This is a fascinating read from LA Weekly, major kudos to Steven Leigh Morris, his cabal of critics and the theater artists that participated in the experiment. I found the honesty quite refreshing and illuminating from both sides of the stage.
Here are some highlights from the article:
How critics are treated at the theater is an issue. Our critic Tom Provenzano dreads “that the producer insists on talking about the show and then sits me in front of a company member shill who shrieks with laughter at every possible joke.” On the other hand, he hopes for “that 5 percent chance that something transformative will happen.”
Deborah Klugman, Lovell Estell III and Neal Weaver all dread being assigned a show with nothing to recommend it. For Weaver, it’s “because I hate writing pans. … I know full well how much hope, work and striving goes into even the worst show.” Nowadays, he adds, “when almost all reviews are reduced to a single, short paragraph, it imposes on us a pass/fail mentality, with no room for acknowledging that a show can be seriously flawed yet worthy of attention because of a strong cast, a provocative script, important ideas, adventurous spirit or simply that it is very funny or highly entertaining.”
And from the artists…
The douchebags have invaded. Says Martha Demson, artistic director of Hollywood’s Open Fist Theatre, “I dread that the rock band to which our landlord has leased space adjacent to ours will start practicing, or that the therapeutic improv group to which the landlord has leased the space on the other side of us will start their primal ululations — and that no amount of professional production work will overcome the impression of cheap theater. You think I’m kidding? Both groups have our performance calendars, but still our final, sold-out performance of Foote Notes was accompanied in its most tender moments by the shrieks of at least 50 improv-group members.”
Similarly, director-producer Jeremy Aldridge is very concerned about uncontrollable circumstances that might influence critics’ impressions: “I worry about traffic, parking, the temperature of the theater, who will be the first face the critic meets, will that person deliver a good handshake, is the chair lumpy, will we have a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ audience and then, of course, the performance. … Much of this I have no control over, so it’s a good exercise in faith and always a test of leadership.”
There was also a very long-winded response from writer/performer Mike Daisey, that, if I might be so bold as to interpret, said something like, “I wish theater criticism was as good as I am” or something to that affect.
The article is an excellent read though, LemonHeads, definitely check it out.
About the Author: COLIN MITCHELL: Actor/Writer/Director/Producer/Father, award-winning playwright and screenwriter, Broadway veteran, Marvel comics scribe, Van Morrison disciple, Zen-Catholic, a proud U.S. Army Brat conceived in Scotland and born in Frankfurt, Germany, currently living in Los Angeles and doing his best to piss off as many people as possible.