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October 22, 2009

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Josh

I have to agree. Also, if you don't like a particular critic then take them off your press list. The balance is unfair, sure, but artists are getting something from critcs: press. If you don't like the press you got, don't use that critic again. Easy peasy.

Assuming, of course, you have this option like I do.

Sean

Okay, with a humble heart and a less than nimble mind, I'm offering up my own take, spurred on by you and The Jimmy.

http://www.seanrants.com/2009/10/my-turn-my-turn-part-1.html

Nicole

The question of who owes what to whom (or the literary, ethical, and content obligations of reviewers and who is their primary audience) is an important one.

But I'm not so sure I agree that potential audience members (if I'm reading Isaac correctly) are THE primary readers. From a dollars and cents, butts in seats standpoint, yes, potential audience members read reviews and, I'm sure, appreciate being provided an explanation for WHY a particular show seems well or poorly done and therefore (not) worth, say, the cost of a ticket. Particularly potential viewers for whom theatre going is a novelty. In which case, a single review's ability to persuade them AGAINST seeing a show is a scary thing. Gives A LOT of power to the voice of the critic.

Regardless of whom critics perceive as their primary audience, the reality is that the audience/readers of theatre reviews are as much people in the theatre industry (practitioners (not just the ones whose show is being reviewed), teachers, students, funding bodies, and other critics) as non-theatre people (who may or may not pride themselves as supporters of "the arts") looking for something fun to do on a Saturday night.

Perhaps, the cliche about, say, a lead actress, director, or playwright,etc. anxiously awaiting the arrival of reviews of their show that has just opened has lost its basis in reality, but I think we all know better. With that said, beyond basic human vanity or ego, those in the industry read reviews because they hope for and appreciate constructive feedback, whether it's ultimately what they want to hear or not. And, while their is camaraderie in the theatre community, there is also good healthy competition, and so theatre folks read reviews to know what others are doing. Beyond this, reviews serve a practical purpose for theatre people, they are the stand-in, given how challenging it can be when you're doing a show of your own to see those of others.

All this said, I'm still left wondering, what qualifies one to be a theatre critic? Not what a review should or shouldn't contain, but what credentials we believe critics should hold. I've posed and explored this particular point a bit on my own blog. As someone commented earlier this week on one of Isaac's posts, 'everyone's a critic,' but, seriously, given we ARE people who read reviews, just how much do we know about the critics who write these reviews? What qualifies them? The bios I've read of some critics make them little more qualified than 'anyone' else.

isaac

Nicole,

Really interesting thoughts, I want to chew 'em over and who knows maybe i'll get another part in the series out of it! So thank you.

I will, say in my experience this sentence: "With that said, beyond basic human vanity or ego, those in the industry read reviews because they hope for and appreciate constructive feedback, whether it's ultimately what they want to hear or not. "

Is completely inaccurate. Again, i'm not saying my experience is universal, but in my experience, industry read reviews to figure out (a) if something is going to sell, (b) if they should see something and (c) if it's of a production they're involved in, they are either looking for pull quotes or ways to dismiss the reviewer's take on their show. Lord knows, that's been my reaction when I've produced shows!

cgeye

What about pure documentation?

I mean we still don't have a way of recording somewhere that a show existed, or who played in it, without reviews? Ads aren't searchable online; neither are they placed in Lexis-Nexis.

Nicole

I second the previous comment. Aside from prompt books, production photos, and programs, reviews are one of the only ways (and a fairly trackable/searchable one) we have to piece together a theatre history.

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