Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Why We Stopped Writing Reviews

Fringe season is upon us, and with it a coming barrage of emails and Twitter messages inviting Mad Theatrics out to review anything and everything. We stopped publishing reviews in 2014 -- hell, we stopped publishing anything in 2015 -- but I still get review invites all the time.

There are no plans to start up the ol' play review grindstone anytime soon, and so I thought I might try to head off some of those emails and messages with this post.

WE DON'T WRITE REVIEWS ANYMORE

So, that's pretty much it.

...

So, uh, thanks for stopping by.

...

Yeah, yeah, I know. Why post something short and simple when I can navel gaze for a few hundred words?

WHY WE STOPPED WRITING REVIEWS

The Visceral Company Broke Me. I became a fan, and had to stop reviewing their shows. At the same time, I had no interest in going to see anything other than the quality of work I had found at Visceral (and Sacred Fools and Rogue Artists Ensemble.) If I'm only willing to review shows that I know I'm inclined to love, I'm no longer a critic. I'm a cheerleader.

It really started with Sacred Fools. They are an extraordinarily good group of people. So good, in fact, that I would like to someday work with them. I can't very well do that if I'm "the enemy." My priorities changed.

On a related note ...

Writing About Other People's Stuff Was Getting In The Way Of Writing My Own Stuff. I was spending too much time consuming, thinking about, and writing about the works of other people.

It was a very worthwhile exercise. When Paul Storiale first suggested that I start writing reviews, he said it would serve the dual purpose of exposing me to more theater in Los Angeles (thus improving my understanding of the scene overall) and would help me hone my story sense as a writer. He was correct on both counts.

I Got Tired Of Adding To The Noise. Seriously. I think there are now more critics than theater companies.

On a related note ...

No One Fucking Cares. No one decides to go to a play based on the opinion of some random anonymous dude on the internet. You decide to go to a play because someone you know is in it. You decide to go because you're on the theater company's mailing list, and you really like the sound of Troilus and Cressida set in 1930's Chicago.

The bulk of our traffic came just after informing a theater company PR person that the review of their show was up. Noting this, we focused on our actual audience: The folks involved in producing the shows we reviewed. Our reviews became more like notes and less like snark. I like to think that some of the people who read our reviews got something out of them, but I'm not fooling myself. The whole reviewer/reviewee relationship is not set up that way.

Most likely, anything good we wrote was taken as a welcome ego stroke, and anything bad was brushed off as "misunderstood intentions" or somesuch. Like the blind prophet Tiresias, I've been on both sides of this situation. I know how it goes.

In Conclusion, we do not write reviews anymore.

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