Palermo's assertion that the performance art piece was inspired by a diary left behind by a former roommate -- identified only as "Amber" in the script, which lifts entire passages, verbatim, from the notebook's juicy, incident-rich pages -- was met with a certain amount of skepticism and outrage. Readers who posted online comments here, and on the production's Facebook page, suggested Palermo's work was exploitative, an invasion of privacy or plagiaristic. Chief among those expressing doubt about "Amber's" origins was a poster identifying herself as one Amber Walson, Palermo's old roommate, the subject of the play and the author of the journal.
In a phone interview, Walson claimed that the spiral-bound notebook that Palermo took to be a factual diary was, on the contrary, a creative work of fiction. At the time that she wrote it, Walson says, "I was really inspired by 'Bridget Jones's Diary,' and I thought it would be fun if she were more of a hot mess." Walson calls the troubled character that she created a composite of autobiography, details from the lives of people she knew and "complete fiction."
Walson says she was upset when she heard about the precise nature of Palermo's piece. Although she acknowledges that Palermo did inform her that he was writing a play about her, she says he never explained that he was planning on incorporating her own words into the piece, or that he would pass off those words as real diary entries.
Walson denies that she wants to shut the production down. "Art is important," she says. But according to Walson, there are other things just as important as creative license. Things such as fair attribution and accurate representation. When asked what could be done to make things right at this point, Walson says it's simple: "All [Palermo] has to do is state that the 'Amber' in this show is based on a character created by Amber Walson."
That's it? Palermo could not be reached for comments, but I called Thomas Drymon, the artist and writer wh0 runs the doris-mae art space where "Pieces of Amber" is being produced, and I read him back Walson's exact words.
"Done," said Drymon, who will change the way the show is described on doris-mae's Web site and in the production's press materials.