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May 21, 2012

Charlie Sheen's plea proposal is further abuse

By John Moore
Denver Post Theater Critic

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Charlie Sheen reacts to photographers as he arrives Monday at the Pitkin County courthouse to work on a deal in his domestic-abuse case. (Ed Andrieski, The Associated Press )

So for allegedly assaulting his wife, Charlie Sheen might be sentenced to 30 nights in an Aspen jail, while doing community service leading "master classes" for the local theater company?

Who's being punished here?


These are, in many cases, visiting Broadway-trained stage actors performing for the esteemed Theatre Aspen. Sheen, by contrast, won an Emmy for playing a drunken sex maniac on a raunchy TV sitcom.

Most people think community service is supposed to be useful to the community. And for Sheen's three-ring penance to be useful, perhaps even rehabilitative so that he won't, you know, ever assault his wife again,wouldn't he be better off working for, say, a battered-women's shelter? Not answering the phone saying, "Theatre Aspen, this is Charlie."

"We probably won't have him say his name," said Theatre Aspen artistic director Paige Price, who had a pile of trouble 2½ men tall laid at her doorstep June 4. That's when Sheen's lawyer approached Price, offering up the world's most famous, available and free lawn boy. Her first thought: Where would he even sit?

"I was given an hour to put together a proposal for the district attorney," said Price, who immediately sensed that if this arrangement ever does go down, it could turn into a nightmare for Theatre Aspen, which has been presenting professional summer theater in Rio Grande Park since 1983.

The fretting began immediately: Would he be coaching actors in the company's mainstage productions? (No.) Would he take to the stage himself? (No). Would he be showing up at clown class to play with the 5-year-olds in the company's summer youth camp? (No.)

How do you solve a problem like Charlie?

Better yet, why take it on at all? Why risk the disruption to your own creative process? And why risk alienating those subscribers who don't take a shine to domestic abuse and might think of Sheen working in the fun, creative environs of Theatre Aspen as a gross abuse of the judicial process?

Why not tell Sheen's lawyers to move along — and pass on the number for the local women's shelter?

Price took it to her board, where the response was, "Redemption is redemption." Theatre Aspen has accepted community-service requests from the court before. Some, she said, of a far more serious nature.

"Our position is that the judgment of his actions and the determination of his obligations are best-rendered by the judicial system in the community, and when the jail comes to us and asks us to take part, we do," she said.

But master classes? From a guy with no stage experience? What wisdom does Sheen possibly have to impart to, say, Joan Hess, who's been in five Broadway musicals? Besides, that is, "Have a famous father?"

"Anybody who has had a successful career has something to impart to other professionals," Price said. "There's always something to learn." She cited topics like different ways of approaching character, comic timing and surviving in show business.

But let us not forget the crime here — please. Price is a woman. She employs female actors from the community. She has several female college interns on staff. She went to the company and asked: Would you be repulsed?

"There was a large amount of concern, and even a little dread," said Price. "I think any sort of excited curiosity was far outweighed by palpable relief when it didn't come down right away."

The deal hit a snag last week when it was discovered Sheen must be a Pitkin County resident to qualify for work release. Non-residents are typically subject to stricter rules that call for more hours in jail, doing real work and not smoking. Sheen was reported as telling his lawyers the smoking ban was a deal-breaker.

The case has been continued to July 12 while lawyers work out terms.

"My gut feeling is it won't happen," said Price, who admits to knowing Sheen from a family gathering decades ago. Sheen has options — he could still choose to go to trial, or he could take a longer prison sentence without service attached. Back in L.A., Sheen told reporters he'd just as soon get it over with.

Too bad he's not getting it over with in a more useful way, like going to schools and maybe telling kids, "You look at me as a star, but I am a flawed human being. Don't be like me. Don't treat women the way I have."

But that would have been hard. Price promises Theatre Aspen won't be easy.

"Believe me, summer theater is not a cush gig," Price said. "But what I want to know from him is, 'How comfortable are you in making this a redemptive moment? . . . Or is it going to be about just getting through it?' "

John Moore: 303-954-1056 or jmoore@denverpost.com
Original Article

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