Wednesday, April 03, 2013
Just a few weeks ago, we had one of the old lions, retired New Yorker Critic John Lahr, assailing the younger generation of print critics. His hyperventilating turned out to be extraordinarily wheezy though.
This week, Howlround,( the online journal for the Theater Commons at Emerson,) has solicited some pieces from several critics and artists about criticism and journalism in the theater.
Rob Weinert-Kendt starts off with an essay about the parallel circumstances of the critic and the theater artist:
Wendy Rosenfield dispels the persistent myth that a critic couldn't possibly want to be a critic. And she proudly states that theater knows it needs critics:
Without that critical assessment, without critics going on record to champion a playwright, performer, or movement—or conversely, without critics opening up a can of whoop-ass on a show they despise and occasionally receiving a bigger one in return—would theater retain even its peripheral position in our culture? No way. Not even if it’s a review of your city’s 10,000th touring performance of Nunsense. It’s a critic’s job to compare and contrast, to examine the spaces in between those performances, to see where they intersect with our lives and where they diverge, and to keep this ephemeral living art form among us a little longer by recording what happened onstage, while challenging audience passivity in the bargain.
And yet criticism, which by now should have evolved from a one-sided conversation (and we critics all know colleagues who are so accustomed to spouting opinions unchallenged that every “conversation” becomes a monologue) to a full-fledged back-and-forth between audience and critic, still drags its knuckles.
Dominic Taylor, Associate Artistic Director of America-in-Play, points out that poor critics might not be able to accurately assess a work's primary goals:
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Thursday, March 07, 2013
|Refined Or Philistine? Critic or Reviewer?|
(Seth Numrich in the Lincoln Center production of Golden Boy)
Lahr wrote an essay, The Illumination Business; Why Critics Should Look At and After the Theater, for the Winter 2013 Issue of Nieman Reports which included several other essays about criticism and reviewing.
Building off of two distinct examples of what he considers lazy, inaccurate opinion-making, Lahr builds a platform upon which he can lament the rise of reviewing over criticism.
Stop me if you've heard this one. No, really. Stop me.
Many critics took umbrage with the piece. Charles McNulty, the theater critic for the Los Angeles Times, took to Twitter to respond to what he considered to be an unfair attack on the authors of the two reviews Lahr chose to single out for criticism. McNulty later compiled these tweets on his Facebook page.
In a rally not so much to the defense of Lahr personally, but more to the point of the Nieman essay, theater blogger George Hunka characterized McNulty's twitter flurry as an ad hominem attack that chooses to avoid Lahr's overall thesis:
Wednesday, February 06, 2013
Tax credits for film production are a familiar enough concept for those who follow Massachusetts political and cultural news.
As I posted last year, the concept of tax credits for large, Broadway touring or try-out shows, hit the mainstream in places like Toronto and Chicago.
Now, Geoff Edgers, writing in the Boston Globe, reports on how legislators in the Bay State will be considering a similar tax credit proposal:
The credit would grant up to $3 million to a production that plays in Massachusetts before opening in New York or to a touring show that starts here, reimbursing up to 35 percent of its state labor costs. Advocates of the proposal say the credits would create hundreds of jobs and drive millions of dollars of business into Massachusetts.
Of course, there are arguments for and against this new idea. Jeff Jacoby, a columnist for the Globe, fired off with both barrels:
Local theater honchos are warning, of course, that unless the Legislature showers them with a lucrative new subsidy, Massachusetts can kiss big stage productions goodbye.
“We need this credit,” the Citi Center’s Josiah Spaulding Jr. told the Globe. “Illinois has one. Louisiana has one. And if we can’t get one, we won’t be able to attract pre-Broadway shows again.”Uh-huh. That is what rent-seeking special pleaders — sports team owners, mutual-fund companies, video-game makers, solar-energy firms, filmmakers — always claim. And almost invariably the subsidies and benefits and tax breaks they clamor for turn out in the end to be what the critics predicted: ill-advised corporate welfare that costs far more than it generates. (See under: 38 Studios. Or Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. Or Evergreen Solar. Or Nortel Networks.)
However, the most interesting cautionary note, to my mind, was voiced in the Edger's story by long-time Broadway producer Tom Viertel:
“The problem is that in order to do a good job with a pre-Broadway show, you have to be able to keep it in front of an audience for close to a month while you work on it,” Viertel said. “The daunting aspect, from a producer’s point of view, is, ‘Can Boston really provide a month’s worth of audiences?’ Even with the tax credits, Boston may be a little limited as to what it can attract.”(Note to Mirror readers. The Globe has opted for a pretty restrictive paywall, so I apologize if the links don't work for you. More on this in an upcoming post.)
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
|Rendering of one of the casino proposals for outside Boston.|
This is an important date in the future of the Bay State's cultural landscape.
Today is the deadline for casino developers to submit proposals for the three possible casino development licenses in Massachusetts.
Gambling is coming.
What does it mean for the culture makers and performance artists of the Commonwealth?
Almost on cue, Chris Jones has written a column in the Chicago Tribune addressing this very topic. Chicago faces a similar situation as the Hub, a large gaming facility is on the very near horizon.
Jones suggests a proactive approach:
Any Chicago casino must, first and foremost, not be seen as a Chicago casino at all. Instead, it should be viewed as a major new cultural hub, which happens to have a little gambling going on alongside its many other attractions. And that won't happen unless Chicago's creative professionals — its architects, entertainment executives, chefs, artists, actors, music promoters, cultural officials — hold their noses and overcome, as did the former street performers of the Cirque du Soleil more than two decades ago, whatever qualms they may have about becoming involved with gambling, which will arrive with or without them. They must grab hold of this civic debate right now, before the chance is lost for good.
The main energy of a Chicago casino should have everything to do with experiencing architecture, watching spectacular shows, eating at world-class restaurants, interacting with thrilling technological art and the like, and as little as possible to do with gambling.Is this an approach for Boston or any of the other possible casino locations? Could ArtsEmerson have a stage over at the old Suffolk Downs?