Wow, the blogosphere really is cyclical, isn't it? Just as we were talking about playwrights, dramaturgs and NPD for the umpteenth time, along comes the blogger-reviewer-distinction and the reviewer-respect fracas again. It's like the summer of sequels at the multiplex has invaded the theatrosphere!
I have little to add to what I've already written on these subjects. I don't mean to be dismissive of it-- I think the conversation is valuable, it's just not where I am right now in my writing on this blog. There was a period of time when I was obsessed by the idea of the theatrosphere as a potential vibrant community and wanted to be the spokesperson and leader of that community. I saw bloggers being treated as press as a way of creating some amount of power-- namely that we could create an alternative constiuency to traditional press and subscribers. So when an Off-Bway theatre wanted to do a play by Greg Kotis or Anne Washburn or Jason Grote or whatever, we could approach them and help them build an audience.
The methodology for doing this was a kind of group review night. We only did a few, for Dying City, Pig Farm and The Internationalist. It didn't work, frankly. We didn't really help that much, and in the meantime several congruent things happened simultaneously. We were accused of being coopted tools of PR departments. We began being offered press tickets to Off-Bway and Bway shows in general, thus dilluting the gesture of us going to see plays as a group. And then a whole bunch of controversies hit the theatrosphere (of which this current round is one) and I think those took up a lot of energy.
Moving forward, I think there is a lot of power to be had if bloggers band together and do things, like raise money for shows, or help with pre-show publicity by interviewing participants, or actively agitating to fix issues within the business. So instead of there just being this big coalition of NYC bloggers, I think it's going to be more about like-minded people banding together (say, me and Matt Freeman and Mark Armstrong) and using our blogs to accomplish a specific project we think will be good (like raising money for a high school theatre deptartment). A looser series of federations, I suppose, rather than a tight knit community. And, frankly, I don't think there's much to be gained by reviewing shows as a blogger unless you want to be a professional reviewer in which case go and God bless. The tireless enthusiasm that my fellow bloggers put in to fiercely advocating for better (and more interesting) theatre is where i get my inspiration, and I think those with likeminded ideas banding together to do stuff is where something interesting could happen. And most of those people who are choosing to write reviews as bloggers are writing really interesting stuff, and I think that's great.
Anyway, that's a bit vague and rambly, but I guess I'm in a state-of-the-union kind of mood.
As to the particular issues that have come up, I will just say the following:
I don't like dismissive, meanspirited reviews (regardless of the quality of art involved), and I'm extremely disappointed that a fellow artist wrote one. This is not to say that there is no place for negative reactions in criticism but rather that I hope a fellow artist would find a better way to state such negative reations. I do like it that bloggers are given access to shows. I think that, so long as the company of the play (i.e. the artists involved) was okay with someone seeing and writing about an early preview, there's no serious ethical issue. Although at the same time, we don't know if that happened or not. But if it did, the people this practice negatively impacts are not reviewers or bloggers, but artists. This is true regardless of whether or not the review is positive or negative. But frankly i think this is more an SSDC or AEA issue than an ATPAM one.