Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Article of the moment

I stumbled on an old but brilliant article on theatre reviewing versus theatre criticism: http://parabasis.typepad.com/blog/2005/05/part_ii_theater.html

In it, Isaac Butler says:

We are facing a dearth of theater criticism. Theater reviewing, on the other hand, is alive and well. By “reviewing” I mean the simple practice of consuming an art object and reporting back for us all to see whether or not you thought it was good. This is essentially what almost all mainstream theater writing is today.

He also says:

Why can’t theater artists review plays? Authors can do it. John Updike reviews books for the New Yorker, why couldn’t Edward Albee review plays for Harper’s? I’m not sure the answer to this question, but I know that no one really wants to do it. And that’s a pity, because we have a rich tradition of theater artists giving theater criticism as well (Shaw, for example).

It makes me think it may be possible to keep reviewing while writing and submitting plays. But I'm not so sure. Every time I write a review that is negative I can hear a nail being hammered into the coffin that will bury my playwright aspirations if I'm not careful.

It's a tricky one. I feel priveleged to be a theatre reviewer. (And I'm aware that I'm a reviewer and not a critic.) I love going to the theatre. I love reading plays and seeing them. I like thinking about them and writing about them. I hate second guessing myself and wondering what companies will think of my reviews. I try not to let self interest get in the way of the review. (For instance, I reviewed August Moon just before the judging of the Premier's Awards and was very aware that QTC's Artistic Director was on the judging panel. But I couldn't lie. Couldn't pretend the show was anything more than it was.)

And writing reviews helps supplement my income so that I can spend more time doing what I love best - which is writing. But I think I may have to give it up because of the constant conflict of interest. It's a tricky one. I'm in a quandry.