Friday, August 31, 2007

Any Time You Want to Talk....

In response to Leonard Jacobs (responding to me):

A review is a critical, but still at heart opinionated, appraisal of a work as is. So long as the format of the production you saw is acknowledged -- i.e., during previews, with an understudy, &c. -- then I see no reason why *THAT* performance cannot be objectively (and comprehensibly) covered. That's like saying the beta version of a software shouldn't be reviewed: not so. Such appraisals (often called "previews" but really, simply semantics--i.e., what if I just add a small "p" to my "review"?) are useful to people wondering about the process, the show, the buzz, and more.

The Little Mermaid, currently in Colorado, is getting reviewed there, and read about by interested audiences here. (The production there is even acknowledged as a tryout, and isn't that the same as a preview? Again: semantics.) When it comes here, it will no doubt be different from Denver (Riedel hints, through much denial, that it may have a new director), but does that invalidate the right of critics over there to review what they saw? Or should New York City audiences (and all relevant tourists) be under embargo from reading those foreign reviews until after it opens here? Why can't I read about Spring Awakening playing at the Atlantic Theater or Rock 'n' Roll playing in London? Someone sinking that much money into a show -- even a preview of a show -- should stay willingly in the dark? And let's not ignore that publicists reviving a show use quotes about what's been said about earlier, potentially different versions. Ultimately, if you aren't ready to be reviewed, don't let ANYBODY see your show. Everybody's, as they say, a critic.

However, the argument here is about what you call the "separate but equal" critics... where's the equality? I seldom get scripts when I attend a show, I rarely get press material, and I only occasionally have a seat reserved. I am certainly treated differently from the mainstream, and most invites are from people who are curious about what I might say about the show, formal or otherwise.

There is a difference between blogging and reviewing. I made that clear in an earlier post. It has to do with the medium you release your material into, and whether it's an institution or not. Denton et. al. are free to post reviews on their blogs: if they post to their INSTITUTIONS (for instance, if I were to post to Theater Talk), that would cross the ethical line. It goes from a singular thought to a commercially backed opinion by dint of the editor's publishing it.

As for hurting the artists? I've gotten thanked by people during previews and cursed by people after openings. I don't really think they're the fragile creatures you make them out to be.


Aaron Riccio said...

And a clarification:

I called the MSM a business first, writer second; not the writers.
Additionally, I didn't say [Jacobs's] editors/publishers were endorsing [his] OPINIONS, I said they were endorsing [HIM] as a writer. If I publish a review, that's me, on my own, publishing a review. It goes as far as my name. If it's published in the New York Times, then it has the weight of the New York Times, that so-called arbiter of culture, behind it.

Nobody's asking you [Jacobs] to drop it, and nobody's saying that we don't have (or have to have) ethics -- we simply have different opinions. You want to be the Hearst of Deadwood, bringing action to what you perceive as a lawless town? I don't see a Swearengen fighting you on that.

Leonard Jacobs said...

I don't watch Deadwood.

Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

I'm one of those people who simply has a genuine love for the live theatre art form and writes about it for the sheer love of it.

Because of that love, I pay for all my seats (with the exception of a mere two gratis tickets since I began writing SOB). No apologies.

Because of that love, I routinely get on airplanes to see shows -- including previews -- in places all over the country as well as abroad. No apologies.

Because of my love for theatre, I write about theatre with a passion. No apologies.

Given my investment in each show I see -- both emotionally and financially -- I have every right to review those shows as long as I remain honest and truthful. I believe the blogosphere has already proven itself largely self-policing to the point that we're all kept honest.

To your point, I don't receive the media kits typically afforded to "professional" journalists from old media. But as someone who has no vested interest, including from advertising dollars, I give my readers an unadulterated viewpoint of what I like and what I don't and why. For anyone who actually cares what I think, perhaps it will make a difference. Or not.

Hopefully, more old media journalists will gain the level of appreciation that mainstream critics like Terry Teachout have for those of us in new media. After all, isn't more information a good thing?