How we do it

In our efforts to provide a service to the Los Angeles Theatre Community and to help shape the conversation between artist, reviewer and audience into a more constructive, respectful, and meaningful dialogue that informs the audience-goer, gives voice to the community, and creates accountability for the critics who evaluate works, we at Bitter Lemons have created the LEMONMETER.

We don’t “review” shows here at the Lemon, meaning that we don’t send out critics to productions who then return and post an original review under the Bitter Lemons mantle – rather we gather reviews from a variety of local review sites around the internet and then form an aggregate score that in turn becomes a show’s LEMONMETER RATING.

Let me repeat: WE DO NOT REVIEW SHOWS ON  BITTER LEMONS (the one exception being during the Hollywood Fringe Festival when we pool some reviewers to help with coverage of the Festival, being that we are sponsors of the event).

This “non-review” rule allows us to remain as neutral as possible when evaluating criticism and offering our overall judgment of a production’s critical merit.

The aggregate scoring system we use here at the Lemon is much like what they use at the Film Reviewer site Rotten Tomatoes. The percentage you see posted is the OVERALL percentage of POSITIVE or SWEET reviews that a show earned. Editor-in-Chief, Colin Mitchell, is the final judge and jury as to whether a particular review is SWEET (positive) or BITTER (negative) or BITTERSWEET (neither).  He then tabulates the final percentage and the final overall SWEET or BITTER LemonMeter Rating.

The equation for tabulating the Overall Score is simple: Total Sweet Reviews divided by Total Reviews equals Overall LemonMeter Rating.

The percentage parameters for the Overall Score are as follows; we call them our MORAL ABSOLUTES:

Overall Score 76% to 100% = SWEET

Overall Score 51% to 75%   = BITTERSWEET

Overall Score 0% to 50%     = BITTER

Here are a few other rules that keep the LemonMeter humming.

We don’t give any show a LemonMeter Rating until it has received at least THREE REVIEWS.  These must be reviews that are on the Web, have an attributed author and that have a working link. We are always in the process of evaluating which sites merit inclusion on our site and it is an ongoing process. Quality of criticism, overall writing, longevity, consistency, connection to established publications, these are all elements used in judging whether a site merits inclusion in the LemonMeter Rating System.

If you feel your site merits inclusion, please contact us at [email protected]

Now a second rule: since some reviews will be judged Bittersweet, we have created a way to include them fairly into the equation.

USE OF BITTERSWEET RATINGS (those reviews which are judged neither wholly positive or wholly negative):

When a show has an overall score of BITTER, then BITTERSWEET ratings move the meter up ½ of their value. “Value” of a Bittersweet review meaning 100 divided by the total amount of reviews. Thus with 4 ratings, 3 Bitter and one 1 Bittersweet, the overall rating becomes 12.5% (13%). The value of the total reviews is 100 divided by 4 (total reviews) which gives 25% value to each, then half of that is 13%. Since the single Bittersweet rating raises the overall 0% Bitter upwards, we get a final total of 13% BITTER.

Same goes for SWEET ratings, only the BITTERSWEET review moves the average downward.

THUS a show with 5 ratings: 2 Sweet and 3 Bittersweet would end up being 70% BITTERSWEET. 100 divided by 5 (total reviews) equals 20% value to each Bittersweet review, cut that in half, we get 10% for each Bittersweet review. Since there were 3 Bittersweet reviews, the final equation would be: 100% minus 30% equalling an overall 70% BITTERSWEET.

When an Overall Rating for a show falls within the 51-75% range (BITTERSWEET), the actual BITTERSWEET ratings have no numerical value one way or the other.

If a show gets ALL Bittersweet reviews the Overall LemonMeter rating shall be 51% BITTERSWEET.

Ta da.

That’s it, Lemon Heads.

Click here to see the a list of current  productions that have already been given LemonMeter Ratings.

If you’d like to have your show given a LemonMeter Rating, send us at least three reviews and a link to your website and we’ll make it happen.

We are always evolving and if you feel that you have an idea that might continue to streamline this FREE service that we provide to the Theatre Community, please don’t hesitate to email us.

Thanks and enjoy.