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Steven Leigh Morris: Not Just the L.A. Weekly's Loss

January 11, 2009 |  5:45 pm

Emptytheaterseats

The assault on the arts continues. The news that Steven Leigh Morris, long-standing theater editor of the L.A. Weekly, was laid off in this latest round of Village Voice Media slash-and-burn management, is as exasperating as it is sobering.

Yes, the newspaper industry is in freefall. And yes, the tanking economy has only exacerbated the situation. But sacking Morris — a strong incentive for picking up the Weekly — is the equivalent of destroying the village to save it. Double-think strikes again. 

Morris hasn’t just been a champion for L.A. theater, big and small, spotlighted and marginalized. He is also a playwright who has approached criticism as an act of writing — one artistic sensibility bearing intelligent witness to another. I may not have always agreed with his verdicts, but I admired the commitment, feeling and generosity fueling his prose.  And when the quality of mind is rich, who cares if the opinion is at variance with your own?

In “The Empty Space,” director Peter Brook says that a “vital function” of a critic is to serve as a “pathmaker.”  His or her mission is to help us formulate — and then reformulate — an ideal image of what theater can be in our community. 

Morris, in this regard, has been exemplary. And the loss isn’t just the L.A. Weekly’s.

-- Charles McNulty

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