The Washington Post

More ‘Pieces of Amber,’ in which we hear from Amber herself

My post about theater artist Josef Palermo's "Pieces of Amber" production, which opens tonight at the doris-mae art space, stirred up a hornet's nest.

Co-directors Jennifer Restak and Josef Palermo, left and right in foreground, direct performers Blair Boston (l) and Jason Barnes (r) in "Pieces of Amber."

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.

Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Michael O’Sullivan has worked since 1993 at The Washington Post, where he covers art, film and other forms of popular — and unpopular — culture.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read
Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
From clubfoot to climbing: Double amputee lives life of adventure
Learn to make traditional soup dumplings
In defense of dads
Play Videos
How to make head cheese
Perks of private flying
The rise and fall of baseball cards
Play Videos
Husband finds love, loss in baseball
New hurdles for a Maryland tradition
How to survive a shark attack
Play Videos
Portland's most important meal of the day
What you need to know about Legionnaires' disease
How to save and spend money at college
Next Story
Maura Judkis · November 8, 2013

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.