April 2009 Archives

Quite a bit of talk at yesterday's installment of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) annual meeting about the state of both our profession and our organization's website. As I mentioned yesterday, this year's attendees are mostly freelancers, though they didn't all start out that way. Even ATCA's chair, Chris Rawson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, took a buyout recently and now writes for his paper as a freelancer. Rawson said he took the buyout when his union's rules regarding former staffers became more freelancer-friendly. Before, if you took the buyout, it was goodbye forever; now, well, if they did that, it would be goodbye forever to the paper as well. Used to be that freelancers were viewed as industry scabs; now we are the industry. So it goes.

Meanwhile, though theater criticism is experiencing a sea change, ATCA's website is still a distressingly static affair that's used mostly as an online bulletin board--and by that, I don't mean one of those interactive boards with message threads. I mean literally, an online bulletin board missing only the thumb tacks, where notices are posted and left there until someone takes them down and replaces them with other notices. It's kind of a sad metaphor for the state of affairs of a bunch of fusty old outdated opinion peddlers like us.

Happily, at least that facet of the profession is about to change. Gwen Orel, a freelance writer who, in her prolific reporting/reviewing, covers New York theater for the Wall Street Journal and Village Voice among other publications, was appointed ATCA's webmistress. The implications for ATCA's website are grand indeed (Links to member work? A searchable database of reviews? Bring. It. On.), though its specifics are yet to be determined. Got any ideas? Send them my way and I'll relay them at Friday's meeting on the subject.

Oh, and yeah, there's also some actual theater going on. Last night the group saw Asolo Rep's production of The Devil's Disciple, and today we're headed back to Asolo for The Winter's Tale and Jeff Hatcher's Murderers. So did the Shaw evoke a narrowing or widening of all those critical eyes? My extremely informal survey says the eyes generally narrowed, but not to slits, though some actually closed all the way and enjoyed a little snooze. Nice enough performance by an underutilized Dan Donohue, though the production itself is shackled by some significantly less nice performances and Tony Walton's deflated direction. Hey, you invite 50 critics into your home, however lovely it may be (and Asolo, a jewel box on the grounds of the gorgeously lush Ringling Museum is truly lovely) you gotta expect some critique.

April 30, 2009 10:59 AM | | Comments (0)

If you're wondering what goes on at a theater critics' conference these days, it's probably exactly what you'd expect: lots of shows and lots of fretting. The American Theatre Critics' Association's (ATCA) annual meeting here in Sarasota skews way, way older than, say, the median age at the NEA or O'Neill institutes, but the worries are the same, and tellingly, there are almost no full-time staffers here, but plenty of print freelancers and online contributors.

Yesterday saw a posh dinner at the Gulfside of home of Asolo rep's board president and a command performance from Florida Studio Theatre's improv and musical cabaret performers, who, to my surprise, bested the talents I saw at my recent visit to Chicago's Second City. Who knew. 

Today's events (thus far) have included a "Perspectives in Theater Criticism" lecture with New York Post theater columnist Michael Reidel. The Perspectives series began in 1992 with Clive Barnes as its inaugural speaker. So what did we learn this year? Well, for one thing, if you're a journalist, it helps to have your paper owned by Rupert Murdoch; Riedel's travel to the hinterlands to peek in on pre-Broadway tryouts is still subsidized by the Post, while everywhere else you practically have to run down the accounting staff in order to get reimbursed for tolls. Also, during filming for Riedel's The Norman Conquests opening night webcast, the show's producer, Kevin Spacey, was Twittering about it, a fact that's unsettling for both its satirical implications and cut-out-the-middleman directness

But we also learned that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette theater critic Chris Rawson pulled out a press release from that initial year, whose copy read in part,

"These are difficult times for theater critics, with space for theater coverage shrinking, papers relying more and more on part-time or freelance critics, and, in many cities, papers folding. Reminders of the importance and event he high honor of our calling are more necessary than ever."

Ah, the good old days.

Hopefully Riedel's full lecture will be on YouTube shortly, and when it is, I'll add the link in an update here.

Remaining today is another lecture about the state of theater criticism, and a visit to Asolo Rep to see G.B. Shaw's The Devil's Disciple.

April 29, 2009 12:48 PM | | Comments (0)
Okay, so I took a little "break" from blogging. In the interim, I watched newspapers slide even deeper into the abyss, got scared, wrote a bunch of reviews and features (one that required me to interview children's novelist Jerry Spinelli, which makes me an awfully cool mom), and applied--and was accepted to--graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania. Isn't that what you do with your time off? And hey, maybe you didn't even notice I was gone, so it's all good. 

sarasota-clown.jpg
In any case, I'm planning a blogging blitz this week, starting exactly tomorrow, Tuesday, April 28, when the 2009 American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) holds its 36th annual conference this year in Sarasota, Florida. The organization is going with the circus metaphor, Sarasota being the home of John and Mable Ringling, but I think it's also a pretty appropriate location for a profession that's being forced into early retirement. I mean, Sarasota may be culturally ascendant--and certainly, it is one of the state's theater centers--but Florida didn't earn the nickname "death's waiting room" among my mishpucha for nothing. 

I'll be down there taking notes and passing them on to you. (Shhhh, don't tell anyone, I don't wanna get detention--detention for theater critics being some form of Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, though not Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, because we'll be seeing that one voluntarily, and because I kind of like it.) I'll also be Twittering about the conference every chance I get, using the hashtag #ATCA (unless someone prefers that I just stick with #theatre), and hopefully with some input from you and from my esteemed colleagues. If you have any issues you'd like me to raise, by all means send them my way. And if you haven't signed up for Twitter yet but are online reading this blog entry, well, at this point you're just being perverse.

Alongside the theatrical smorgasbord and festive wine and dines or meet and greets, there will be much discussion about the state of theater criticism in this country. I fully expect this year's conference to be perhaps the most, um, critical in ATCA's entire history. Hope you'll join me.
April 27, 2009 11:32 AM | | Comments (0)
This week I'm macking on: Dueling Hamlets. There was this one in New York, that made Christopher Isherwood go all dreamy, and then there's this one in Philly that opens on Tuesday night with one of our golden boys, Rainpan 43's Geoff Sobelle, in the titular role. I don't know how Sobelle will measure up to New York's Camargo, but I'll be judging him against my last, favorite Hamlet, Bill Zielinski, a fine actor formerly of this city, and currently residing in Amsterdam, which is fairly close to Denmark. Zielinski's Dane stalked the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival's stage back in 1999, and I can still recall the wild look in his eyes, as a Hamlet who has been shaken to his very core and stands on the precipice of an unjust fate, staring down an unjust descent into madness. 

tom-waits21.jpg
Sobelle, in this interview, plans to play it cooler, a Hamlet as Tom Waits or Bob Dylan. Well good for him, and good for us. If Isherwood says Camargo plays it soft, all the more reason to check out both and be astounded by the continuing malleability of the painted clay that makes up Shakespeare's men. (At left: Waits illustrates the difference between a hawk and a handsaw.)

This week I'm hating on: unpaid blogging. I've got a lot to do, and so do you, but you're probably getting paid for it. I post out of love, and lately, I just haven't been feeling it. However, if you or your organization is interested in throwing a little coin the way of my highly-targeted audience, well, just that little bit would make it all worthwhile. Please consider advertising on Drama Queen or purchasing a package that graces several ArtsJournal blogs at once. There is, of course, a larger post in here about critics as an endangered species, the disappearance of paid arts journalists, and the necessity for online publications to place a monetary value on their arts writers, but I don't know, maybe I'll get around to that once someone pays me to discuss it.
April 3, 2009 5:28 PM | | Comments (5)

Me Elsewhere

Blogroll

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from April 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

March 2009 is the previous archive.

May 2009 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

AJ Ads


AJ Blogs

AJBlogCentral | rss

culture
About Last Night
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Artful Manager
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
blog riley
rock culture approximately
critical difference
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Dewey21C
Richard Kessler on arts education
diacritical
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dog Days
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Flyover
Art from the American Outback
Life's a Pitch
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
Mind the Gap
No genre is the new genre
Performance Monkey
David Jays on theatre and dance
Plain English
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Real Clear Arts
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
Rockwell Matters
John Rockwell on the arts
Straight Up |
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude

dance
Foot in Mouth
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Seeing Things
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...

jazz
Jazz Beyond Jazz
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
ListenGood
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Rifftides
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...

media
Out There
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Serious Popcorn
Martha Bayles on Film...

classical music
Creative Destruction
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
The Future of Classical Music?
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
On the Record
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Overflow
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
PianoMorphosis
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
PostClassic
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Sandow
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Slipped Disc
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds

publishing
book/daddy
Jerome Weeks on Books
Quick Study
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera

theatre
Drama Queen
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
lies like truth
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world

visual
Aesthetic Grounds
Public Art, Public Space
Another Bouncing Ball
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
Artopia
John Perreault's art diary
CultureGrrl
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Modern Art Notes
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog
Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.