith of the Empire, and a refund for the unused portion of our season subscriptions.

110 thoughts on “Cutting Ties with Teatro la Quindicina

  1. “There are numerous other routes he could have taken – an e-mail, for instance, or, in person, at one of Teatro’s shows” – Mack wrote about this too. However, “social media” is a public dialogue. Why is not entitled to express his feelings on your blog?

  2. Sure, he’s entitled to share his feelings on Sharon’s blog – but then, it means that any and all responses are public, and that if he comes across as the sore loser in all of this, that’s public too. That might not be the best PR strategy for his acting and for Teatro IMO.

  3. What a painful experience, Sharon. I am so sorry that this happened to you. Shermie, I didn’t hear Sharon saying he “wasn’t allowed to” express his feelings on her blog. That is what everyone does all of the time. But his, clearly, were deeply personal and hurtful. To do that in this forum is not appropriate, me thinks. As Sharon said, there are other venues to express one’s opinion, should it be that strong and personal, that are much more appropriate. Personally, I think this kind of gut reaction is never “appropriate”. As a regular reader of Sharon’s, I am well aware that her main interest is to honestly express her views and she has consistently done so with grace. That, I appreciate.

  4. “that if he comes across as the sore loser in all of this, that’s public too.”

    Or he comes across as justified and saying what people are actually thinking.

  5. Sorry to hear it’s come to this Sharon.

    I personally hope you don’t stop writing about theatre. In my personal experience, there’s no such thing as a bad review.

    I have been involved in shows with a bad review. 0 stars and the reviewer did not even feel like spending the time to write coherent sentences to convey why they did not like the show. They instead reprinted the words they wrote down in their notebook. This resulted in sold out shows for the remainder of the run!

    I am sure there are plenty of other theatre companies who would love to have your and Mack’s business and would be thrilled with the free publicity by being mentioned in your blog.

  6. I decided to post my support in the public forum as well as in email. I felt sick to my stomach reading Mack’s and then your posts on this. Haslam’s response seems completely out of proportion and specifically designed to cause pain. I just think that is not ok.

    I won’t be able to sit through any performance of Haslam’s without thinking of how he treated you with so little respect. He will not be getting my business either – though I feel he wouldn’t want it anyway.

  7. Sharon, just wanted to let you know that there are a lot of us in “this distant northern city” who value and support you. Keep up the reviews; I love that that your blog offers a little of everything for everyone.

    Also, thank you for writing about this super rude dude. As a newbie to the theatre scene it’s nice to have some direction in what to watch and what (or who) to avoid.

  8. Sharon, just keep on writing, give your honest review. By posting such a comment on your blog, he is just exposing his ugly personality publicly. I would have second thought of seeing his shows too!!

  9. Wow, Shermie, I’m surprised that you would try to defend Jeff Haslam.

    “..her endlessly stuck-up self-important little reviews are deeply offensive to those of us who bust our buts for next to nothing to bring a little entertainment to this distant northern city?”

    Have you read Sharon’s reviews? They’re neither stuck up nor self-important. While they may not be high-brow enough for someone of Mr. Haslam’s pedigree, they certainly make theatre more accessible and less intimidating to people like me.

    Haslam sounds like a whiny, spoiled child who harbours a tremendous amount of disdain for his audience. If he had a problem with the accuracy of Sharon’s writing, he could’ve contacted her privately, or mentioned that in his comment – and if he simply disagreed, he could’ve opted to not read it.

    Just the way I can now opt to consider him a grade A douche and make sure I take my “lousy 19 bucks” elsewhere.

  10. I am a professional theatre reviewer (meaning people pay me for my reviews because I asked for the job, not because my opinions have any more or less validity than the next guy’s), and have weighed in on several of Teatro’s shows over the years. My reviews have also been mixed because I don’t kowtow to egos onstage, and I call it as I see it.

    And I agree with Eva. Regardless of whether or not someone pays you money for your review, every theatregoer has an opinion and is entitled to voice it. And nearly every theatregoer does, in one capacity or another. And in the age of online democracy, everyone now has the ability to broadcast that opinion. And frankly, this thrills me, because it gets more people talking about, and engaged in, theatre. And the theatre community benefits from this passion.

    This freedom should be a theatre company’s delight. In my role as a theatre writer, I’m constantly confronted by theatre professionals asking, no, begging for ink, as theatre companies count on previews and reviews to sell tickets, and the media only has so much space to offer them. Thanks to the proliferation of blogs, theatre companies now have more opportunity to have their show stand out and get noticed. And again, Eva’s right – a bad review can be just as enticing as a good one. All press is good press isn’t a cliche for nothing. Especially when it’s good press – like the blog post he commented on.

    Unfortunately, Mr. Haslam has done nothing but shoot himself in the foot here. Regardless of hurt feelings (I’m very sorry about that, by the way, Sharon – I’ve been on the receiving end of this kind of pettiness myself and I know how it feels), surely he can see this bad P.R. is ultimately going to hurt his box office sales far more than a few mixed (or glowing, as the case may be) reviews.

  11. Jeff Haslam has lost a customer in me. Pity that considering it was Sharon who got me interested in Teatro’s productions.

    Oh well . . . my money (and word of mouth publicity) will go to performers who have not placed themselves on a pedestal.

  12. Sharon,

    I am just as shocked about this as you are. Don’t let this get you down though– I agree with Lizzie that this has done nothing but generate bad PR for Haslam.

    There will always be idiots, ingrates, and assholes everywhere.

  13. I’ve never met Sharon nor Mack before but I’ve been following her blog for a couple months now and never has she come across as being snotty and arrogant. If anything, she writes with grace and has always been honest about her opinions, which I appreciate very much. There is a line between being honest and being hurtful and I think Jeff Haslam has clearly crossed that line. I will continue to support this blog 100%. You continue writing what you want on YOUR blog Sharon. If others don’t like it, they don’t have to read it. I’m so sorry you had to go through this.

  14. The haters keep coming back in order to put in their last word…and then come back only to respond to comments directed at their comment. You obsessed haters love Sharon, otherwise, why dignify this blog with so much effort? Keep your chin up, Sharon. Jeff Haslam and his crew can go ahead and perform in front of an empty room.

  15. I’ve just reread the reviews of the theatre and this fellow and understand them to be honest, objective free expression of opinion mixed with a lot of support and ( what now appears to be – undeserved) attention.
    Granted, there are some who gladly limit free expression of opinion in relation to their work, usually they are pathetic little men found leading countries in which they arrange for bloggers to “disappear”. Thankfully this individual is simply a pathetic little leader of none.

    Sharon, keep up the good work.

    Don’t take this episode personally. You are not responsible for this individual’s mental health, nor for his decision to present his breakdown to the world in such a public manner.

  16. Sharon, I have always enjoyed your blog and the tireless effort you put into it – it is one of the reasons I keep coming back. Of course you are not a professional writer, and I have always had the sense that you do this blog because you truely enjoy and take passion in food, and other arts and culture in our City. I am very surprised by this public outburst and can only surmise that you are not the only one that has been affected by this, nor the only one that has been on the receiving end of a similar tirade. If anyone is unprofessional, it would be Jeff Haslam.

    I can’t imagine what he was thinking by doing this, but then again I guess he wasn’t thinking. I’ve sent the occasional email that I’ve regretted after pushing the ‘send’ button, but this is beyond acceptable, or even necessary. It’s like people come online and loose all sense of how it is to be civil. I think Jeff needs a wake up call to the realities of blogging in the 21st century.

  17. In my opinion you do come off completely pretentious and arrogant. I would have felt the same way if I were him or if I was involved in the production and all I would read about them on the internet were snarky comments like yours. But I would never have had the gonads to have commented like that on your blog.

  18. I’m shocked. “The Scientist” and I just last night saw Teatro’s latest production. I remarked several times on Haslam’s strong talent and ability to rivet audience attention. This latest scenario has certainly riveted mine.
    I’m sorry for the visceral “hit” you received, Sharon. Again an experience from which I conclude we are increasingly losing ground in civilty, let alone kindness.

  19. (@Michael et al) I would love it if anyone agreeing that Sharon has been snarky and pretentious in her reviews could point me to their source. I’ve just browsed through all posts Sharon has tagged Teatro la Quindicina and could find no snark. In fact, the positive comments greatly outweighed anything “negative” that may have been written.

    Sharon, I’m sorry that such a baseless and unprofessional attack was made on you and your work. I appreciate that your reviews and commentary on the blog does not just take the tone of “Wow, that was great!” but rather will highlight what exactly made it so great and what might be changed to make it even better.

    Rather than seeing these “amateur reviews” as critique, perhaps Jeff Haslam should instead remove his head from his posterior and see the reviews as valuable customer feedback on his organization and their work. If he had engaged Sharon on the blog in a discussion about her reviews (even if he didn’t agree with them) I would have been able to respect that. Instead he attacked a loyal customer in a most unprofessional way, making it seem that he was speaking for the organization as a whole (via plural pronouns). Missed opportunity and lost customers. Hopefully this won’t be good for the bottom line at Teatro la Quindicina.

  20. wow!

    hope this unfortunate happening doesnt prevent you from enjoying the rest of the fringe.

    i enjoy reading ALL of your posts and reviews.

    keep up the good work! ….and PLEASE keep posting about your arts and culture attendances

    su 🙂

  21. Hi Sharon,

    I always read your blog, but never comment. I just had to say something on this one though- you do a wonderful job.

    Do I always agree with you? No, but as you said, reviews are personal and yours are always thoughtful, detailed and very fair. Your love for the city (and all its food, theatre, and arts) is obvious and hopefully this doesn’t hurt your passion for what you do.

    Please know that you have many fans and they are louder than this jerk. Keep up the good work!

  22. I think this is a really interesting result of the changing roles of social media versus traditional media. I must admit that I find many of the Edmonton Journal reviews to be a bit off and usually avoid them but regularly read various blogs in Edmonton (from “non-professionals”) including this one. I read blogs because they are normally unsensored and true to one person’s experience, whether I agree or not. In that sense, they are somewhat self-absorbed, as they are all about one’s self, but I don’t think anyone every doubted that.

    Like Tory, above, I regularly read your blog and have never commented but wanted to chime in with my support. (I especially appreciate the food notes).

    Jeff Haslam’s response was completely immature. In fact, I completely don’t understand it when you look at all the reviews. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but there are always better ways to express yourself and he just made himself look foolish.

  23. Admittedly, I am not a fan of live theater, so my opinion may not be valid. Regardless, does anybody else find Mr Haslam is displaying a remarkable lack of self-awareness when he accuses Ms Yeo of pretentiousness? For cripes sakes, his theater company’s name is the most pretentious thing in the post.
    Every review, especially the honest ones, runs the risk of offending somebody. Don’t worry about it, you will still have readers.

  24. wow…count me in among those that will NOT support his ego by attending any more of their shows.

    tsk tsk

  25. I’ve been following Sharon’s blog for several months now, and what has always struck me about her writing is the clear and obvious love of community. Sharon seems to live to explore and share what Edmonton has to offer, especially related to food, arts and culture. And I echo what another comment said- she writes with grace. One may or may not agree with her opinions, but is that a surprise to anyone? What is a surprise is when a respected member of the arts community comments in such a juvenile fashion and in such a public way. Ok – blogs are public, we expect public dissention. Fine. But this guy is the Artistic Director! I expected a bit more class and understanding of the way art is discussed in public.

    Key word here being “art”. If you are an artist, you take chances, you put yourself out there, vulnerable, to be judged by all. It’s not easy and often it hurts, but that’s the job. I hope everyone has compassion for and admiration of anyone who devotes their life to art.

    Artists cannot exist without the support of the public, and that’s what Sharon unfailingly does – she supports art. I will continue to happily read her blog and learn about arts, culture and food in Edmonton. And I will happily “take my entertainment dollars elsewhere” Jeff.

  26. I am really astonished by this. I can imagine being hurt by a blog post, but first of all, yours wasn’t all that hurtful, and second of all, the very last thing you want to do is draw attention to how hurt you were by it. Somebody seriously needs to learn some professionalism.

  27. I find it pretentious when people think you can’t have an opinion because you’re not a “professional reviewer.” Well then, only a select few are even allowed in the dialogue. Why should the general public go to theatre then? A personal blog is exactly what it claims to be – personal. Plus when someone can’t substantiate their claims beyond their own feelings, who in that case is self-important?

    Kudos to Sharon for having an opinion and for regularly contributing to the dialogue. I don’t always agree because I have different tastes, but I still respect her opinion. In fact, if Sharon hadn’t earned people’s respect through her blog and created an audience for herself all of this wouldn’t have happened.

  28. And all I can think of is Jeff Haslam as that clown or whatever he was back in the 80s or 90s on a kids show. The name escapes me, but when I started seeing him at the Fringe that was all that came to mind.

  29. I commented on Mack’s post already. I hope you get what I’m saying. 

    First of all, I’m sorry that you were needlessly attacked. I think you are a fantastic writer, and have every right to express your opinion about whatever you see fit, as you have ultimately written a disclaimer about your non-professional status as a reviewer. 

    I read your blog regularly, and I can’t think of an occasion where you’ve been unnecessarily negative (or scathing, or sarcastic) in any theatre review. That said, I have never (and will never) see a Teatro production, because of the reviews of yours that I’ve read; none of the performances have struck me as a must-see based on what you’ve said.

    I read Jeff’s comments carefully, and then read all of your Teatro reviews, and I think (though I could be wrong) that his issue is that you’re finding fault in small things that most people wouldn’t notice. Now, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that (because we all do it) but I get the sense that he’s offended by it because he thinks you’re out to ‘get’ them (due, of course, to your status as a blogger and not a journalist).

    Unfortunately, Jeff Haslam has taken the wrong approach in dealing with this situation. I don’t see a problem with him commenting on your blog (since you review on your blog), but the vitriol was excessive. I don’t know what he should have done (because i’ve never been in a similar situation), but I do agree that his reaction to a very well-written (and mostly positive) review was surprising to say the least. 

    Keep up the great work, though. I think that you do a great job exposing people to the hidden gems in Edmonton’s arts and food communities. And though I comment very infrequently, I put a lot of stock in what you say. 

  30. First, good on you for verifying the comment’s authenticity.

    Second, I think you’ve got it right. If someone wants to take their opinion from the coffee shop or restaurant to a blog or Twitter they have every right to do so. And those they are reviewing have every right to, just as publicly, respond.

    They don’t have the right to attack someone, without specific criticisms of their own. That’s just trolling.

    This isn’t about Sharon as newsroom reviewer, she doesn’t have to toughen up and get back into the theatre. She’s telling us about things around Edmonton and can spend her dollar, and spread the word, however she likes.

    The real issue, to me, is that the conversation has gone from coffee shops and the theatre seats to the Internet. Businesses need to deal with that and either embrace the fact people talk about them (good and bad) or ignore it. They ignore it at their peril as we’ve seen numerous times through Twitter and Facebook.

    Or, I guess they can try to drive away business too.

    In the Internet age everyone is a critic AND they can be heard.

  31. Jeff is a spoiled, whiny guy. Always was. The tirade doesn’t shock me.

    Sorry you had to go through that, Sharon.

  32. Sharon,
    If I understand a little bit of business from business perspective this dude needs a refresher.”take your entertainment dollors elsewhere”.Sounds like wrong person in a wrong place and in simple language that’s sheer stupidity on his part to make a comment like that. Sharon you rock…keep up the good work

  33. If I was on the board of Teatro la Quindicina, I would be watching this very closely. Funding boards look at at subscriber numbers–they won’t support companies that don’t receive community support. If the AD is telling two subscribers to take their money elsewhere, I would strongly consider replacing him. It’s bad business all around.

  34. I feel your pain. I had something similar happen to me late last year and it was devastating. In the end, I recovered and moved on, but it’s still a sore spot with me.

    From all I’ve read in your reviews, nothing is done in malice or negativity, you’re simply stating an opinion. If people can’t take anything but a “wine and roses” review, that’s their problem. You did nothing wrong. Take care.

  35. Shocking as his ill behaviour is, Sharon, you’re certainly not the only person Jeff Haslam has screamed at like a hot pissy 4 year old over the years.

    @ Shermie: Why NOT “express his feelings on your blog” ? Because Mr. Haslam is the AD of the company. It’s like Steve Jobs personally posting bitchy retorts on tech blogs. It’s laughable and demeans his position as a leader. Moreover, had Mr. Haslam argued with the review in some way, that’s social dialogue. But what he wrote is merely a personal attack implying Sharon’s opinion is invalid. That’s the man Teatro lets speak for them? Theatre is a form that REQUIRES audience reaction to exist and every theatregoer is entitled to the honesty of that reaction. Mr. Haslam’s tirade is an insult to his entire audience, not just Sharon.

    So, don’t sweat it, Sharon. What you’re doing for this “distant northern city” is fantastic. And the whole world can read your blog: how many people will see his plays? Less now, I imagine.

    Welcome to the wide world of modern media, Mr. Haslam. Everyone gets a voice; everyone gets the stage… And then everyone ELSE decides where to take their “crappy 19 bucks.”

    Hopefully the Board of Directors is reading this along with whoever funds the the other 60% of their budget. Maybe it’s time the whole organization had a think about professionalism, leadership and who they want at the helm. Regardless, neither Haslam nor Teatro get any more of my arts dollars — or my friends’ or family’s, once I pass this link along.

    On a positive note, I’d never heard of your blog til a friend told me to read Jeff’s post. But I’ll certainly be back to use it as a resource, now.

    Keep up the good work!!

  36. Sharon, I’ve always enjoyed your posts and marveled at your energy and enthusiasm.

    In the end, all any of us can do is exactly what Jeff Haslam asks and spend our money elsewhere. I can promise that I’ll stay far away from anything his name is attached to. (He’s not involved with the Freewill Players, is he?)

    The fact that any artistic director would go so far as to call the dollars that afford him his livelihood “crappy” is startling, to say the least. To continue and call you “weird” and your readers “icky”, well, that was just mean-spirited, and foolish.

    Luckily- and here’s another things to love about this city- there are plenty of other theatre companies out there who would gladly accept our $19. I look forward to reading those reviews.

  37. I haven’t read nor do I follow any of your reviews or opinions on any topic. I do believe that everyone, which includes you, has a right to opinion and the freedom to write, speak and publish it.

    I would recommend you to carry on going to the theatre concerned and, indeed, blogging your review for others to review. It is my beliefe that those who read it and have seen the shows will either agree or disagree with your opinion, it is afterall their right to do so.

    I wouldn’t take his comments personally, how often are the “critics” critisized. It only leaves one to wonder about Mr. Haslam’s state of self-critisism and possible insecurities.

    If you truely love theatre and the Teatro and enjoy the acting ability of Mr. Haslam you shouldn’t let this incident steer you, or anyone from enjoying future productions.

    Do you agree with this?


  38. My comment from the other blog post, which is completely applicable in the larger discussion:

    It’s not a secret that the Edmonton theatre scene is crowded with self-important nepotistic artists who would slit the throats of their “family” at the slightest provocation (see: MadTV), and Haslam has long been big fish in a little northern pond.

    I am going to do exactly what Jeff Haslam suggested. I’m going to spend my entertainment dollars elsewhere and avoid anything he has anything to do with in the future.

  39. Hang tough Sharon. You were nothing but respectful in your review and all the reviews you do. Mr. Haslam has shown his true colors here.

    I would encourage all your supporters to not only follow through on their plans to take their crappy 19 bucks elsewhere, but also to let Teatro know exactly why. Their email address is on their website.

  40. I like your reviews, and believe if you are read by a community, have an opinion, are respected for your opinion, you are a reviewer. I read your reviews, respect them – even those I may not agree with. The spirit you write in is fun, and isn’t that enough? It is for me. I don’t know Jeff, but from his missile launched at you, one of the patrons of his company, it seems he is perhaps unhappy with his lot here, and is starting some kind of theatrical exit strategy. Or is this all some bizarre play and we are part of the experiment? I hope the latter is the case.

  41. Valerie – I certainly thought about it! However the effects would be too difficult to measure due to the subjective nature.

    Sharon – Hang tough! Never thought it’d blow up this far!

  42. I’m posting this anonymously because I do work in theatre in Edmonton and the venom of Mr. Haslam is not unknown to us.

    I wouldn’t presume to speak for The Haslam, but I’m sure his sense of entitlement is based on a genuine belief that he has been personally attacked. I’m sure his wounds feel very deep and very real. As invisible and non-existent as it seems to a rational and normal person, the slight is real to him.

    This reaction of his does not surprise me in the least, but that doesn’t make it any less embarrassing. It doesn’t surprise me because this is not the first time Teatro has flipped a lid over reviews. This is not an anomaly; it is a pattern.

    The Teatro banishment of SEE Magazine a few years back has already been noted elsewhere in the immediate blogosphere. It has also been noted that other more prominent reviewers have been almost uniformly positive about Teatro’s work. One might wonder if that’s because those reviewers have been subjected in the past to the same personal vindictive attack that we are seeing here. One might wonder if reviewers have been bullied into towing the party line AND one might wonder if Mr. Haslam learned this trick from Mr. Baker of The Citadel back in the day when those two used to play nice together. Ask yourself when the last time you read a less than glowing review in The Edmonton Journal of a Bob Baker or Tom Wood show.
    Just something to think about.
    Just saying. This isn’t the first time The Haslam has done something like this. It’s not an exit strategy; it’s a business strategy. He hasn’t suddenly lost his mind; this is how his mind works.

    It’s his also his personality. His immediate response to a recent announcement of Sterling Award nominations in which The Haslam was not recognized enough to his liking was telling. The Facebook missive that he put out there pretty much amounted to a Richard Nixon-esque tirade about how Edmonton didn’t appreciate him and his company enough, that we could all live without laughter for all he cared… or some similar nonsense. I think somewhere in The Haslam is a gremlin that actually thinks that this northern nowhere town would be mirthless without him, that audiences owe him a debt of gratitude rather than the other way around. I also think he’s probably mostly just being a baby.

    I could go on. There is more. For instance, when The Fringe switched from a first-come first-served application process to a lottery, The Teatro objection seemed to be based on the contention that they were responsible for the success of The Fringe over the years. A more reasonable (and less navel gazing) proposition would be that Teatro was built on its Fringe reputation.

    I could try to recreate The Haslam Ban-The-Amateurs rant against all the hobbyists at the Fringe who steal focus from “the professionals who are trying to make a living.”

    Yes, he is that insecure, and he is that arrogant.
    No, he does not represent the typical theatre practitioner in Edmonton.

    I hope he apologizes. I doubt he will.

  43. I find it actually pitiful that his response at this point is to say “I’m getting death threats”, like it is supposed to invoke some sort of sympathy response.

    Police reports or it didn’t happen.

  44. He called us icky…and that is not cool.

    I look forward to your reviews Sharon and if he can’t handle it, he’s in the wrong profession…

  45. I have to say while first reading Jeff’s comments I thought him to be in the wrong but then I gave it a thought and I actually don’t mind what he did, in fact I totally support it.

    Theatre reviews are a funny business. I have issues with them when they’re done by professionals – but I have to say there is bit of a structure in place when it comes to the professional review… reviewer comes in for the preview article, they meet the artist(s), discuss the play, the journey, what the company’s about, little tidbits all in an effort to have an understanding of what they’re coming to see. They develop a relationship with the artists, an understanding of what is trying to be created and then they review as to how well it was accomplished.
    When it comes to a blog post… and that’s what this is, a blog post… you don’t do the work before reviewing, you simply comment on it… and you’re asking for rebuttals. If you feel you have a right to post a review of something on your blog, commenting on somebody’s work, you better be prepared for them to comment on yours. While this review wasn’t exactly negative, I can see the points that would be taken in a negative light. And while I haven’t read the other Teatro reviews on this blog I can see how years of tiny negative comments can add up to what Jeff chose to do. And ultimately if you’re writing a review of someone’s work, is it not slightly hypocritical to not be able to take some criticism yourself. I think people should be allowed to critique the critic. It’s all subjective and therefor discussions should take place.
    Should Jeff Haslam be judged harshly for this one comment… No, he shouldn’t. I’ve met him on a few occasions and find him a very generous, friendly, hilarious man. I wouldn’t use that one comment as a means to define who he is anymore than I would use the few moments that I’ve spoken with him to do so.
    Should people stop going to Teatro shows. No, they shouldn’t. Teatro is made up of a number of artists (Jeff included) who work extremely hard for little money and little support, they love their audience and they know that the audience is the backbone of their company. And they do awesome work. I don’t think I’ve gone to a show there where I haven’t walked out happier than when I walked in.
    Should Jeff apologize… God no. Reviewers walk in and critique a piece of work that has taken months of dedication, and then pass judgement within a few seconds… they should be held accountable for what they write.

    And come on all you people hurling these negative comments… take a moment and think about the moments in your life when you’ve lashed out at someone for saying the wrong thing… we’ve all done it. It just doesn’t get blasted all over the internet and turned in to a big flame war.

  46. Um just to comment on “embarrassed” ‘s blog comment.

    Don’t use “us”, as if you’re in a unified group against Jeff Haslam. “known to us” … just say known to “me”. Because it’s quite clear you have a personal vendetta against the man.

    The sighting of teatro getting angry at a reviewer “See Magazine” does not make it a pattern. One moment does not constitute a pattern. I like the previous comment as to this being a blog and not a review. So I wouldn’t constitute this blog controversy as adding to it in order to call it a pattern.
    Besides, See magazine didn’t like a show, Teatro didn’t like their review… Teatro doesn’t want their reviews anymore, so don’t come to the show. I can get behind that. Why be kind to someone who’s being slanderous?

    Don’t compare him to the Citadel… Apples and Oranges, man.

    And what was his facebook comment again…. you’re not quoting, you’re just giving you’re interpretation… I think what he said was “Aw shucks, I thought we did some good work. It sucks that we were overlooked.” So many things can get lost in translation over the internet unless you put a happy face behind it 🙂

    Also did the Fringe build Teatro. Or did the Professionals help build the Fringe. Well, the Fringe was seeing really tiny audiences when it started. What started to bring in the audiences? Was it the good shows? or the advertisements? or the buskers? or the green onion cakes? Meh… a bit of all of it probably… but when it gets down to it… the Fringe is a theatre festival… it’s built off the artists backs. Would you be so bold as to say the Folk Fest artists wouldn’t be where they were without the folkfest? Besides, lately the Fringe has been pulling some sketchy &*%$ and they need to be reminded that without the artists they wouldn’t exist.

    While Jeff doesn’t represent the typical theatre practitioner, I just want to point out that neither do you. So let’s not start throwing stones unless we’re willing to type our real names and accept the consequences.

  47. What we have here was simply a surprising lack of judgement from someone who should have known better. If Mr Haslam had a problem with Sharon’s review, he should have contacted her privately to discuss it. That’s what e-mail is for. To attack her and her supporters on her own blog simply made him and his company a target for retaliation.
    Step out of the creative realm for a moment. If you received that response from a restaurant, retail store, or bank, would you take your business elsewhere? Would you expect an apology from the offending employee? In my organization, an outburst of this nature would result in immediate active encouragement to leave and explore opportunities outside of the company.
    Perhaps this is a case of bigfishlittleponditis or maybe a lament from an unfortunate soul who wonders why he didn’t make it big and is stuck in this northern city where the masses don’t appreciate his talent. It doesn’t matter. Make nice nice to the paying customers and leave your ego at the door. They may not pay all your salary, but if enough people pull their support we’re all in jeopardy.

  48. I think there is a tendency to critique, not expecting to in turn be critiqued.

    Sharon Yeo honestly comes across as a newspaper writer who is accustomed to sending opinions one direction only, and shocked by the advent of technology which brought it around.

    If you dish, I’ll give you three guesses what you should expect in return.

  49. @w24/7

    I’m new to Sharon’s blog, but there are posts here that have a decent comment dialogue going on that expresses both sides of an issue (the recent post on Sabzy Café, which actually led me to give thought on an issue I hadn’t really considered before).

    The opinion Sharon expressed was indeed critiqued and these critiques seem to have be taken in the spirit of a conversation where all parties don’t necessarily agree, but are happy to talk about it anyway.

    The fact that Jeff Haslam critiqued the critic isn’t the issue here – the issue is that he was rude and insulting to both Sharon and her followers. Had he responded in a more measured way, instead of a controversy this whole thing could have evolved into an incredible conversation with the people behind TLQ about the company and theatre in Edmonton in general.

    Sad, really.

  50. A little comment for Jason.

    If Sharon gave a poor review to a coffee shop, they shouldn’t reply that she failed to spend weeks traveling with the bean pickers and roasters, learning the intracicies of the coffee making process. It’s unrelated to the end-user coffee experience.

    No one is forcing the actor to act. If they’re not comfortable with their ‘months of dedication’ producing lukewarm reviews, Tim Horton’s is hiring. Of course in the interview, he probably shouldn’t mention that he’ll be insulting and demeaning the customers he disagrees with.

  51. Posted here and on original review site:

    Just to let people know, this story was just sent out on Thomas Cott’s “You’ve Cott Mail” daily theatre listserv, read by thousands of arts professionals in the U.S. (and possibly Canada as well).

    @Jason: You say “Should Jeff Haslam be judged harshly for this one comment… No, he shouldn’t. I’ve met him on a few occasions and find him a very generous, friendly, hilarious man. I wouldn’t use that one comment as a means to define who he is anymore than I would use the few moments that I’ve spoken with him to do so.”

    True, one comment does not a person make, but this comment is particularly vitriolic, and for those of us who have not had the opportunity to meet him, it casts him in a very poor light and we will judge him in that light.

    You go on, “Should people stop going to Teatro shows. No, they shouldn’t. Teatro is made up of a number of artists (Jeff included) who work extremely hard for little money and little support, they love their audience and they know that the audience is the backbone of their company. And they do awesome work. I don’t think I’ve gone to a show there where I haven’t walked out happier than when I walked in.”

    There’s a little restaurant down the street from my office, where they work extremely hard and make great food. If the owner told me (online, in person, or in confidence) that I was “snotty,” “arrogant,” “pretentious,” “weird,” “a doof,” and “endlessly stuck-up,” I’m afraid it wouldn’t matter much to me how hard the employees or the owner worked or how good the food was, I wouldn’t go there, and I’d tell everyone else not to go there, because ***in a service industry like theatre or restauranting, you don’t insult your customers*** and if I am being treated in this manner by the organization’s leadership, I fully expect that others may receive the same treatment, and would feel perfectly justified in letting people know about it.

    “Should Jeff apologize… God no.”

    Actually, he should apologize. Publicly. And profusely. As the Artistic Director, he is–like it or not–the primary public representative of his organization, and a comment like this damages both his own integrity and that of his organization, as we have seen from the follow-up comments. I’ve never seen ANY representative of ANY theatre send a message with this tone to a patron. Ever. Quite honestly, he should probably be fired by his board.

    “Reviewers walk in and critique a piece of work that has taken months of dedication, and then pass judgement within a few seconds… they should be held accountable for what they write.”

    I was an actor for 10 years and had my share of bad reviews. I’ve been an arts administrator for five years and have had my theatre receive bad reviews, from reviewers of varying degrees of competence/integrity. Sharon is not asking NOT to be held “accountable” for what she writes: clearly, she stands by it. And if Jeff disagrees with her, he is certainly permitted to say so. The problem here is that she reviewed his play in a perfectly professional manner (I don’t see the “snark” that others reference), and he wrote back with a nasty personal attack, in which he doesn’t even take the trouble to explain why he believes she is wrong. Dispute her opinion all you like, but don’t be a jerk about it. Be respectful: is that too much to ask?

  52. Hello audience. Look at that actor. Now back to me. Now back to your actor. Now back to me. Sadly, he isn’t me, but if he stopped accepting criticism and alienated audience members who weren’t extreme sycophants he could act like me.

    Look down. Back up, where are you? In a distant northern city being publicly criticized by the actor your actor could act like. What’s in your hand, back at me. I have it, it’s an oyster with season tickets to the privilege of not sharing your opinions. Look again, the season tickets are now revoked. Anything is possible when your actor berates his fans and isn’t apologetic.

    I’m cleaning a toilet.

  53. @John B – John I can totally see your point of view here. But let’s say you were going to that little restaurant down the street. You’ve been going there for five years. You enjoy it. The owner/head chef seems really nice. You don’t really know him. You just eat some special meal he creates for you. A recipe he came up with himself. You order something new everytime you come in. Something he’s creating for your eating enjoyment.
    But everytime you leave this restaurant you go up to the head chef and say “Mmmmm that meal was marvelous. I licked my plate clean but what was the deal with the vegetables. I didn’t understand them. Was it some French fusion thing?” Or maybe you said “Oooo… delicious meal…but I think that new cook is a little weak. The appetizer he made just didn’t put a smile on my face.” Then let’s say you went home and wrote it on your blog for the world to see. You decided to comment on these wonderful meals with the occasional comment thrown in about how Mary, the daughter of the cook isn’t quite as good as her Father. 5 years of this. And suddenly he decides he’s had enough. He’s been cooking you meals for five years and while you’re enjoying them, you also are criticizing them. He’s a chef because he loves cooking, it’s not just a job, it’s something personal. It’s his family business.
    Well, yes, I do feel that Chef would be justified in his anger towards you. You’ve chosen to criticize his work. He’s entitled to be angry at you. And he chose to do so on the PUBLIC forum that you’re writing your PERSONAL blog on. As professional as you write out your reviews… you are not a profesional food critic. Your just someone saying some nice things with an occasional stab in the back of the person cooking you a nice dinner. Yeah, that Chef should be entitled to tear a strip off you. And no you shouldn’t go back to that restaurant. YOU shouldn’t. This was an experience shared between you and that restaurant.
    This is a situation being shared between Jeff and Sharon. It really has little to do with me or you or anyone else. Sadly, it is on a public forum… but, hey, that’s great ’cause we all love a good scandal.

    Should you still go and support Teatro. Yes I still think you should. One bad banana, doesn’t mean you should throw the rest out. The bad banana here is the situation… not Jeff.

    And yes I do stand by my statement of don’t judge a man by his one comment. You don’t know the whole story. Go talk to him and then pass judgement. My point here is that it’s so easy to form a mob mentality and jump on that band wagon without understanding the full story.

    As I said before, stop and think about yourself and times that you’ve blown a fuse or lost your temper. It happens. It doesn’t define who you are.

    Should he apologize? Yeah maybe I’ll retract that and say yes he should in part. Some things were said that were a little uncalled for. I have a feeling though it wouldn’t have mattered how he worded his comments, the backlash would have been similiar. I liken the internet to road rage. People feel like they can say whatever they want without repricution. But, I do believe the apology should be done in private… it really has nothing to do with us.

    And Sharon… I do support your blog. But you’re not a reviewer (not an insult). You’re somone who has chosen to make her opinions public. This is going to mean that you have to expect that comments are going to be made in retaliation. Try not to be upset by them and keep doing what you’re doing. My comments are more about looking at the whole picture and not just grabbing a torch and forming a lynch mob at the first sign of trouble.

  54. Wow, that’s crazy! I’m sorry you had to go through that. If Mr. Haslam can’t handle criticism he shouldn’t be an actor. It’s part of the job. You have every right to give your opinion.

  55. In response to “A Theatre Practitioner”

    I’m the reviewer from SEE Magazine who wrote that review to which you’re referring, the one that briefly had the magazine banned from Teatro.

    Let me say right now: I do not live in Edmonton anymore, do not work for SEE, have no connection with SEE anymore, so what I’m about to say has zero connection with that magazine. Please don’t take it out on them.

    Okay: Writing negative reviews is not slander. It’s a review, and no reviewer is under any responsibility to say nice things. If a reviewer dislikes a show, they have every right to say so. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that when reviewers give everything a pass, for years and years and years, you risk ending up with a scene like Edmonton’s has become: a few great productions a year, a few decent ones, and a whole lot of crap by over-the-hill mediocrities.

    Haslam’s a pretty funny performer, as I recall, but that doesn’t excuse egregious displays of assholism like this. This is a blog by a fan. She liked the play. What the hell is wrong with people who can abuse a fan and paying customer like this? Must people enjoy every production? Must there be no criticism from the press or the audience themselves? What a small, sad, petulant little world Edmonton’s theatre community has become, coasting on last century’s glories. Are there any promising young up-and-comers doing something new and different in Edmonton? I hope so, because Teatro and the rest of the usual suspects (same old playwrights, same old performers, same old remounts of the same old plays) are getting tired. Or rather, have been tired for a long time. It would be great to see them accorded respect as elders of the scene, but apparently they’re too far gone into self-absorption to deserve it. Or at least Haslam is, and a few others I could name but won’t, because that just wouldn’t be nice.

    In any case, I think Edmontonians should probably read this blog rather than the local press for reviews — it’s more honest.

    I’m sure there are great talents still in working Edmonton. Actually, I know there are, and when I lived there I personally knew a handful of wonderful and kind theatre professionals. But the city still needs a rejuvenation: Calgary has become by far Alberta’s better city for new and interesting theatre.

    And, the best plays I saw in Edmonton, out of dozens I attended, were usually productions by non-local playwrights. I’ve long held that the real talent in the city is on the acting side rather than writing side. Lemoine’s preciousness, for one, never did it for me, though I acknowledge I never saw “Pith” or any of the plays considered his best. And I probably won’t, since no one bothers to mount them very much outside of Edmonton city limits.

  56. Wow, what a dull, useless blog — why anyone would read this drek, controversy or not, is beyond me. Sharon, give up food and theatre reviews and take writing course.

  57. I have to say that I too will be certain to never spend a single dollar that might go towards this man. This is not how you treat your audience. And if one is going to critique the quality of another’s writing, then one should learn how to refer to to the buttocks in short form correctly (hint: it’s spelt “butt”, not “but”, Mr. Haslam).

  58. Hi Sharon,

    well this whole issue has proven beyond any doubt that there is no such thing as bad PR…until I heard about this issue from my wife (an ardent fan of your blog), I had never read it…I am just not a blog reader…but here I am reading and even responding. Don’t know this Haslam fellow, but he is in the wrong business. A dark basement with a video game controller might be more his style. No public explosure, no criticism, perfect. I quite like your blog (now that thanks to Haslem’s spew I did read it!). Great style and content….and comments – some are pure brillance – love the nod to the old spice commercial – superb, bravo, encore!

    As for actors whining about low pay and hard work…my goodness, are you compelled to do this? If you don’t like acting, move on kiddo.

    I do feel bad for the people working with this buffoon Haslam. Whatever talent he may have is overshadowed by his infantile approach to the world. Hang in there Sharon…and send a thank you card to this jackass…you have a new follower in me. Thanks Jeff!

  59. @Jason: re: And Sharon… I do support your blog. But you’re not a reviewer (not an insult). You’re someone who has chosen to make her opinions public….
    Jason, how is Sharon different than a reviewer? Are you qualifying “a reviewer” as someone who gets paid for their review by a reputable (or not) business? You are not the only person who has said this within the comments here, and on Mack’s site.

    My thoughts on this are that it is 2010 and Sharon is a reviewer.

    That is what this entire dialogue is about. She reviews the plays. The actor/director got upset because he understands that many people value Sharon’s opinion. She frequents the theatre gathering personal experience and expertise. She then writes her reviews, sharing those personal insights with her readers. She professes to do nothing else.

    As others have said, she welcomes contrary views and enjoys learning from people who have views different that her own. There is a lot of evidence within her comments, and her posts that she welcomes such conversations and is never intimidated by them; instead, she appears engaged. That is what I love about blogs. I learn so much from so many.

    Verbal assault, however, is not acceptable, in any forum. We just have to be better than that. All of us.

  60. I have been reading this blog for quite some time and it is very delightful and full of great diversity. In my opinion it’s one of the best places to find fresh new ideas and places to see in Edmonton, and I applaud your work Sharon. You do this because you enjoy it and it shows in your blog.

    Now it’s time to be very blunt. Mr. Haslam, you have shown a level of unprofessionalism in the public eye that lends itself to show your true colors as a human. You are judged by the public on a constant basis, and you have to live with your actions at the end of the day. When you act like an asshole, people look at you like you are one. You paint a sad dreary picture in your response to Sharon, yet your self pity is wasted in our distant northern city. Not many people put much merit into your opinions anymore after your ill thought out self published rant and you have accomplished something else that I doubt you have forecasted. There will no doubt be less patrons willing to spend their crappy 19 bucks knowing that you are so unappreciative of it.

    You reap what you sow.

  61. @A Canadian Foodie – Hi. I kind of stated earlier what I feel the duties of a reviewer are :

    “Theatre reviews are a funny business. I have issues with them when they’re done by professionals – but I have to say there is bit of a structure in place when it comes to the professional review… reviewer comes in for the preview article, they meet the artist(s), discuss the play, the journey, what the company’s about, little tidbits all in an effort to have an understanding of what they’re coming to see. They develop a relationship with the artists, an understanding of what is trying to be created and then they review as to how well it was accomplished.”

    They are also solicited by the theatre to come and watch the show. The theatre is asking for the critique.

    That’s my feeling as to what’s different between this blog and a professional reviewer. Sharon is a patron not a reviewer.

    As I said, I support her blog… but she needs to be prepared to accept some criticism of her own. It’s going to happen when you start throwing out your opinion on a public forum.

  62. @ Jason “but she needs to be prepared to accept some criticism of her own. It’s going to happen when you start throwing out your opinion on a public forum.”

    Sure, she should be accountable for what she writes, but I think a difference exists between criticism and vitriol (which is where I think Mr. Haslam’s comment falls into). Calling someone “weird” and their friends “icky” is out of line and immature, especially for someone of his position. You can disagree with someone without being an ass about it.

  63. As an ex-pat Albertan currently residing in Ottawa, I tend to sit up and take notice on the infrequent occasions when my Saturday Globe & Mail prints anything about western Canada, and especially my home province. Check out J. Kelly Nestruck’s piece at

    I don’t imagine I’ll get to check out any of your recommendations in person any time soon, but I’ll definitely pass the word about your blog to friends who live near Edmonton. For what it’s worth, the reason I read blogs (whether they’re about food, fashion, the arts or whatever) is specifically to hear the writers’ opinions. Sometimes they’re professional (i.e., paid) writers/reviewers, more often than not they aren’t: the point is that I read news for information and blogs for point of view. Keep it up.

  64. @A – oh I agree, those comments were mean. But I’m just trying to look at the perspective of someone who felt was being criticized publicly in a blog by a patron for a few years now. It’s a bigger story than what’s being told.

  65. I was shocked at the words Mr. Haslam used. I have a feeling there’s more to it than even what is described in the blog on the i880 website (Mack linked to it on his blog). Regardless, I’ll still go to Teatro de Quindicina, I’ll still go to Dienasty, I’ll still call myself a fan of his because he makes me laugh very hard.

    Come on people, he’s an actor/diva who calls himself thin-skinned. This isn’t really a huge issue.

    Ms. Yeo, keep on writing what you want to write.
    Mr. Haslam, wait a day or two the next time you want to comment about how hurt you are on someone’s blog when it’s about something of which you’re the Director.

  66. Thanks for the blog and sharing your opinions. I enjoy the food comments, but I have not read you on theatre.

    If others don’t like your words, they can change the channel. If they want to hear “yes” men and women, they can surround themselves with Sycophants.

    I have not read a single one of your reviews except for excerpts in the Globe article and in comments. I cannot imagine what could justify his comments. Many elements, such as attacking your friends, are decidedly childish. Perhaps if you were an outrageous offensive professional, paid reviewer some reply might be justified (!?), but none of that is true.

    You are entitled to write good reviews or bad reviews and we, your audience, can find them convincing or not. In fact, your comments can find an audience or not. The same for his plays.

    It sounds as if Mr. Haslam does not want reviews that are overly critical or picky and he wants to determine who is in his audience. This is not reasonable for an artist who works in public.

    Mr. Haslam is entitled to write comments that make him look like an a$% if he likes. Not that he should, but we can defend his fundamental free speech.

    He should apologize but if he does or not, we can make up our own minds. He has made many of us laugh and think in the past and he does so again with his posting, for some of us at least. Perhaps he had a bad week, month or year or came off some m%ds.

    Many of us need to be reminded to wait before sending a testy, mean or controversial e-mail and then think before sending it at all. Most such sentiments are perhaps better unsaid or expressed carefully in person. This is all the more true when writing for the blogosphere.

    When artists attack their audience they can expect a riposte, one that might affect their bottom dollar. He can preserve his self-defined dignity and be poorer for it.

    Don’t worry Ms. Yeo, there are many people behaving like a$%es and one has been exposed to you.

    Let’s all thicken our hides, lighten up and Carry On!

  67. Disclaimers: ex-Edmontonian, regular theatregoer while I lived there, know some of the names involved in this from their past shows, read about this spitfest in the Globe and Mail and decided to check it out.

    OK, Haslam’s post was a little off-base, especially the personal insults. “Snotty”, “weird”, not really necessary. But “pretension” and “arrogant”? Right on. “Inflated sense of entitlement” would fit right in there as well.

    Does the blogger seriously think that she and her opinions are important or influential enough for a performing arts professional to personally seek her out to discuss his concerns with her? Especially when she herself admits that she’s not a professional theatre reviewer (and on a blog whose primary focus seems to be food, anyway)? The blogger expected Haslam to recognize her name when she phoned to renew her season’s tickets, or recognize her when she showed up for the plays. Come on. Anyone running a professional theatre company has a lot more important things to deal with. I was actually more surprised that the blogger paid for her season’s ticket and didn’t demand freebies.

    And speaking of professional – if the blogger wants people to take her opinions seriously, maybe she should try “covering” an event without using the same photos as her boyfriend’s nearly-identical blog report on the same event. And discover that most credible writers/critics can usually find a way to discuss an event or idea without mentioning themselves in every second paragraph.

  68. @mememe

    “Does the blogger seriously think that she and her opinions are important or influential enough for a performing arts professional to personally seek her out to discuss his concerns with her?”

    Sharon has demonstrated that she seriously thinks that she and her opinions are important or influential for a professional to seek her out to discuss concerns. At Hundred, she was asked to stop photographing her food. In this post she writes:

    “For the record, Mack e-mailed both my review and his social media post to Dean at 100 shortly after they were written…and we haven’t yet heard back. While we didn’t expect to be invited back for a complimentary meal, a cursory acknowledgement of our concerns would have been appreciated.”

  69. Sharon,
    It’s such a shame to see how this theatre company treats it’s clientele. I know that I for one, will not “darken their door” again, and will “take my entertainment dollar elsewhere.”

  70. Shermie – People share their concerns with businesses all the time. They write letters, fill out surveys, and make phone calls. It’s not a question of whether you think you’re important enough or have enough influence.

    In neither case was Sharon expecting anyone to seek her out. In the case of Hundred, we shared our concerns directly, we reached out to them. In the case of Teatro, Jeff found her posts all on his own.

    Furthermore, Jeff had been reading this blog for a number of years before finally deciding to comment. He had plenty of opportunities to share his concerns, before they grew.

  71. Having spent many years as a professional Edmonton actor who has since lived away for a few years I was impressed to see the level of response that this has received. If only Edmonton’s theatre companies, outside of what Catalyst has recently achieved, were able to achieve even one percent of the buzz this has created.

    After reading all of the responses I can find, along with the “I support Haslam” Facebook updates, I am still bewildered at how many are arguing sides. Yes Team Haslam, Jeff may be a friend, a nice guy, who is funny, and supportive of young talent, and it is hard to watch someone you care about being talked about in the media and internet … BUT Jeff is also the A.D of a company. A company that he, by association, represented when he published his thoughts on a public space. When Jeff put his comments online, especially since he asks the blogger not come back to the theatre, he became responsible for his actions and the response. No different, might I add, then had he said it to her in person. C.E.O’s and managers of any business have to deal with this reality just as A.D’s do. In speaking his mind Jeff risked speaking for the company. What Jeff, and the rest of the Teatro board need to do now is to take it seriously and respond and deal with this situation. They could make a public statement, rescind his comments, meet with the blogger or many other options…the key here is DO SOMETHING. Because digging your trenches is not an option any small theatre company can afford.

    It is my opinion that blogging is just an extension of when someone walks out of a play and tells people whether they liked it or not. An act that Haslam admits in one of his responses that he has done in the past. It is here to stay, and I for one applaud it just as I applaud having Yelp reviews or hearing real people telling me about their experiences with a product, brand or company.

    Jeff, for yourself, your dignity and perhaps even the survival of your company, I recommend that you hire, or find, a PR consultant fast and start responding. Because I can tell you right now 79 responses to a blog, 165 responses to a repost, an article in the G&M ect… are slowly whittling your patronage levels down.


  72. @J
    Finally someone talking sense. Thanks for your balance. This is reflecting poorly on the entire Edmonton theatre community. Teatro has to make some move to resolve it. It’s like the BP oilspill, the longer you wait, the worse it will get and the harder it will be to repair the damage.

    You need to research what blogging is. Your comments about the author keeping themselves out of it make as much sense as saying you should keep the music out of opera. Blogging is about logging your personal experience. What will your next criticism be. That she doesn’t follow the Associated Press style guide?

    What do your comments have to do with what is actually at issue here? Okay. You’re a friend of Jeff’s and you’re upset. These attacks lashing out at Sharon are nothing but pathetic (in that they don’t fool anyone that you are anything other than a friend of Jeff who is upset and is venting your upset in a rather childish manner), and you’re further alienating exactly the person we in theatre should be courting: intelligent, interested, involved young professionals. My god! An audience member who cares enough to spend a half hour to an hour writing about their experience?

    Sharon was a huge fan of Teatro and of Jeff, and was doing everything she could to promote the company. Everyone can see it, except the members of the company.

    It’s classic Greek tragedy, heavy on the Hubris.

  73. @Mack

    “In neither case was Sharon expecting anyone to seek her out. In the case of Hundred, we shared our concerns directly, we reached out to them. In the case of Teatro, Jeff found her posts all on his own.”

    I am not talking about the initial contact. However, Sharon did expect a private email or conversation from Mr. Haslam to share his concerns. Sharon did expect a response from the management of Hundred.

    “Furthermore, Jeff had been reading this blog for a number of years before finally deciding to comment. He had plenty of opportunities to share his concerns, before they grew.” Why does it matter he chose *this* opportunity to respond? As the Globe and Mail quoted from Mr. Lemoine that it was the “Haslam wasn’t reacting to a specific review, but a “cumulative needling” on Yeo’s blog that had irritated multiple members of the company.” If he had commented every time Sharon wrote a lukewarm review, then he would have been characterized as a “sore loser”.

    Secondly, another reason Mr. Haslam may not have chosen to comment on Sharon’s posts is because that would be giving Sharon the credibility that Mr. Haslam does not think she deserves.

  74. I’m behind on my blog reading, Sharon, so I only learned of this whole ugly situation today in Todd Babiak’s column in the Journal. I am both astonished and appalled at Jeff Haslam’s lack of professionalism. His vitriol was far out of proportion to your innocuous comments.

  75. Mack and J are largely right.

    Shermie perhaps you know Haslam too much to be objective; please remember it’s her blog and her free speech (and yours too to criticise for no real reason).

    If I express comments or concerns about a restaurant to its staff, I would expect a response and be disappointed without one.

    Haslam may be nice guy in so many ways but he seemed to blow his stack and blow off so may people all at once. Others may now help Haslam to address the controversy he created.

    Shermie, please avoid this prickly “you are not so important” talk when you say:
    “Does the blogger seriously think that she and her opinions are important or influential enough for a performing arts professional to personally seek her out to discuss his concerns with her?” Haslam had been following the blog comments so may have known who she was and obviously they got under his skin. Well, her opinions were important enough to illicit an ill-thought response from a hurt artistic director that made it in the national and local news. Nuff said. Fair to say though Haslam’s response attracted this bad news.

    IT IS HER BLOG. She can say whatever she damn well pleases. Go to your own corner of the internet if you don’t like it. She can mention herself and her boyfriend exactly as she pleases, we need no blogging lessons here.

    Who cares if she is professional. Do we really place professionals so high in the sky? Read. Enjoy. If not, move on.

  76. @p. Thanks, I know what blogging is. And there are plenty of blogs out there where the author manages to say what s/he thinks about something without placing him/herself at the center of the piece.

    And no, I am not a “friend of Jeff”. Since you’re so familiar with how blogs work, how about scrolling back to the disclaimer at the start of my original post. You know, the part where I said how I am familiar with some of the players in this particular drama through seeing their professional work. To spell it out for you more precisely, I have seen Jeff on the stage in shows. I have never met him personally and I don’t know him.

    @b ford: yes, any blogger can say what they damn well please. But they shouldn’t be expected to be treated as special simply because they have a blog.

  77. Shermie: If you complain to management about anything, don’t you expect to have your concerns at least acknowledged? Yes, you do.

    Doesn’t it seem logical to post a less emotional response to the first review that he didn’t like, rather than letting additional “negative” reviews appear? Of course it does.

    Stop arguing for the sake of arguing.

  78. Kim:

    The persistent insinuation that art should be like business might not be taken the way Mack and Sharon expect. If this is indeed the way they see it, as if theatre companies were fast food franchises, criticism of Mack and Sharon is fair game to anyone who would make the distinction.

    Rudeness may not be correct going in either direction, I will grant, but I think you need to be sensitive to how rudeness is perceived from different viewpoints, and open to reconsider where it started.

  79. Funny I read the comment and it actually made me more inclined to go see the show. So much for that…

  80. @Jason

    I’m greatly appreciative you took the time to jot down your thoughts. There’s so much here coming from one side, and after reading what you’ve written, I can see how Jeff could’ve been so upset. The chef analogy was particularly revealing.

    It’s not to say I’m in agreement with the Jeff’s response, but there’s little for us on the inter-webs to follow on for “the other side”. I do hope Jeff will apologize (blog comments indicate something of the sort has happened), but regardless, thank you for putting up part of the other story. The really personal attack seems completely unjustified until considering your response.

  81. @Mack:
    Your “concern” about the restaurant was not along the lines of a reservation not being honoured, the service being terrible, inedible food, subsequent food poisoning, or snobby/incompetent waitstaff. In other words, things that restaurateurs take seriously as things that might hurt their reputation and your business. Your “concern” was that you were not allowed to take pictures of your food for your blog and/or the audacity of the waiter in not recognizing you, or not allowing you to take pictures when you told him your blog’s URL??? I wouldn’t bother acknowledging that as a “concern” either. Consider yourself lucky that you didn’t get a response telling you to get over yourself already.

  82. Jeff Haslam has been a self-centered douchenozzle for a while now. Unfortunately it’s often useful in his chosen profession.

    I’m glad people are seeing Jeffy the way I (having met him, but not entirely sure if he met me) have for a while.

    I hope his dear love Teatro survives, I hope Hamslam has to step down, audition for shows, cry, and apologize for his arrogance. The man could use a little gnashing of teeth to bring him back down from Mt. Douche.

  83. here’s the thing – Say you got your teeth done at the dentist but you didn’t care for the dental hygenist so you write an offhanded comment how she was”only hired for her British accent” on the side of a building or shouted it from a megaphone – wouldn’t that be considered slander? Wouldn’t you, as the dentist, defend your employee? Blogs have made private opinion public and thats what this is about for me.

    Artists need people to talk about their work, no doubt about it, and published reviews are an expected thing. The difference with a published review is that the reviewer is usually careful in the choice of their words for they know the power of their words. The problem with bloggers is that they don’t. Sharon seems like a nice woman but NOT a writer and not aware of the glibness in her comment. Jeff is a man who deals with words all day long and has to interrpret the words of others so it’s not suprising that he was insulted by what he read.
    I doubt that Sharon would stand on a soapbox in a square and shout that her dental hygenist was only hired for her british accent, does writing it on a blog make it any more acceptable? Does being an artist mean you have to accept insults for fear of not earning 19 dollars?

    an earlier post said it best: Don’t give ducks guns.

    what a mess.

  84. @Jason… I understand your definition of reviewer, Jason. Thanks from reminding me that you had actually posted it earlier. I think that my definition of a reviewer has evolved and in 2010 with blogging as it is, Sharon, and others like her – in whatever field or endeavour, that have gathered information, experience, and expertise about something are reviewers if they write a review about it on their blog. Whew! That was a long sentence! If they have an audience that find them credible, they are definitely reviewers that provide informed information that is valued. Paid, or not. As an aside, when restaurants are reviewed, they don’t often know it. The reviewer doesn’t announce his coming, is not invited, and reviews the meal without the knowledge of the staff. I can appreciate where you are coming from, Jason. Bloggers do have a powerful voice in their communities if they are credible and consistent. The face of media is consistently undergoing change. This ordeal and its outcome has most likely been an incredible learning experience for all. It has been for me!

  85. While I agree that Jeff Haslam had the right to express his opinion (and I’m glad that you and Mack left up his comment instead of taking it off your blog), I think it was very irresponsible of him to do so using the words that he chose, seeing that he artistic director. When you are in a management position you must understand that anything you say not only represents yourself but also your organization.

    In my opinion Sharon’s comments are generally mild if she doesn’t like something, and are nowhere near harsh.

    Mr. Haslam’s comment, on the other hand, was not only unnecessarily nasty towards Sharon but also towards Edmonton and theatre patrons. He could have just said something like, “thank you for your opinion; we appreciate your patronage although we don’t agree with some of your comments from past reviews” and that would have be sufficient to get the point across without offending anyone.

    People won’t stop going to his shows because Sharon and Mack won’t go there anymore; people will stop going to his shows because of his thoughtless comment. In an age when live theatre and music must actively try to compete against movies, TV and the Internet, telling anyone to stay away because their money doesn’t make much of a difference and because one doesn’t like any negative comments is just plain stupid and a sure way towards bankruptcy.

  86. I am a local actor in Edmonton, I have worked with Jeff and I also have friends that are “professional” reviewers. First of all, the only reviewer that is invited to review any of Teatro shows is Liz Nichols. And it is pretty clear why that is, she blows so much steam up there ass that it allows them to be as big headed as they are.

    Not only have I worked with the company I am friends with Jeff. I am so sad to her of this because of the way I think it makes theatre in Edmonton look. We he wrote is so offensive, and he is the artistic director. I have never liked the fact that Teatro feels above the fringe by using the Varscona as its own BYOV (and why is it always or mostly Teatro shows? Doesnt RapidFire and Shadow also pay your rent?), how they have there own hold overs (if a show is a hit or not), AND mostly how they feel above reviews.

    Jeff is a very talented person but he is also full of himself. And I want to make it clear that I have talked to many artist at the fringe and they all seem to feel the same way as I do. This is not alright. Not every piece of art we do will everyone understand or love, and thats what makes live theatre so wonderful. Most of the people walking into the theatre is not going to be a paid reviewer, but they are who we are performing to, and that more then anything deserves a voice!

    I really hope Jeff apologizes for this, because he can not defined his actions on this one.

  87. Firstly, on behalf of what I think are probably the majority of theatre professionals everywhere, I would very much like to apologize for Mr.Haslam’s vitriolic comments. Secondly, as I’ve read over the comments posted here, I’m struck by the apparent lack of understanding about reviewers and audiences. EVERYONE has the right to their opinion when presented in a constructive way. If you want an audience that will just lap up everything you do and call it amazing, then just present stuff to your family in the living room. Audiences are made up of individuals, each with a different personality and opinion. Personally I think that’s what makes theatre so exciting. Bringing all those people in to watch what you’ve created and letting them experience it with you. And all of them will have their own spin on what they. And sometimes they’re not going to like it. Or they’re going to think that a character does nothing to help serve the play or move the story along. That’s their opinion. And sometimes they tell other people their opinion. Some of them even give their opinion for a living. And though I may sometimes not agree with it, their opinions are still valid. Period. Look p

  88. ILook people, what makes theatre so exciting is the very fact that you have so many different types of audience members watching every night. They each bring a different perspective to whatever they’re watching, and that’s part of wh

  89. Typing on a Blackberry Storm is somewhat trying…
    To finish-
    That’s part of what makes theatre so damn exciting. So I welcome disagreement and dissent. It’s great, too, when they love what you do. But for God’s sake, let’s not drive people away because our feelings are hurt. We struggle foe audience members enough as it is, sometimes. Let’s start a dialogue with them instead. Their might be something in their opinion that you can use. And if not, then at least you respected them enough to hear them out.
    If someone doesn’t like my work or the show I’m in, I find out why. I might even agree with them from time to time. So Sharon, please keep on going to the theatre. Keep opening yourself up to what is out there. And NEVER, NEVER, NEVER stop sharing with others what you think. Because it matters. Always…

  90. Jeff has a right to say what he wants on your PUBLIC blog that allows comments. If you want to control what people write on your blog, make it private. I have never been to Teatro at the Varscona but I’ll make a point of going now.

  91. The theatre scene in edmonton is filled with elitist cliques that will stop at nothing to backstab each other and bring each other down. I have never seen such a divided community, and with the likes of Mr. Schmidt running things it only gets worse…oh woe the dark times.

  92. I like Jeff. I don’t know him, but I like him. He is funny, he is smart and he is an artist. He is also an human being entitled to an opinion, just as the annoying Sharon is. I have come across Sharon’s blog before and it always left me somewhat queasy. Until this point though, not queasy enough to comment. Hooray, my quease has reached a commenting level! Leave Jeff alone, write your silly blog and we will all be happy.

  93. The irony here is that you got your apology for him hurting your feelings…and yet, no word from you apologizing for offending those he cares about.

    In addition, I agree he shouldn’t have been so rude. It belabored his point. His point, however, is sound. You came across as rude and snotty and you are not invisible. No one deserves to be insulted, not you NOR the theatre professionals who are working for $10,000 – $20,000 a year for YOUR entertainment and scrutiny. Cristicism is important; Being crass and rude is a waste.

    Both of you should grow up.

  94. Basically the same as some other people.

    People see plays. People formulate opinions about them. People express their opinions – email, coffeeshops, over dinner, on the ‘net.

    For anyone to suggest they don’t have the right to an opinion and express it is ludicrous – regardless of whether you think they’re whiny, or annoying or pretentious, or their ticket purchase only pays part of the production cost…whatever…. it’s irrelevant.

    I like Jeff as an actor. He’s good, but as a person the few times I’ve met him he’s a bit of pretentious dick in his own right. SUre Jeff also has a right to an opinion but not to be such an ‘a-hole’ about it.

    So, Jeff – if you’re tired of busting your butt for no money and for people being able to judge your work when YOU put it out there, maybe it’s time for a career in grocery bagging.

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