by John Stoehr
Ellen Moryl called me yesterday. She's the director of the city's Office of Cultural Affairs, which puts on Piccolo Spoleto. She'd read my post about the fiasco of Wayang Modern, Geoffrey Cormier's shadow puppet show that looks like it would be good for kids but is in fact really not for kids as all. Her office had made the mistake of marketing the show as "charming," which it is. But it's also ironic and macabre, featuring sex, drugs, and genocide, R-rated aspects she would have recognized right away if she'd seen it.
Turns out she didn't. Thanks to a combination of staffing issues, time crunch, and ignorance on her part, Moryl booked Wayang Modern "against her better judgment," she said, for Piccolo's family-friendly Spotlight series at the New Tabernacle Fourth Baptist Church on Elizabeth Street. If she had it to do all over again, she would have made it a special event with a later showtime and of course made it clear that this may look like happy stuff for kids, but it's really not, no, it's really not at all.
I'm sure there are some pissed off parents out there as well as others angered by this violation of truth in advertising, but there is a bright side. Moryl told me that she takes complete responsibility for the debacle. She could have deflected blame — toward staff (her director of operations quit amid bookings for this year's Piccolo), to Cormier (and it looks like the puppeteer was a little bit on the oblique side of things when it came to explaining what Wayang Modern was all about).
But she didn't.
"It's ultimately my responsibility," Moryl said.
From my perspective, from that of an arts journalist accustomed to people in positions of civic leadership avoiding the burdens of civic leadership — that is, accountability — that counts as a bright side. She blew it this time, but don't we all sometimes? She's giving us reason to trust her to take our concerns seriously.