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Sunday, June 16, 2013

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Anthony Del Valle: Fond Farewell to a Man of the Theater

Anthony Del Valle
Courtesy of the Las Vegas Review-Journal
Anthony Del Valle
Leaning down at my friend’s bedside at UMC last month, I heard distressing words:
“What did I really do that was worth anything?” Anthony Del Valle asked me, understandably depressed as illness wracked his body and doubt clouded his mind. “All I did was criticize people.”
Looking back over his years as the dean of this city’s theater critics, that is the only egregiously wrongheaded critique he ever issued.
Underscoring that was the crowd of local theater and media people gathered at Las Vegas Little Theatre on June 15 for a memorial to remember Del Valle. The longtime critic and columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Las Vegas CityLife—whose pull-no-punches reviews were the barometer for community performers and affected box-office sales throughout the city—died May 21 at age 60. Among those on hand were Smith Center President Myron Martin, former Rep. Shelley Berkley, local actors TJ Larsen, Erik Amblad and Lysander Abadia, Onyx Theatre co-owner Michael Morse and colleagues from the R-J and CityLife.
Organized by local playwright/director Paul Thornton and Las Vegas Night Beat publisher Bill Schafer, the 45-minute salute opted for celebration over mourning. Setting the tone were musician Bill Fayne and actress Kellie Wright, performing a witty paean to the love-hate relationship between critics and actors.
Tributes, both touching and funny, followed from friends and admirers, including CityLife’s arts & entertainment editor Mike Prevatt, ex-film editor Anthony Allison and myself. Tearing up, actress Amanda Kraft read a letter from actor/director Brandon Burk, Del Valle’s close friend who is imprisoned at the Southern Desert Correctional Center for causing a man’s death by driving drunk in 2007.
Citing Del Valle’s tradition of bestowing his annual “Tony awards” in CityLife and the R-J, Schafer announced that he still plans to establish similar honors in the late critic’s name, despite some controversy over the value of performance awards on Facebook recently.
Wrapping up the remembrance, Wright and Fayne led a sing-along to “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”
In the days following my friend’s passing, Facebook posts poured in praising Del Valle’s encyclopedic theatrical knowledge, his impact as a champion of community theater by dint of his honest and insightful assessments, and his one-on-one kindness and encouragement to local performers, playwrights and directors.
All true, yet the appreciation likely would’ve surprised him, given that critics are respected but rarely cherished, and antipathy toward his uncompromising style often grew intense. Yet unlike in cities such as New York and Los Angeles, where he would be one among many influential critical voices, here in Vegas he emerged as the brand name for theater passion. (No offense to other local critics, including myself, who toiled beside him.)
In an American culture where the creative nourishment of live theater is regarded as an entertainment afterthought, my friend’s life’s work in this city was damn near heroic, his contribution priceless. It should always be remembered that way.
What did I really do that was worth anything? I can still hear him say in that hospital room.
Had he been hovering in spirit as songs were sung in his honor, admiration and affection were expressed and funny Tony stories were swapped, he’d have to concede that just this once, others had the better critical perspective.

On the Media: Calling for a National Conversation, Offshore Leaks, and More

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Brooke looks into just what it means to have a national conversation about government surveillance, international journalists focus on another big leak story, and the dubious explanatory power of bathtubs. 

How Do We Have a National Conversation?

This week, President Obama told Charlie Rose that he would like to have a national conversation about government surveillance. Brooke explores what it means to truly have a "national conversation" with the American Library Association's Lynne Bradley, the Constitution Project's Sharon Bradford Franklin, and California Congressman Henry Waxman.

We Aren't Watching You - Yet

Last week, a bill called the We Are Watching You Act was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives. It’s meant to protect consumers from new technology that could monitor them as they watch TV or play video games. Brooke speaks to Rep. Walter Jones, one of the bill's cosponsors, about why he feels these regulations are necessary.

Who's Watching Who

Brooke asks the Boston Globe's Hiawatha Bray the key question about the We Are Watching You Act: who, exactly, is watching us -- and how?

Offshore Leaks

While the US is focusing on leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, international journalists have been reporting stories from a massive trove of documents called the "Offshore Leaks" that reveals the mysterious world of offshore tax havens. Brooke talks to Gerard Ryle, the Director of the Center for Public Integrity's International Consortium for Investigative Journalism about coordinating the reporting on these leaks around the world.

Fracking Feud

As hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, continues its spread throughout the nation, oil industry representatives and environmentalists vie for control over coverage of the issue. Brooke speaks to ProPublic's Abrham Lustgarten about how advocates on both sides of the issue are attempting to control the narrative.

Terrorists vs. Bathtubs

In a Guardian livechat this week, NSA leaker Edward Snowden advised Americans to consider the trade off they make between privacy and security: "Bathtub falls and police officers kill more Americans than terrorism, yet we've been asked to sacrifice our most sacred rights for fear of falling victim to it.” These "X kills more people than Y" comparisons crop up all the time, in discussions of terrorism, gun control, even obesity. Brooke talks to risk analyst Peter Sandman about why they aren't very persuasive .
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