Results tagged “theatre criticism” from ARTicles

ComeFlyAway1.jpgOnce more there is a conversation in the ArtsBeat blog between critics of different disciplines, in this case Charles Isherwood and Alastair Macaulay, on the subject of the Broadway dance musical "Come Fly Away," choreographed by Twyla Tharp to music of Frank Sinatra. I have been lapping it up.

Isherwood has called "Come Fly Away" a "major new work" of theater, and Macaulay has decried its dance as "intimacy perverted into exhibitionism." I am interested in the discussion that is developing over the nature of Tharp's work, for what it is and what it isn't, breakthrough or compromise, as judged from the perspective of these critics who write about related but different genres. Here's the link to the conversation, best read from the bottom up.

For the record, I saw "Come Fly Away" in one of its last previews. I found it exhilarating, and I would have been happy to tell you why over a bottle of wine after the show. But because I was a 

March 30, 2010 10:52 AM |
I was in conversation with a group of fellow actors over the weekend at the Hotel Rex bar in San Francisco.  They comprised the cast of the long-running musical Shopping, which is about to celebrate its second anniversary.  The milestone got us talking about the press the show has received and theatre criticism in general - a somewhat awkward conversation for me since I am both an actor and an arts journalist.

The actors were commenting on the seeming randomness of the theatre productions reviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle.  For example, the excellent new musical Insignificant Others by hot emerging artist Jay Kuo has yet to receive a write-up, even though it has begun an indefinite run at San Francisco's Pier 39, while an inconsistent little play called Eavesdropper received both a preview and a review during its summer residency at Off-Market Theatres.  

In acknowledging the haphazard nature of what actually gets in the papers, I surmised that Eavesdropper received so much attention partly because the play's press release claimed that the show had been the "longest running play in Los Angeles."  While it is true that Eavesdropper had been running in LA for months, many of its later shows had audiences of fewer than 10 people - a fact not mentioned (and probably not even researched) by the Chronicle.  In the play's defense, it did have a novel idea -- a bevy of actors from LA and San Francisco rotated through the cast so that audiences never saw the same performance twice.  But many people who saw the show thought the surprise casts spawned work of questionable quality.

My friends reacted by saying that newspapers like the Chronicle should cover all the city's theatre productions so that audiences can be fully informed about the general scene.  I argued that with the present crisis in arts journalism, newspapers no longer have the staff nor space to cover every production.  

One actor then exclaimed "And if I see another Yelp review, I'm going to vomit."  While he admitted that nearly every theatre production could count on user reviews on websites like Yelp and Goldstar Events, he found the writing mostly inane.  He wanted to see reviews produced by experienced writers with theatrical knowledge.

Thus, the Catch-22.  Newspapers don't have enough resources to review most productions.  And if a production doesn't get reviewed, it and its potential audience must rely on mass consensus reviews by amateur theatergoers.  

Many European papers cover nearly every art event that occurs in their city and enjoy an interested audience.  How do they do it, and can we even hope for their success?  Or will we be stuck in Yelp purgatory forever?

March 5, 2008 2:51 AM |


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