To the Editor:
I am writing in regard to the theatre review written by Ms. Anne Spiselman on “Pullman Porter Blues” currently running at the Goodman Theatre. I have been a season ticket holder for some 30 years and this play is one of the best ever run at the Goodman. The staging was exquisite, the acting and singing were marvelous and the audience was exceedingly appreciative of the event as we gave the actors a standing ovation.
I read Ms. Spiselman’s reviews when they appear and I am never surprised when she trashes one cultural event after another. I normally take her negative reviews with a shrug but this one was totally off base and I feel compelled to write.
My husband, who also signed this letter, is from a long line of sleeping car porters (father, grandfather and uncle) and they were all members of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. They all knew A. Phillip Randolph and the play was reminiscent of the many stories my father-in-law told us about his experiences on the road. He met the likes of cultural and artistic giants on the road from Seattle to New York and all points in between. In fact, he missed my husband’s graduation from Roosevelt University in the 1960s because he dared not miss a road trip. My husband still has the telegram his father sent him from the road commemorating his graduation.
Ms. Spiselman wanted a musical extravaganza but what she got but hardly noticed was a history lesson. The music and dancing were beside the point. The theme was the indignity that Black men had to suffer at the hands of unwitting and many times avowed racists on the road. The actors only mimicked the contempt, bewilderment, anger and amusement about the treatment.
Perhaps Ms. Spiselman should have visited the A. Phillip Randolph Pullman Porters Museum at 104th Street and Maryland Avenue in Chicago before writing this review. The context for her review did not bear witness to the important role Pullman Porters have played in the life of this country.
Joanne E. Howard, Ph.D.
Phillip R. Donaldson