Results tagged “clydefitchreport” from Drama Queen

Inside the 2010 American Theatre Critics Association conference there was a lot of what's going on outside the conference: hand-wringing about the future of theater criticism. Back in 1999, when I attended my first ATCA confab--conveniently located in Philadelphia--the room was filled with full-time staffers who visibly bristled at the dirty, dirty f-word: freelancer. Just 11 conferences later, I can count the staffers who make their living as full-time theater critics on one hand, and even if I include this year's keynote speaker Michael Phillips, who's technically a film critic these days anyway (no offense, Michael), I'm still not certain that covers every finger. 

(Below: from left, Jay Handelman, Lauren Yarger, Andy Propst, Leonard Jacobs)

IMG_5090.JPG
I sat on a panel titled "Critics in the New Age," moderated by Sarasota Herald-Tribune critic Jay Handelman, with AmericanTheaterWeb.com founder Andy Propst, ClydeFitchReport.com founder Leonard Jacobs (you may recall him from this Drama Queen-related debacle), Gail Burns, founder of GailSez.org, and Lauren Yarger, whose theater blog Reflections in the Light tackles Broadway reviews from a Christian perspective. Of all the panelists, only Yarger finds herself in the enviable position of having to turn away potential advertisers. The lesson: You gotta have a gimmick. I'm not saying Yarger is cynical or that she doesn't believe wholeheartedly in her mission. It just helps that her mission occupies a clearly-defined niche that appeals to a very specific (and populous) segment of the American theatergoing public. Amen to that, sister!

Andy Propst also suggested a useful idea: ATCA ought to start offering badges to approved theater blogs. Sounds snooty, I know, but here's the thing, in a filthy, crowded internet, it's nice to find a safe bedbug-free haven where you can try out critics' opinions and know they've been vetted for quality control. As Propst said, "it could be like a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval." Any idiot can tell readers what they thought of a play or musical, but it's the job of a qualified critic to provide context, do research and send you back to the review afterward to uncover additional insights. In theory, anyway. 

There's some disagreement about the specificity of those qualifications (blogger Jonathan Mandell discusses them in terms of ATCA membership, but I imagine the criteria would be pretty similar), but I think it's a great idea, and one that could possibly help generate some ad revenue too, since blogs with an imprimatur are--again, in theory--worth more than those without. 

So, are you more willing to read or lend credence to an officially sanctioned critic? And before you respond with a rant about democracy, please remember that official sanction used to come in the form of a paid position. These days, there are critics with 20 and 30 years of professional experience who have been laid off from their newspaper jobs and are now forced to jostle alongside the Yelpers, Tumblrs and Wordpressers. I say it's time to fumigate.  

July 21, 2010 2:05 PM | | Comments (9)
Inside the 2010 American Theatre Critics Association conference there was a lot of what's going on outside the conference: hand-wringing about the future of theater criticism. Back in 1999, when I attended my first ATCA confab--conveniently located in Philadelphia--the room was filled with full-time staffers who visibly bristled at the dirty, dirty f-word: freelancer. Just 11 conferences later, I can count the staffers who make their living as full-time theater critics on one hand, and even if I include this year's keynote speaker Michael Phillips, who's technically a film critic these days anyway (no offense, Michael), I'm still not certain that covers every finger. 

(Below: from left, Jay Handelman, Lauren Yarger, Andy Propst, Leonard Jacobs)

IMG_5090.JPG
I sat on a panel titled "Critics in the New Age," moderated by Sarasota Herald-Tribune critic Jay Handelman, with AmericanTheaterWeb.com founder Andy Propst, ClydeFitchReport.com founder Leonard Jacobs (you may recall him from this Drama Queen-related debacle), Gail Burns, founder of GailSez.org, and Lauren Yarger, whose theater blog Reflections in the Light tackles Broadway reviews from a Christian perspective. Of all the panelists, only Yarger finds herself in the enviable position of having to turn away potential advertisers. The lesson: You gotta have a gimmick. I'm not saying Yarger is cynical or that she doesn't believe wholeheartedly in her mission. It just helps that her mission occupies a clearly-defined niche that appeals to a very specific (and populous) segment of the American theatergoing public. Amen to that, sister!

Andy Propst also suggested a useful idea: ATCA ought to start offering badges to approved theater blogs. Sounds snooty, I know, but here's the thing, in a filthy, crowded internet, it's nice to find a safe bedbug-free haven where you can try out critics' opinions and know they've been vetted for quality control. As Propst said, "it could be like a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval." Any idiot can tell readers what they thought of a play or musical, but it's the job of a qualified critic to provide context, do research and send you back to the review afterward to uncover additional insights. In theory, anyway. 

There's some disagreement about the specificity of those qualifications (blogger Jonathan Mandell discusses them in terms of ATCA membership, but I imagine the criteria would be pretty similar), but I think it's a great idea, and one that could possibly help generate some ad revenue too, since blogs with an imprimatur are--again, in theory--worth more than those without. 

So, are you more willing to read or lend credence to an officially sanctioned critic? And before you respond with a rant about democracy, please remember that official sanction used to come in the form of a paid position. These days, there are critics with 20 and 30 years of professional experience who have been laid off from their newspaper jobs and are now forced to jostle alongside the Yelpers, Tumblrs and Wordpressers. I say it's time to fumigate.  

July 21, 2010 2:05 PM | | Comments (9)
If you can stand any more of this, here are seven minutes from the American Theatre Critics Association's panel on new media, during which Clyde Fitch Report founder Leonard Jacobs, Sarasota Herald-Tribune critic Jay Handelman and I run down the Love Jerry debacle, and discuss artist/critic online interaction.

Special thanks to cinematographer/Eugene O'Neill Critics Institute fellow Mark Costello.

July 21, 2010 12:14 PM | | Comments (1)
love jerry.JPGThere's been some controversy over a show I reviewed this week, Megan Gogerty's Love Jerry. But before that, there was a censorship controversy over an ad for the show, which Philly.com, the Philadelphia Inquirer's online umbrella, refused to run. Controversy is also built into the show's DNA. Love Jerry is about a pedophile. It's a musical about a pedophile. It asks whether we can forgive and love a pedophile despite what he's done. 

So I answered no, and a crapstorm erupted the likes of which I haven't seen since I trashed Respect: A Musical Journey of Women. Seriously. One might think Nice People Theatre Company (NPTC), producers of this piece (it first appeared at the New York Musical Theatre Festival), would have been prepared for some dissenting opinion. I mean, The Little Mermaid, this ain't. NPTC asked their supporters to comment on my review, which they did with an outpouring of vim and vitriol, then asked the Inquirer to remove the review from Philly.com's website--ironic because, well, you know. The show's admirers (and there appear to be many) accuse me of dismissing the production on principle. I'd argue they're doing the same with my review, and here's why.

I believe this script is fundamentally flawed, that the questions it raises are the wrong questions (and yes, I believe that on this topic there is a clear right and wrong approach) and the answers it suggests are the wrong answers. After all, love, therapy and forgiveness is the same cocktail the Catholic church claims it served up while managing its pedophile priests, and look how successful that's been for the church and its young victims.

Of course Gogerty didn't set out to be an apologist for child abusers, but I do think she mishandles the topic. The film The Woodsman is marginally more successful because by the time it begins, Kevin Bacon's pedophile Walter has already been judged and condemned, has been held personally responsible for his actions (despite whatever his backstory may be), and now must rebuild his life from its ashes. Gogerty presents Jerry as a sympathetic victim, a character who made a forgivable mistake, and that's a huge problem. Were the production elements solid? Sure. Was the script well-crafted? For the most part. Is it useful that NPTC has talkbacks after the show and partnered with CAPE? Amen. Can theater ask tough questions and further the cultural conversation? Hell, yeah. But can I endorse a concept and a musical that I find irresponsible and even dangerous? No way.

The part of this crapstorm that really fouls my airspace is that NPTC and Gogerty claim they wanted this show to be a catalyst for discussion, for "honest open dialogue" on the issue. As it turns out, all they wanted was agreement, and that hurts their cause and their credibility more than any negative review ever could.

Update: Please visit The Clyde Fitch Report for even more on this issue. 
June 9, 2010 1:24 PM | | Comments (23)
Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.