Round #2 – Holtzman Responds to Horowitz’s Latest

This will round out and conclude the back-and-forth between playwright Willy Holtzman and author David Horowitz. I’m just home from an extraordinary session – our post-show reading of the letters and a very active audience response which shed heat and light and even the occasional insight that made for a chastening, exhilarating, illuminating discussion. Before we chronicle that, let’s post this playwright’s position, articulated by Willy Holtzman, wiriting from New York, just an hour before our curtain down her. I’ll say that, in the end, I take the predominantly contentious assertions in both Horowitz and Holzman to not be the direction for which our theater advocates. It’s become a little too toxic. Nonetheless, we’re obliged to reprint in full.

Here’s the aggrieved playwright, sticking it (in the end, rather gently) back at Mr. Horowitz:

* * *
from Willy Holtzman: If David Horowitz had any sense of irony he’d have to look in the mirror and laugh. The same man who played judge and jury for his book The Professors, in which he deliberately names 101 academics he deems “most dangerous” (and for which he was presumably paid by his publisher), is throwing a prolonged tantrum over a play in which he is not named and does not exist as a character. The justification for this outburst is the passing reference he receives in my program notes for the show. Like most self-appointed demagogues he turns out to be rather thin-skinned.

In his diatribe, which he laughably mis-labels a critique, Horowitz employs his usual tactic of piling up lies and half-truths in hopes of creating the illusion of truth. It’s tempting to expose these new falsehoods point by point, but I prefer to let the play speak for itself. At the risk of confusing him with the facts, as the playwright I can state unequivocally that there is no intent to create sympathy for Kathy Boudin, who also doesn’t exist in the play, and whose crime is wholly undeserving of sympathy. Nor would I create a play in 2010 to condemn the Viet Nam War – McGeorge Bundy and Robert McNamara have already done that more poignantly than I ever could. Further, on behalf of my many principled conservative and neo-conservative friends, I resent that Horowitz maligns them as “mercenary cynics.” Unlike Horowitz, they understand that Something You Did uses the past to raise questions about the present, including the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the legacy of 9/11. Unlike Horowitz, they understand that the play is above all a call to humane and civil political discourse – a call which he quite clearly has failed to answer.

Horowitz, who now fancies himself an expert on dramatic literature, argues that the author of a work of fiction must remain true to the “structure of facts” on which that fiction is based. Yet, Horowitz, who is a practitioner of non-fiction, played fast and loose with the facts in his initial rebuttal when, in an effort to exculpate himself, he mentioned his former associate Huey Newton in the same sentence with Gandhi. As far as I know Gandhi was never convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of an Oakland Police Officer. I know how drama works and so, apparently, does Horowitz. Only one of us is a playwright and one of us is purportedly a journalist. Knowing Horowitz’s passion for lists, I could provide a lengthy list of historically based plays that arrive at the truth by employing dramatic license. Instead, suffice it to say that if he gets around to writing about the “101 Most Dangerous Playwrights,” I might hope to find myself in the company of Aeschylus, Shakespeare, O’Casey, Brecht, Odets, Miller and Kushner, among others.