I haven’t done p.r. for some 14 years now, my personal knowledge of those who populate the critical field is rather less current, and while I remain an avid reader of all theatre journalism, I don’t know the writers themselves as I once did.
Of course, the public rarely gets to know any of these folks personally, and only the astute readers who check bylines really develop a sense of the author’s voice–and personality–through their reviews.
So when I had the opportunity to meet Terry Teachout of the Wall Street Journal yesterday, while taping a Downstage Center program, it was my first opportunity in years to meet a critic after knowing him only through his writing. In the course of the conversation, we spoke about this issue, and Terry commented that he feels people can get to know him from his reviews alone (although he blogs constantly), because he writes the same way he talks. And after an hour with him, I can say that his self-assessment is correct: the man I met is the man I’ve been reading for four years.
But even more striking, after years of knowing and reading dozens of theatre critics: he’s the exception more than the rule. The personal conversations I have with critics about shows and issues often seem quite different than when I read about those same shows and topics in print.
I am too close to this issue to have any genuine perspective, but I do wonder which is more useful to those who read and follow reviews: do they want “the critical voice” or “the personal voice,” or are they always one and the same?
I wonder, too.