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Chicago Tribune's Chris Jones Responds to Online Petition Against Critic Hedy Weiss

The reviews are in and some in the theater community are non-too-pleased with Chicago Sun-Times theater and dance critic Hedy Weiss.

A petition urging Chicago theater companies to stop inviting Weiss to productions was posted on Change.org on June 13th by the Chicago Theater Accountability Coalition. As of this writing, the petition has received more than 2,000 signatures.

In the petition, the group specifically charges Weiss with having consistently made inflammatory remarks in her reviews.

"[She] has proven that she is not willing to work with us to create a positive environment," the petition states.

Chicago Tribune critic Chris Jones responded to BroadwayWorld's request for comment on the story. The statement echoes similar remarks Jones posted to his Facebook page. Here's what Jones had to say via email:

"In my career as a critic, I've done my level best never to attack anyone personally and focus entirely on the work.

I support the Chicago theater community's right to vigorously debate Hedy's reviews and every theater can invite, or not invite, whomever it chooses to invite. Similarly, as a competitor but also a fellow journalist, I support Hedy's right, as a long-serving professional in this field, to express her opinion, even though it may be contrary, as in this case, to the prevailing point of view and even offensive to some.

In my experience, engagement with different points of view is always preferable to trying to shut them down or ban their free expression. And, in this instance, I have been truly appalled by the ageism, cruelty, personal vitriol and nasty threats I have read on-line, some of which has risen to an unacceptable level in these unpleasant times.

Whether you agree with her or not (and few artists or critics are perfect) Hedy is one of Chicago's grand tradition of potent, formidable women critics. And the nastiest stuff online has been penned by men who use the rhetoric of demanding diversity. A critic's primary responsibility is to the reader; it is our readers who judge us. And believe me, they let us know how we are doing and how much use they have for us."


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