Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A theater critic just asked me what I anticipate excitedly and what I dread about having a reviewer in the house. This was my quick answer:

"The act of having a theatrical critic in the house is unique, because in no other artistic endeavor is the act of the creation of work so intimately tied to its criticism—only in the performing arts is the critic present, affecting the performance by their very presence. What I most anticipate is rarely achieved—a true synthesis and communion with the critic, whose words illuminate beyond a recitation of what happened, or a Yelp-like assessment of whether the show is “worth your money”. What I dread is the opposite: seeing the same reviews over and over again, even when they are positive—*especially* when they are positive—written with no real contact with the work, without risk or joyful struggle, by overworked, underpaid scribes who get no support in our age for real criticism to take root. Every critic should know that they themselves will be weighed, and the better the artist the more exacting our measure is—you can often learn more about a critic from the way they write their reviews than you will about the show itself. Truly great theatrical criticism is a unicorn in the American theater—but I’m a dreamer, and I want to believe, and insist on believing, that it is possible."