KOWED & KOWTOWED KRATKA KOMES KLEAN (KINDA) ON DECISION TO PULL STURGEON; LK ADMITS HE CAVED INTO TO ‘PRESSURE’ FROM POLITICAL TYPES … QUESTION IS: WHY STAB A GUY IN THE BACK AND WHY HIDE IDENTITIES OF THOSE WHO OWN HIM? … plus … RANDOLPH TO THE RESCUE ON SHAKESEPARE & CO.s DEBUT OF 35TH SEASON IN ‘CASSANDRA SPEAKS’
By DAN VALENTI
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, JUNE 4, 2012) — THE PLANET has stripped the cloak of mystery and secrecy off of The Great WTBR Flip-Flop, wherein talk meister Bill Sturgeon, with John Krol riding the point, thought he had station manager Larry Kratka‘s OK for a show to following Krol’s “Good Morning, Pittsfield.”
He did. Then he didn’t. What happened in so short of time to convince Kratka to change his mind? It’s not a pretty story.
Kratka Caved to GOB
Our investigation reveals that the GOB ordered Kratka to yank a show that he himself had only days before championed. Bottom line is that Kratka, rather than stand up for right and righteousness, caved in to GOB demands and like a timid mouse pulled the rug from under a well-intentioned Sturgeon. Rather than fight for what he still admits is a show he wanted to have, Kratka committed a journalist’s cardinal sin: He got into bed with those who have him bought and paid.
One wonders what offer THEY gave Kratka that he could not refuse? What? Did “They” threaten Kratka with being pulled from rinky-dink Fourth-of-July Parade PCTV voiceover work? Probably nothing that serious.
Kratka and THE PLANET — as you will see in the e-mails that we shall share — agreed to disagree on the nature of this story. Kratka didn’t see that this was a story at all. We, however, thought it was signficant for the way it shows, in plain sight once we peeled back the layers of this rotten onion, how the GOB operates in the city of Pittsfield. It knows who it can pressure with success — and Larry Kratka is one of them thar “presurees.” Rather than man up and fight for Bill Sturgeon, it seems he died of fright at the first hint of pressure.
This story sheds light on:
* How the Politically Correct in the city of Pittsfield “own” the Boring Broadsheet and all of local radio.
* How running WTBR, the high school radio station at Taconic HS and now a direct competitor of WBEC due to adult daytime programming, is a conflict of interest for Kratka. You can’t run WTBR and be the news director at Vox. One has to go, and it is now up to the school department to pull Kratka from WTBR.
* How Kratka’s permitting the airing of shows by adults during morning drive and prime time on a high school radio station spills programming from lily white into a muddy gray area. We know now that any adult programming must first meet a GOB litmus test or it won’t be allowed to air.
* This situation takes all legitimacy from non-student programming on WTBR and creates a massive conflict of interest for Kratka, who is in the employ of the commercial Vox radio at WBEC.
The E-Mails Tell the Story
THE PLANET sent Kratka the following e-mail on May 31, at 10:19 p.m.:
Can you give me your version of what happened with Bill Sturgeon’s aborted show on WTBR.
I received a release announcing all was well and good, and that the show would be debuting on Tuesday 5/29. The show was pulled. Both John Krol and Bill say they don’t know why? Bill says you pulled the plug after plugging it in.
Can you tell me why? John and Bill say they don’t know what happened. Bill says there’s more to this than you’re letting on. So what gives?
Please give me something for the record.
If you would like to talk, let me know.
I would like [your comments] ASAP.
—– 00 —–
The next day, Kratka sent not one, not two, but three e-mails, at 3:47 a.m., 4:18 a.m., and 4:50 a.m. Each had the same one word answer, and we quote: “NOTHING.” That was it, three times.
PLANET: So what gives?
KRATKA (x3): NOTHING!
Yet later in the morning, after apparently being convinced we would not stop our investigation, Kratka responded at length for the record, at 7:43 a.m. He wrote:
A few follow up questions:
* From whom did the pressure come not to put Bill on? Rather, since you had decided to put him on, who got on you to reverse your decision and pull the plug?
* Who were “the political types who are afraid of good talk radio?”
* Why did you agree with them? Why didn’t you fight for Bill and the show?
My story goes live for Monday probably late Sunday night. I will need answers n later than 4 p.m. Sunday.
Dan….this has gone far enough. You know as well as I do who THEY are. I didn’t agree with those who opposed the Sturgeon show….I thought it better for the station if it didn’t happen. Enough. LK
—– 00 —–
Notice how cleverly Kratka tries to put the onus on THE PLANET to name those responsible. The Unartful Dodger gets caught with his own cleverness. If we knew the names, we would have identified long before. That’s the point. HE, Larry Kratka, is the one who covered for the bandits. HE is the one who sold Bill Sturgeon and his grand profession of journalism down the river. “This has gone far enough.” Well, no. “Enough.” Not by a long shot.
—– 00 —–
THE PLANET replied (June 2, 6:17 p.m.)
LARRYI don’t know who they are. That’s why I’m asking.You know what’s gone far enough? Answers like this. Just come out and identify the culprits. Why the reluctance? Why the fear?You’re a newsman. Without knowing definitively from the best source — you — I don’t and can’t know who they are.So again, please tell me who was behind this. That’s how we can put the story to an end.Thanks,DAN
—– 00 —–
Kratka then sent this response:
Dan…I’ve never been on the other side of your investigation by a reporter into something that he thinks is a juicy story. This isn’t. I don’t have anything else to say about it. Each newsman has their ideas of what is a juicy story and what isn’t. This isn’t. See ya. LK
By this point, as you can see from his muddled first sentence (what does it mean?), Kratka is hemming and hawing. Is this a “juicy story?” No, it’s something bigger: It’s a relevant story for reasons we stated above.
—– 00 —–
Finally, THE PLANET responded (Sunday, June 3, 7:24 p.m.):
LARRYWell, it was “juicy” enough to have you accede to outside political pressure and pull Bill’s show, after you gave him the OK.The story is that, as you have admitted, GOBs didn’t want Sturgeon on, and instead of telling them where to go, you gave into their demand. Question is, why?I respect your decision on what’s newsworthy or not, in this case, but obviously don’t agree with it. In any case, my coverage shall appear tomorrow on THE PLANET. If you want to comment on what you read, we shall, of course, welcome it.All the best,DANAs you can see, we were doing our best to show respect to a colleague.Presuming that Kratka breaks his personal vow never to read blogs and reads this one, we ask him directly:* Who were the people who pressured you to stab Bill Sturgeon in the back?* And why, oh why, in the name of Horace Greeley and Ambrose Bierce, did you ever roll over and play dead? Didn’t you owe to your craft, to the profession of journalism, to you tell them where they could stick their discomfort with Sturgeon’s talk show — as far as their hairy arms could reach.THE PLANET advises the School Committee to invite Kratka to appear and defend this decision and also to state why he should be retained as adviser to the station, he who is not on the faculty and has a direct conflict of interest with his position at WBEC.We also would say that if we hosted a show on WTBR, Kratka’s actions would cause our immediate resignation in protest. That will be up to the individual consciences of the adult on-air jockeys, of course, but how could anyone work with a station manager who refuses to stick up for what he himself admits was the right thing to do?
‘CASSANDRA SPEAKS’ OPENS SHAKESPEARE & CO’S 35th SEASON; RANDOLPH TO THE RESCUE IN THIS UNEVEN PLAY
On Friday night, Shakespeare & Co,. launched is 35th season in the Elayne P. Bernstein Theater at its Lenox campus with a world premiere, Cassandra Speaks, Norman Plotkin‘s one-woman portrait of journalist Dorothy Thompson.
The “one-man show,” allowing the generic label for both genders of our species, has a couple of built-in advantages for a theater company, the first of which is economy. Putting on play with one actor saves a lot of money. There’s also no “fourth wall,” that is, nothing that separates the actor from the audience, which we enjoy for the way it forces everyone to acknowledge up front that the suspension of disbelief required of the theatergoer need not be some great secret the audience must withhold from the actors. Indeed, with no fellow performer, the actor — in this case, S&Co. veteran Tod Randolph — relies on the audience in the same way she would take cues and draw energy from an on-stage colleague.
No ‘Fourth Wall’ (or AC) on a Hot-Tin-Roof Night
Randolph played that lack of the “fourth wall” as well as it can be done, engaging directly with those seated in the house. Given that the intimate Bernstein Theater had no air conditioning on opening night, Randolph cut through the heat to distract patrons from their hot and humid discomfort. Give S&Co. credit for knowing how to throw a season’s premiere: Not only did they give the audience their money’s worth artistically, Artistic Director Tony Simotes threw in a free sauna as well for each member of the audience. Not all were appreciative, and several were trying their best not to collapse in the stifling boxcar heat.
Dorothy Thompson, a graduate of THE PLANET’s alma mater, Syracuse University, was America’s first purebred female journalist, a reporter and columnist with a penchant for “the story,” a recklessness in pursuit of the news, and a fearlessness that made enemies of the right people — Adolph Hitler, for example. Thompson, who met Hitler during his rise to power, badly misjudged his capacity for world historical greatness. “I met him,” she tells us. “There was nothing there.” How wrong she was.
Thompson later poured her guilt from this glaring mistake into pounding away at the evils of Nazism and the dangers Hitler represented to Europe. Her earnestness won her the honor of the first journalist to be thrown out of Nazi Germany. Thomspon, without irony, dubs herself Cassandra, after the character in Greek mythology who had the gift of prophecy. This prophetess got it wrong on Hitler and went into 20-10 hindsight to convince the world she whiffed.
Randolph: Wringing More than the Uneven Script Allows
Randolph wrings as much as can be gotten from Plotkin’s uneven script and saves the production. An actress with less presence would vanish in a “talky” like this. Randolph hits her cadence from the play’s opening, where we see Thompson laboring to finish her newspaper column on the day of her third wedding (accomplished in journalism, unlucky in love). Director Nicole Ricciardi moves Randolph well across the well-appointed set — designed in utilitarian fashion by Patrick Brennan — which depicts Thompson’s office and living room in her Vermont home.
Lacking the luxury of development given the confines of one act and one character, Plotkin takes us immediately to the key to Dorothy Thompson’s life in her self-admission: “I’m always busy … not likable, overbearing,” she confesses early on. Neat trick: Can we ever not like someone with the self-deprecation to say they are not likable?
The set exudes a comfy, lived in look, with books in their shelves, magazine strewn about, two manual typewriters, and even a pack of Lucky Strikes on the end table, stage left. Twice during the play, Randolph takes out a cigarette (once from the pack, once from a silver cigarette holder). The sweltering audience twice had but one thought: “Please, oh please, don’t light that smoke.” With the dead, 90-degree+ air, the cigarette smoke would have KOd half the crowd. Randolph did not light up. We wondered: Was that in the script, or did Plotkin call for her to fire up, only to have Randolph do a great bit of non-active improv by mercifully refraining to introduce flame to tip?
From Booming Outrage to Teary Introspection
Randolph adeptly conveys the force of Thompson’s character, firing outrage at her inability to convince Americans through her writing and speaking of the growing war danger in Europe. When it comes time to emotionally dial it down, as when she reflects on her inabilities to stay in marriage, Randolph hits the right notes — soft notes, feminine notes, a weaker side to which her public persona simply could not admit.
Plotkin makes one large mistake in the structure of the play. Granted, in 90 minutes, he can’t say everything there is to say about a larger-than-life force such as Dorothy Thompson. He limits the action to the day of her third marriage, where she is having wicked bouts of writer’s block and marriage block. In this choice, Plotkin ignores a far more interesting period in Thompson’s life: her disenchantment with Zionism and the creation of Israel after World War II.
Earlier in life, Thompson had championed a Jewish state in Palestine, but seeing the horrible state of the Palestinian refugee camps in 1948, she became a strident supporter of Palestinian rights for a homeland and saw the blatant injustice committed in the name of Zionism with the U.N.-forced creation of the state of Israel that same year. She came to see the imposed creation of the state of Israel as a mistake. Why did Plotkin ignore this much riper dramatic situation?
We will hazard a guess: Did Plotkin conveniently ignore this side of Thompson because a “summer set” of Big City arts patrons might find it politically incorrect? Did he cave in to the less controversial pro-Israel stance only to ignore the most dramatic fight of Thompson’s career? Alas, one can’t direct nor can one act what is not there.
Lights, Sound, and Costumes: A Token This and That, and the Night Off
The production asks hardly anything of lighting designer Stephen Ball except to fire up the overheads, dim and raise the brightness to match the emotions of the character, and throw a few blue gel sheets over spots. He had to be thinking: “I went to college for this?” except that college is a long way off for this 24 year veteran of S&Co.
The same applies to sound designer Michelle Pfeiffer and costumer Kara Midlam. Pfeiffer had an especially rough night with the little (and the obvious) that director Ricciardi asks of her. Her sound effects were barely audible — an excerpt of a Hitler speech, for example, or the sound of stormtroopers marching. Midlam had to pick out a period dress and pair of shoes. THE PLANET might have fared as well with a visit to the local Goodwill. We have seen Midlan’s other freelance costuming work, however, and we know Randolph’s duds were in good hands. We might also add that THE PLANET and Midlam share an academic honor: We have both been adjunct faculty members at LeMoyne College, Syracuse, NY — she now (in the theater department) and we then (in the English Department).
In the end, it’s Randolph to the rescue of Cassandra Speaks.
The play runs through Sept. 2 in the Bernstein Theater. Tickets range from $15 to $50. The box office phone is 413-637-3353 or visit www.shakespeare.org.
WHAT EXERTIONS LAY IS STATE, LAID OUT BY YESTERDAY’s EFFORTS? WE ASK YOU, MY DEAR HUNTINGTON? WHEN YOU HAVE THE ANSWER, YOU MAY DELIVER IT BY THE USUAL MEANS. LATER, EVERYONE.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.