trapped in iowas puzzle locker with ivan bellman part none

I thought I would open this series with a little email feud between two University Theater Journalists . . . Dum di Dum�s stint as academic Theater Fag Hag is all too familiar. But perhaps some Freshman somewhere will read this and switch her major back to philosophy . . . I�m only trying to help. Let�s all wear black sweatpants and Nikes before we dig into the chocolate pudding! I’m just jealous, jaded and pissed off that A) I never got to sleep with Psychic Girl 2) I never got into Dana’s pants.


I apologize in advance for the perhaps…unexpected nature of this e-mail. I am a friend of Ivan Bellman, the director of The Puzzle Locker at Iowa with whom you’ve recently had contact. I also am the author of the review of The Puzzle Locker at the University of Rochester that ran in our paper, The Campus Times, during my senior year last spring. Ian forwarded me his correspondence with you knowing that I would be interested in what you had to say. I, of course, couldn’t let your comments go un-responded to.

First, let me say that your review was very well written. I envy the staff at your university’s newspaper, as our oft closed-minded editors wouldn’t have let me write that much, let alone go into so much detail. Or use the word “fuck” for that matter. I usually had to fight to even get a review in our paper. Perhaps it’s the curse of a writer without desire to join the editorial staff. Thanks a lot, free speech.

I’m a theater girl. I’ve been an actor and active audience member for as long as I can remember, and I’m pretty passionate about both. The only thing better than attending a play, in my book, is being in one. Not only do I consider myself a well versed (and well read) theater goer, but I also understand production nuances that a normal audience member who lacks direct theater experience may not be able to grasp. Trust me when I say that I “get” theater. Perhaps more than you do. I’m not cocky about many things in life, but my knowledge and breadth of theater experience is certainly on the list. That, and my handwriting. And I’m a pretty good kisser. But I digress.

I had a wonderful time during my four years at the University of Rochester, in and out of the classroom. A lot of that “wonderful” came from my work with the theater. I found a niche there, and obviously bonded with fellow actors, stage managers, directors and professors. From within the department, surrounded by drama-philes, we often had trouble understanding why our productions weren’t very well attended by the greater student body. So when I interned as a PR director for the theater department my junior year, part of my crusade for bigger audiences started with our newspaper. I had written for them before, and thought I could use it as my platform for reaching out to the students. This was a difficult task. In a dream world, if I was writing solely for the theater crowd, my reviews would’ve sounded far different. But I found myself having to compromise some of my writing desires to try and fulfill my task of bringing in more bodies to the theater. I never changed my opinion. If I didn’t like a play, you’d know it. But my personal ties to the department, and my desire for its success often forced me to “dumb down” my reviews to try and pull from a crowd that doesn’t normally watch plays. (You may think of this as “condescending,” as you noted. I just think of it as an attempt at targeted advertising.) This often resulted in pulling out some of the more notable, “interesting” aspects of the production–the dirt, the girls in their underwear, etc. I didn’t enjoy pushing aside my “journalist integrity” to try and lure people in. But in this case, my devotion to the theater department overruled my devotion to the paper. You called me a shill–I wasn’t standing at the side of the street trying to get people to guess which cup the stone was under…I was carefully selecting my words to try and get people to see plays that I really liked, in hopes that they would return for more shows and the department would benefit. I wished I had more time and space in the paper to write about what I did like about the show–the music and sound, the precise lighting, the hidden comedy in the most absurd circumstances, the otherworldy feeling of the play, its innocence and silliness like a children’s game of make believe, juxtaposed with these intense moments of mortality and loss of childhood. I had pages of notes on this show. I was forced, by my editor and my intentions, to try and pare it down to what I deemed the bare minimum. Perhaps I should’ve had more faith in my student peers, but 3 years of small audiences pushed me to try a new angle. As a result we had some great audiences for this show and I would like to think, in the most ego-centric way, that I hand a hand in that increased attendance.

I want you to also keep in mind that the productions that we saw were, I’m sure, incredibly different. Ivan Bellman and Nigel Maister are very different directors, and this play obviously leaves plenty of room for production interpretation. Please don’t apply my review or my thoughts on the Rochester production to the one you saw. It would be unfair. That being said, I think it’s incredibly important, as a reviewer, for you to open your mind a bit more. You express your lack of enthusiasm for plays that can be read “a thousand different ways,” but that is what theater is, in essence. Directors and producers and actors can go out there with specific motivations, and a goal in mind, but as it is with all art, it’s really up to your interpretation. And maybe it relates back to your particular taste for theater, that you like plays with more “specificity.” If this is the case, perhaps you shouldn’t be so quick to diss Ivan’s production when it seems that you’re the one unwilling to interpret what he has laid out for you. You fight for the theater audience, saying they are willing to experience new things and open their minds. Do you then, not consider yourself a “theater audience?”

I apologize for using e-mail, an incredibly (for lack of a better word) pussy means of defense to throw my rebuttal at you. But I figured it’d be creepy if I showed up at your doorstep. And I couldn’t let your digs at me just hang there. I have a repuatation to uphold, even if it’s only what I see in the mirror.

Hugz ‘n’ Kisses,
Dana Mittelman

If you find yourself bored in the middle of the night: (and yes, I realize that the word should be “torrent” and not “torrid.” Human editing isn’t foolproof.)

the above resulted in the following to be printed in Rochester’s city newspaper, the Democrat and Chronicle:

5 Responses to “trapped in iowas puzzle locker with ivan bellman part none”
  1. michael deitz says:

    The director of the Iowa production (that this girl is good friends with) is named Ian Belton not Ivan Bellman. Ian was vicious to students during this process, treated the women as sex objects and turned in an atrocious product. I only write to keep dear Mr. Bellman’s name in the clear (who is this Mr. Bellman? Does such a person exist or can we all make up the names of directors?) I wish.

  2. Ivan says:

    Michael, I think you are confused. I directed an entirely different production from the one of which you speak. I would like to have seen Mr. Beltons rendition of the play. I had no idea it was so popular. Do you know if it’s going to be published?

    Thank you for speaking up for me . . . This Ian Belton seems like a real jerk. Women as sex objects? Thats obscene! In my production it was the boys who were the sex objects . . . replete with granny panties and fishnets . . . thats what Daddy likes!

    Ive heard other things about this Belton guy. . . like he is stalker and he pulled this Hannibal Lechter thing on this girl who was supposed to help him buy groceries when Betty got sick. And then he cold cocked some freebaser at Afties. Oh, and he also has Abandonment Issues and is OCD and is addicted to Vikaden and Yohimbee Barkroot.

    You know, all this confusion reminds me of last St. Paddys Day when the casino thought they had booked “The Pogs,” that vegan electro-jazz band from Berkley, so they only stocked up on wheat beer and white wine. The McSweeney brothers drank it all in like three minutes and everyone else had to wait in line at Nardy’s Nascar Bar for $9 Budweiser in a futuristic aluminum bottle. (Props to Caleb).

    Anyway, Im sorry you are not so very good writer and he cant direct. Are you any relation to Steven? Maybe we could work together??? Im sure I am much less viscous than Ian.

    Best of Luck ~ ivan

  3. michael deitz says:


    Sorry about the mix up. Just after all the chaos out here I didn’t think anyone should be blamed for what happened but Ian. I’m also sorry to see you think I’m not a good writer. I’m not. I’m an angry theater patron who is forced to see lots of bullshit in Iowa and then is told here’s something exciting this guest director has done and you realize exciting means he’s yelled at students to the point of tears, made freshman girls into sex objects off and on stage and convinced one of his actors that to be a real artist means supplying your director with your little sister for blowjobs after rehearsal. I mean fuck this- no wonder theater is bad- how could we ever attack the oppresors of our country if we welcome them so openly and jokingly into our places of art…

  4. Ivan says:

    Hey Michael,

    Hmmm. You ARE angry, my friend. I wouldn’t give this director guy so much power. I mean, it’s just a play. No one is forcing you to do anything, including the seeing of bad work. The play has sex in it. Not all of it is pretty. I was hard pressed to figure out how to stage the rapes, the murders, the mutilations, the humilating scene where Mrs. C smears excrement on the Narrator’s face… let alone the sex scenes. Please do let me know about that DVD as I’m now more curious than ever to see some of the slaughter you describe. I will email you my address if you can track it down.

    And I have no knowledge of what went down during or after rehearsal except what you are writing here. I, for one, can’t engage in casual sex anymore. I’m too much of a bitch and catch feelings way too easily. So props to Mr. Belton if he can detach himself while painting Iowa City black n’ blue. If I behaved as such I would just end up falling in love . . . wouldn’t that suck? Sucky sucky sucks loving you, oh yeah!

    Maybe you should work on the material yourself? There are also some other great plays by the same author. That would be your best recourse rather than complain online. Better use of your bile me thinks. But this is just my take on the sitch.

    Best of Luck ~ ivan

  5. FrannyGlass says:

    I know that Ian Belton guy! He made me cry a bunch of times. It was really painful and stuff and I told my mom on him and she told me I could quit the play if I wanted to, but would that solve anything? Because, as my ex used to so lovingly remind me, we hate most the things we see in others that we also know are within ourselves. So I did this play with the Belton guy, and you know what? I cried a bunch more times. BUt then we made this amazing art, and I learned that, well, it’s certainly isn’t nice to be not nice, but you also have to be demanding of people. Because they’re lazy, people are. So then I directed my own play, and I didn’t make anyone cry (except the audience and that’s cause the play was like, um, emotional). But I did know how to ask for what I wanted. And now when someone yells at me I’m like “Look, just because you’re all freaked out, don’t take it out on me sistah. Just tell me what you want and I’ll get it done, I’m good like that.” And about that play I made with the Ian Belton dude, my friends, who knew he’d made me cry, they really loved it. Even though they knew how hard it was for me to make the play. Because that’s the great thing about the art: you bleed all over this canvas and everyone thinks it is a beautiful painting made from cadmium red paint and it really speaks to them about how their dog died unexpectedly one Christmas morning. Or maybe they just like the color red. The point is, if they want to buy in to the story, they do it. And in doing so, they make up their own story. Ian Belton sounds like he’s on the same page as my frined Foucault. They should jam. And Ian Belton, if you read this masturbatory blog post of mine, know that I think you’re a helluva guy, sure you could be nicer, but I heard from my friend Reefa that you’re making some changes and I know you have your reasons. As we all do. Oh, and Ivan, you’re okay too. Reading your blog makes me feel like I’m in the cool kids club, and it’s pretty entertaining stuff. Ever thought of writing a book? I know this story about girls and candy…

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