Results tagged “Twitter” from Drama Queen

twitter.gifI know I can't shut up about Twitter, I know it. Because I love it so. But this NPR feature challenging "Song of the Day" editor Stephen Thompson to tweet reviews of a bunch of new albums--thus using no more than 140 characters per album--seems an awful lot like asking a chicken to decide whether it would care to apply its own spice rub or barbecue sauce.

(At left: Thar she blows; Twitter's "Fail Whale.")

Of course a review can be distilled into one or two sentences. We critics do it all the time and call them capsule reviews, and sometimes they distil exactly what you, the critic, wanted them to say even better and with more precision than the full review. However, the point is that a full review, complete with (hopefully) in-depth analysis, relevant comparisons and maybe a little history, still exists, even if it only exists in a form that's about half the length that it was maybe a decade ago.

I'm not saying you can't tweet a review. You can, and plenty of people do. I'm saying that tweeting a review in its entirety misses out on one of Twitter's major strengths: turning people on to something cool. While self-contained tweets get retweeted--that is, repeated to one's own Twitter followers with credit given to the original tweeter--the tweets that spread like avian flu are those with a link attached, usually a link to a larger story, but also occasionally to a song, video, photo, anything that enhances one's content. Because people naturally want to know more about a subject that interests them, not less. 

Twitter, with its easy dissemination of information and brief, intriguing tweets-as-bait, offers a gateway to a larger discussion of the arts. Why turn it into a dead end?

July 6, 2009 8:57 PM | | Comments (2)

Yesterday, I had a conversation with my editor about the practice of reading scripts ahead of a performance--a performance I'm supposed to review. Lately, I've been trying to make that a regular practice, but also lately I've discovered I'm having trouble bottling a sense of spontaneity in my reviews. Coincidence?

My editor mentioned that another of our critics reads scripts only after seeing the staged production, so as to preserve an audience-eye element of surprise and discovery. Other critics say they always read a script beforehand because, they assert, as critics we're paid to know more about a production than the general public, and part of our research includes some analysis of the playwright's themes and intentions as they appear on the page, as well as tipping us off to any relevant ahead-of-time research.

Hysteria.jpgToday's review, of the Wilma Theater's production of Terry Johnson's Hysteria, begins with a direct comparison between the script and its staged counterpart. In this case, I felt the comparison was absolutely fair. After all, if a play jumps off the page, it ought to similarly jump off the stage. I discussed the issue some more with my editor, who concluded that reading the script beforehand might have caused me to cut the production some extra slack. So what to do?

Obviously, take it to Facebook and Twitter.

I got plenty of responses, some from critics, others from artists and all running the gamut from angry to measured to undecided. The split fell on both sides, with good reasons for both approaches.

On Facebook, Philadelphia artist/director/playwright Robert Smythe begged for an end to text-based reviewing and said, "You are reviewing a production: the sum of its parts. Theater is not a sporting event, where the rules are set before the start and the players are judged as to how well they can play within those rules. It is not the reviewer's job to mine the text for more than the artist found themselves."

On Twitter, Ottowa-based playwright/actor/director @SterlingLynch said reading a script beforehand is "often a good idea, so long as one doesn't 'decide' how the show should work in advance." @subfab who describes himself on the site as a "poet, savior, village idiot," says, "What is the first and most important impression a show should have? Experience or a script? IMHO theatre's should be experience." [BTW, for the uninitiated, IMHO stands for "in my humble opinion." And BTW, for "by the way."]

But what of Romeo and Juliet? Clearly, if you're a critic going to see that for the fourth or seventh or hundredth time, you've not only lost the element of surprise, but ought to be fired if you haven't read it. Same goes for Ibsen, or Chekov, or Beckett and whomever else would fill the pages of your personal anthology of great dramatists. And what of the lesser plays and musicals that happen to have hit town more than once? Why do they get the benefit of extended pre-curtain analysis? Sure, in some cases, say movement-based or improv-based shows, or work that inherently allows some flexibility, a script-based reading is innapropriate. But other than that? 

I'd be inclined to say why not get comfy with a script--not the night before, but maybe a week or so ahead of time so it has a chance to sink in--if only it weren't for that spontaneity issue. Thorny. 

I'm still undecided. How about you?

May 21, 2009 12:15 PM | | Comments (6)

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 |

This week I'm macking on: Rock of Ages, the Off-Broadway to Broadway musical opening April 7 at the Brooks Atkinson Theater. Rock of Ages stars American Idol reject Constantine Maroulis, is directed by Kristin Hanggi, the woman responsible for The Pussycat Dolls Live at the Roxy, and features some of the worst couples-skate-ready, parachute-pants-wearing, flaming-kamikaze-drinking music to come out of the '80s. The cheese is so pungent in this jukebox musical (which somehow doesn't include Foreigner's "Jukebox Hero," but makes amends with the inclusion of their "Waiting for a Girl Like You" and "I Want to Know What Love Is") you can probably smell it all the way down the block--that is, if it hasn't been set aflame by all the commingled hair mousse and Aqua Net fumes.

But that's not why I'm macking on it. In fact, I still have some lingering PTSD from that whole era. Once upon a time, I begged a friend to see The Cure with me and she agreed on the condition that I attend a Motley Crue/Whitesnake concert with her. Suffice it to say it wasn't exactly a fair trade, since Ticketmaster never mentioned that my innocence was included in the ticket price.

Anyway, where I'm going with this is that it's not so much Rock of Ages' retro content that rocks my world, or that it was choreographed by Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson choreographer Kelly Devine, or even that before the curtain rose on a single Broadway preview--nay, while it was still in its Off-Broadway infancy--RoA was picked up by New Line Cinema for a film adaptation. No, I'm macking on the way whomever runs the @RockofAges Twitter handle just plain gets how to do it. Sure, they throw in the occasional promotional plug, but it's hidden among trivia ("Who sang, 'she goes down slow like a shot of gin/she's got an angel's face and a devil's grin?'" If you know the answer withut clicking, this is definitely the show for you), related links (SNL's Bon Jovi opposite tribute band), metalhead news ("Guns N' Roses is proud to announce that DJ Ashba has joined the band for an upcoming tour"), contests, and daily interaction with their thousand or so followers. On the show's website there's even an integrated Rock of Ages Twitter feed featuring fan tweets alongside the official ones. They've nailed the right tone, and are carefully, gently cultivating their audience. Every theater company that limits their public internet engagement to posting monthly two-for-one ticket offers and opening-week links to reviews (not that there's anything wrong with that) should start re-evaluating their approach, like, yesterday.  

This week I'm hating on: blizzards. I was going to go see some theater around Denver Wednesday and Thursday nights, but am instead stuck a mile above the mile high city, with an icy mountain pass between myself and that big city's bright lights. Apparently, due to the whiteout, even Curious Theatre Company cancelled tonight's performance of Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice, so you know I'm not just slacking. I'll be back in August though, and barring any late-summer snowstorms (Not even kidding; it's cold up here!) promise to make up for the miss.

And hey, happy World Theatre Day. Tell everyone you know that in the spirit of international cooperation, it's their duty to go see a play or two tonight. You, of course, already knew that, and if you did anything special to commemorate the event, let's hear about it.  

March 26, 2009 11:30 PM | | Comments (5)
fred.jpgToday I'm guest blogging about following Fred Durst on Twitter for Mark Blankenship's excellent pop culture blog The Critical Condition. Yes, that Fred Durst. Please visit me over there and let me know what you think. Also, as long as you're there, have a look around. He's made a helpful pre-Oscars video to help you sort out the Best Picture nominees, and another about the Silence of the Lambs that kind of defies any easy description other than "awesome."

As for Mr. Durst, he can hit me back with a follow any time. I'd totally RT him and promise never to dweet, twaunt or twease. Well, almost never.
February 10, 2009 7:22 AM |
Can I have a do-over?

Last time I was on here, I was complaining about social media. Well now I have seen the light, and it's fueled by an alternative energy called democracy.

All night, during the election mayhem, I was glued to Twitter and Facebook, as news and opinions poured in from around the world. And not from pundits (or "pundints," as Sarah Palin--Godspeed--used to say when she wasn't saying "nucular") but from citizens taking part in the democratic process in real time. This time, while official commentators buzzed in the background or provided fodder for snark, the leveling power of Web 2.0 communication was so overwhelming I almost wept from the sheer enormity of its implications--and this was before Obama's acceptance speech.

br_s01-19.jpgOn Twitter, the Election 2008 feed whipped by so fast you could hardly make it to anyone's 140th character, let alone the 100th. I was tipped off to businesses giving away everything from coffee and doughnuts to vibrators (that giveaway continues until 11/11), and got my schadenfreude on by reporting to my 125 followers that the Fox Newsroom needed a Prozac IV drip, stat. I learned when Tina Fey was readying her shot glass, but I also learned how complete strangers and non-celebrities were reacting to the excitement moment by moment; meanwhile, detached from our earthly cares, the Mars Phoenix sent out a poignant goodbye from its frozen planet. Back on Facebook, a friend messaged me from France to say Paris was burning with hope. It was crazy and beautiful, in an election that lit a clean-burning coalfire under the rump of the body politic.

And the arts? Where do they fit in? Well, I'll tell you this much, before the Phillies and politics took over the feeds, I was tweeting links to my reviews, features and blog posts, and every time I did, I'd see a big and immediate jump in traffic to those sites. Mind you, some of these visitors were from Philly, where they could easily find links to the Inquirer's website and current reviews on their own, but didn't... Until I mentioned it to them. And the out-of-towners, who wouldn't otherwise read Philly reviews? Well, they did.

While personal pr is a part of why I'm constantly working the updates, it only comprises about a third of my motivation.( I don't have a clue how to make money off this thing, though I'm sure there's a way--I'm taking recommendations, BTW--but the site is young enough that programmers are falling all over themselves to create accessories to enhance tweeters' experience.) No, the other two-thirds belong to the thrill of being a part of something nascent but already integral, a new, wired American presidency and populace, ready to receive data from the masses, and willing--no, hungry--to listen. Don't let the sneezing pandas and angry cats win, no matter how cute they are. Who better but artists and lovers of the arts to ensure that arts coverage remains a critical component of 21st century media?

November 4, 2008 2:00 PM | | Comments (1)
While most of you are preoccupied with getting your Halloween costumes just right for tonight--we're all drama geeks here, so don't front like this isn't your favorite holiday--those of us in Philly are just a little bit preoccupied by today's parade, which starts at noon.

That's why this week I'm macking on: The Philadelphia Phillies! And since we're all drama geeks here, some of you might not know that they won the World Series on Wednesday night. Now you can shock the hell out of that brother-in-law who's always making fun of you. You're welcome.

The truth is, I don't even really like baseball. But I'll tell you what: I love me some Philadelphia. When I walked in the door after Wednesday's theater opening (Inquirer review here), you can bet I knew we were already up a run. I was hoping to take my kids out of school today too, just like my parents took me out of school to cheer my way down Broad Street for Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski, Gary Maddox, Pete Rose, Steve Carlton, Larry Bowa, Tug McGraw and the rest of 'em in 1980. But instead, my son wants to have cake at his class' Halloween party; he must get it from the New Jersey side of the family, the Yankee-loving bums. 

What's best about Philly fandom is its unabashed Philly-ness. Blogger Enrico Campitelli of (the 700 Level refers to the notoriously rowdy section at the Phillies'/Eagles' old Vet Stadium) heard this guy on the radio one morning, got a bright idea, and this was the result. The New York Times picked up the story (see second entry, "Finally, Yous Can"), and "Why Can't Us?" has been a rallying cry throughout our scuzzy illiterate principality ever since. As it turns out, us certainly can. I'll raise a Yuengling to that any day.

This week I'm hating on: Social media networks, or whatever they're calling them these days. That makes two weeks in a row, but this week it's worse. I'm spending so much time monitoring the various free ways to promote my blog and my writing and my conversational skills that it's actually encroaching--no, make that decimating--the time I used to spend doing actual journalism for actual pay, and completely reinforcing every narcissistic impulse that crosses my synapses, which also can't be good for said journalism. Although it being Halloween and all, this monitor-glazed pallor makes for one helluva zombie.

And screw Twitter, that's the least of the problem, although I admit to panicking a little every morning at the thought of all the tweets I missed by sleeping. Now, I spend all day trying to keep up with Twittermoms, BlogHer, an ever-expanding list of Facebook friends, the zillion blogs I follow, Google Alerts, LinkedIn; at least someone finally declared MySpace lame. Every last Ted Kasczynski-quoting one of you was right. It's too late for me now, but you can save yourselves. Go on without me, and please remember, I suffered so you don't have to. But if you do end up joining Facebook, I'll totally friend you.

Below: The "Fightin's"

October 31, 2008 10:30 AM |
This week I'm macking on: Little musicals that could. Rocky Horror, Reefer Madness, Have a Nice Life, all musicals playing in and around Philadelphia recently or right now, all with a hand-stitched, bright-eyed, can-do appeal, all really unlikely candidates for success (Rocky Horror's obviously a proven entity, but it still plays like an underground hit). In any case, there's a mini-revolution happening in musical theater, led by the Off-Broadway crowd and filtering out into the provinces, of musicals that thrive on the small stage. 

I'm not talking about Songs for a New World-ish '70s throwback musicals, either. These are contemporary, fun shows that embrace camp, kitsch (yeah, I know, I was just ranting about kitsch yesterday, but this is different), and most of all, the idea that the fraught aughts are the best time to offer audiences a plain old good time. An indie theater company can't touch The Mikado, but give them A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant or Bat Boy, and you've got the makings of a great night out without bloat or baggage. Perfect for a regional theater scene like Philly's that has approximately a zillion nascent, ambitious young companies looking to make their mark in an increasingly competitive market.

This week I'm hating on: Twitter. But only because I love it so much. It's turned every moment into a meta-moment. Every Twitter tweaker sat by his/her computer Wednesday night, fingers poised and ready to rain down 140 characters of snark on anyone who'd listen... Online. 

I'm in bed with my husband watching the debate, we start riffing on Joe the Plumber and shazam, I've got the Crackberry shakes. Should I get out of bed and run downstairs to the computer to broadcast every comment that makes us chuckle (WWJTPD; Dow down, but sales of Joe the Plumber Halloween costumes up 1000%; Wonder if Joe Biden minds Joe the Plumber and Joe Sixpack joining him on the campaign), or should I make my husband get out of bed and find his Blackberry in the car so he can bring it upstairs and I can tweet our pillow talk from the lamest menage a trois ever recorded? 

I ran downstairs... But only four times. 

Below: The Brownie Song
October 17, 2008 9:30 AM | | Comments (2)

If you've been keeping up with my Twitter stream, you're aware that I'm currently on vacation in Colorado. Earlier in the week my family and I spent a few days in Aspen, bunking at the Little Nell, a slopeside boutique hotel that during our stay also served as host to one of the Aspen Institute events. (Not sure which one--sadly, I wasn't invited to join them.)

On every floor of the Nell, every morning, is an eight-page photocopied version of the Times Digest. Subscribers to the New York Times are already familiar with the Digest, since they receive it daily via e-mail. Also receiving the Digest are:

"...over 50 countries... over 125,000 readers daily on all seven continents and the seven seas. Among the 400 subscribers around the globe are hotels and resorts, corporations and organizations, cruise ships and yachts, and United States Navy ships."

Since my husband's name and e-mail are on our subscription and I always read the hand-delivered version anyway, he never bothered to mention it to me, and until a couple of days ago, I never knew the Digest existed. However, once I saw it, I was immediately outraged. On vacation. In Aspen. Not cool.

It seems that the Times Digest, "designed and edited to provide a balanced selection of The Times's top stories and editorial comment, along with sports, weather, business news and the Times crossword puzzle," doesn't consider arts coverage a part of your balanced daily news intake. I guess that also follows for all those people cruising, yachting, working, playing and serving in the Navy. Again, not cool.

I feel terrible for Jenny, the poor Houston elephant afflicted with panic attacks. I also think the Bolivian witches' market sounds pretty rad in a Ripley's-Believe-It-or-Not kind of way. But are either of these stories more important than, oh, I don't know, Denver's public art and its relationship to this week's Democratic National Convention? Or if that's too Colorado-centric for you, how about Frank Gehry's sudden--and apparently involuntary--departure as architect of Brooklyn's Theater for a New Audience? Because the former made it to the Digest, but not the latter.

I get the inclusion of the business and sports highlights, even the crossword. But I'd just bet those Aspen Institute folks would rather read about Gehry than Jenny, and find it pretty insulting that the nation's paper of record doesn't consider arts news important enough to make the day's "best of" selection.

Of course, I'm basing my outrage on two days' worth of reading, but still. For even one day's worth of news from New York to be completely devoid of cultural coverage, well, that's something I just can't digest.

Update: It's Friday (Friday!) and still no arts news in the Digest.


August 21, 2008 10:08 PM |
twitterbird.jpgJust joined Twitter and though I'm fashionably late to the party, that doesn't make it any less fun. Who wants polite introductions and a table full of appetizers when you can show up to a boozy, smoke-filled room packed to the walls with bodies and crazy talk

My principal interest in the tweet was for Philadelphia Live Arts and Fringe Festival purposes. Initially, I wanted to live blog the fest, but why do that when Twittering is so much more immediate and accessible? It's like the journalistic equivalent of the SmartCar, both timely and frill-free, the shrinking newsroom taken to its logical extreme. So I've voluntarily added one more unpaid activity to my arts coverage. Why? I guess because it seemed like the thing to do. I figure I can use it as a teaser for my actual reviews and blog posts, or to supplement them. But the truth is that if the tech zeitgeist whizzes past your head and you don't grab hold, well, probably nothing will happen, but isn't that that also the problem? 

Anyway, after you've been stuck in Facebook's quicksands for a while, Twitter, which is essentially a glorified status update, seems downright revolutionary in its sheer simplicity. Not only is it embarrassingly easy to join and use, it's pure communication, a haiku-length transmission that forces you to use your word count wisely. Of course there are those Twitterfiction cheaters who've expanded the service's 140-character limit into whole micronovels released two or three sentences at a time. But I think they've got it all wrong. 

Exquisite Corpse.jpg
Getting it right are contributors to Twittories, literary versions of the surrealist game Exquisite Corpse. I mean, it's not like they're "getting it right" in the sense that they're creating great literature, but that they saw the thing whizzing past, grabbed it and forced it to veer off course. The beauty of Twitter, particularly for lovers of the arts, is its strict rules and the creative innovations that emerge from within those strictures. 

Then there are the larger sociological implications in the medium, giant-sized extrapolations artists, journalists and ethnologists can all pull from something so very, very small. People complain about Twitter's glorification of the banal, but to them, I once again invoke Death of a Salesman, perhaps the modern theater's greatest glorification of the banal, and say, "Attention must be paid."

Think of Hemingway's shortest novel ever written, "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." Or Fredric Brown's sci-fi microtale, "The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door." It's the tweet in its most sublime form.  

Actual tweets can be equally affecting. Check out the Twitter orphans that pop up when you conduct a search (pick a name, any name). Abandoned blogs just don't fill you with the same sense of wonder. In fact, it's sort of a relief when you find one; so much dreck, so little time. But abandoned Twitter streams are like the caves at Lascaux, cryptic relics of lives briefly revealed, then submerged again in mystery. One entry from a year ago belonged to someone making dinner for their flight test instructor. How ominous, and how compelling. I sure hope they ultimately passed that test, but fear their absence tells a different story. 

So yes, I'll be tweeting my reports from the fringe fest here in Philly in what I expect will be a most traditional manner (at least traditional for Twitter, not so much for journalism). However, I'm really looking forward to the day when I'll have the micro-ironic privilege of tweeting about a Twittered performance. Any takers before the thing whizzes away again?

August 5, 2008 2:52 PM | | Comments (3)
August 5, 2008 2:11 PM | | Comments (1)
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