Monday, July 02, 2012

We Won't Count You Out

"... director Andrew Moore has made so many unfortunate choices ..."

-- Backstage West

"Moore, the playwright-director, however, should have opted for less."

-- Backstage West

"... an intriguing approach, but one that calls for considerable refinement, as does Moore's realization of the play overall."

-- LA Times
I have had my share of bad reviews.  I know what it's like to feel personally gut-punched by a perfect stranger who stands in judgement of my creative output.  I've felt the creeping dread, the crawling scalp, the pit in my stomach, and the urge to chuck it all and hide in a hole somewhere.  The quotes above?  Just the tip of the iceberg.  There are some real nasties out there; reviews that still make me cringe.

Looking over our site metrics, the vast majority of our traffic comes from people either bouncing in straight to the URL of a review someone posted on Facebook, or from folks using search terms such as the name of a specific play and the word "review."  I'm talking easily 90% of our traffic -- that's folks looking specifically for a review of a given show.

I don't think it's outrageous to assume that the people searching for specific reviews for specific shows are, by and large, people associated with those shows.  Cast, crew, directors, playwrights -- even family.  Before noticing this trend in our site traffic I reasoned that this would be the case.  To be completely honest, who cares what critics have to say anymore?  It's a social networking world.  Audience reviews on Goldstar probably have more clout than some self-appointed expert.

With the general theatre-going audience, I expect they don't care.  But the people who actually make the shows -- they care.  They're looking for something more substantive than "I liked it" or "I didn't like it."  I know that's what I am looking for, when I'm on the other side of reviews.

Some of the best-worst reviews I've had pointed out specific issues that, once resolved, would make the show better.  It is no coincidence that those specific notes jibed with my own observations of the finished work, and the observations of trusted advisors.  As they say, if you get the same note from multiple sources, you should address it.  I have addressed such notes.  I'd be a fool not to.

As a reviewer and editor of Mad Theatrics, I'm not interested in telling people they suck, or that their contributions to the community at large are worthless.  Making theatre -- any theatre, even one-person shows in street clothes in front of a bare wall -- is difficult.  The more ambitious a show is, the more likely it is to fall on its face.  You don't encourage risk taking by beating the hell out of failure. 

We may not like your show, but we will endeavor to let you know why.  And regardless of what else we think of it, we will try to tell you what you have done right.  We won't count you out.  We know who our audience is, and you matter to us.

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