Results tagged “Twitter” from Drama Queen
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.
Today'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?
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.
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.
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.