Backstage to Halt all Theater Reviews

Yep. A little birdie told me that the decision has been made by Executive Editor Daniel Holloway and the powers that be, that after the April 11th, 2013 print version of Backstage has been published all theater and film reviews will stop. Forever. I believe April 8th is the final day that new reviews will be posted. This goes for the online website and the print version of Backstage. There might be a few stray New York reviews that post up until about April 25th, but after that – no more.

That’s right. Done. Gone. Finished. I haven’t quite sorted it all out, but somehow this news and the recent death of longtime film critic Roger Ebert seems related.

Here’s an explanation for the Backstage decision from Holloway:

“An analysis of metric data by our executive team led to the conclusion that too few readers are engaging our reviews for Backstage to continue to invest resources in producing them. We will be shifting those resources primarily to the creation of additional advice, news, and features content.”

Them’s the facts, folks, whether you like them or not. Not only are print publications dying but the need for the opinions of the “serious critic” are becoming relegated if not completely eradicated as well.

Is this a good sign, a bad sign? Is it simply a transition point? Are we destined to be ruled by the Yelpers and the Users? Is there any future place for the professional critic? What the hell is happening?

Here’s another telling line from Holloway’s statement to all the Backstage reviewers:

“Backstage’s editorial staff and I will continue to work to engage the theater community in a meaningful way through the material we publish online and in print. We just won’t be doing so through reviews anymore.”

Hmmm. I’m going to have more to say on this in another article but just wanted to get this info out to the LemonHeadNation pronto so everybody can begin to adjust.

Condolences to all the excellent Backstage reviewers out there – and the not-so-excellent ones as well – if you are looking for somewhere to vent, send us a line here at the Lemon: [email protected] and we’ll see what we can do.

Onward.

Filed Under: colin mitchellFeaturedPonderings

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Colin Mitchell 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.

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  1. Mary says:

    This is really disappointing. :/

  2. TC says:

    Hmm. Sad. Did they do away with their Garland Awards as well? Nothing, thus far, this year.

  3. Lisa says:

    Awful, awful…

  4. Isabel Storey says:

    Well, there goes the main reason I subscribe to Backstage. Guess they don’t need my money.

  5. Billy DaMota CSA says:

    Backstage has slowly but decidedly been sllding into mediocrity for years, from the over top sales pitches for actor related scams, to the laughable “advice” columns from so-called industry “pros”. This move to simply stop theatre reviews altogether, rather than try to find a way to energize its audience via effective marketing and true editorial leadership, will just drive a final nail into the coffin of an already ailing periodical.

    At least they still have a winner in ActorFest. Not.

  6. Sandra Kuker - Publicist says:

    Thanks for posting this Colin.
    Very sad news indeed! Not only because we will no longer see some wonderful (and not so wonderful) Theatre Production reviews in a publication I tremendously respect for their coverage of Los Angeles Theatre, but also for the many excellent Theatre Critics that I have respected throughout the years – Way too many to mention. My hope will be that they have a quick transition to another publication.
    Very sad!

  7. Daniel Gerroll says:

    Looks to me like an opportunity for a serious replacement.

  8. Ben Alexander says:

    I worked on the editorial staff of Back Stage for almost four years, way back from 1990 to 1994, and one of the things I did was field phone calls from readers. I also, during those same years, was active in the Off-Off-Broadway scene as a playwright, which brought me into constant contact with actors. So I have not one but two vantage points from which to know what I’m talking about there.

    I think it’s pretty well known that the majority of Back Stage readers are actors trying to launch their careers, rather than outside audience members looking for entertainment. But, as they try to launch their careers, what do actors want? Among other things, a review in Back Stage. I had actors besiege me, thinking (incorrectly, as I tried to persuade them) that I could influence whether or not they got reviewed. One day I ran into an actor acquaintance who had just done a show that Back Stage hadn’t reviewed, and no matter how many other subjects I tried to converse with him about, he kept coming back to, “But man, it really would have been nice if Back Stage had reviewed our show.” I was also constantly getting calls from actors and others looking for my help getting their shows reviewed. To be sure, we also heard from the people who got bad reviews and wanted us to know how hurt they were, but somehow the fear of a bad review didn’t stop people from wanting a review.

    So I can tell you this much: Given that its readers are actors trying to launch their careers, and given that these actors are always hoping Back Stage will review their shows, Back Stage is going to be disappointing a lot of readers by making this decision.

  9. Gary Lamb says:

    I guess they truly will be “Backstage” because onstage doesn’t seem to matter anymore. Sad.

  10. The_Detective says:

    This is really disappointing. I could understand cutting back print reviews if they feel they aren’t engaging as many readers. But Digital reviews as well!? Reviews serve many a purpose. Help Theater Companies with exposure. Writers, Directors, Actors, everyone involved in the production of a performance benefits from a review. Reviews can also provide constructive criticism when offered in a polite manner. Not to mention it helps readers know more about a Show other than what is available in the box office description.

    I don’t think yelp or similar sites provide any of that. They are mostly for fly by night snipes and jabs. Angry about how much their seat cost, or anything else one could complain about. Even the positive reviews rarely go beyond “this is great”. It offers no meat for the reader to chew on before deciding if they should see a Show.

    I’m still building a name for myself, but I would love to be picked up, even on Review by Review basis, by a major review site, or publication. I try to give my reviews substance, both for the reader, and the entire production crew.

    I know Back Stage is mostly a trade publication, but it still has benefits for it’s readers. What I fear most is that other sites, and publications will see this as a sign of the times and cut back on their reviews.

    Then again, it could be a blessing in disguise. The focus of reviews could shift from big name publications to little known critics, and new review sites could pop up to fill a void in the review-o-sphere. As long as that need isn’t filled by fly by night type reviews. Thoughtful reviews that help the audience, and Theater House. That’s what I would hope for.

  11. Andrea Kittelson says:

    The lack of curated opinions goes along with the lack of curated works. Gone are the days where education, experience, skill and a trained eye matter. Now it’s all about getting attention. Just get their attention. Just fill seats. I am not a fan of that! I prefer to have in the after-party of life some learned folks actually analyzing works and not just pandering or winging it or going off of a hunch or a personal liking. Yes, there is a paradox at play, as theater is in large part for the audience. But it is also for the sake of a higher humanity, which requires that we all aim higher.