Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Critical Mea Culpas

This piece by Chicago Tribune critic Chris Jones, has elicited responses from several in the blogosphere, including Garrett Eisler of Playgoer.

I agree with Garrett that Mr. Jones seems to be speaking more tongue-in- cheek rather than ass-in-sackcloth.

But I was reminded of my favorite and sincere critical mea culpa that I have ever read. Adrian Ryan of Seattle's The Stranger wrote of a tendency to be overly harsh to small theatre companies in the beginning of critical career. She speaks about trashing, (really trashing if you read some of the quotes,) a company, Hyperion Productions, and their lead actor. However, she admits:

"Today, oh so many moons later, I must admit that I have a much broader perspective as far as theater criticism is concerned. I have seen 12 gagillion tragic Seattle shows in the intervening years, and I realize that I was dreadfully hard on Hyperion Productions in general and Mr. Sebers in particular. Although it may seem a bit grand, I feel that I contributed a nasty shove to Hyperion's fall—and perhaps even to Josh Sebers's, who, I have come to realize, was a darn good actor.When I think of it now, it makes me want to vomit."

90% of all theatre is done by people like Hyperion Productions. People who make absolutely no money from the endeavour at all. I don't advocate that they should be given a pass on anything, (90% of that 90% is mediocre to really bad.) However, as far as mainstream press, or even established alternative weeklies go, there is a real problem: The experienced critics don't want to waste their time going around to every small production, and the stringers who do go to the smaller shows can sometimes be a little inexperienced and every now and then overzealous in their condemnations.

Just some thoughts.


Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure Adrian Ryan is a man. And no one should give serious consideration to anything The Stranger has to say about theatre. That crew is mostly interested in masturbating to the sound of their own voices.

YS said...

Hi Anon,

Thanks for the correction on Adrian Ryan.

I actually sometimes enjoy Brendan Kiley's observations, but I'll have to defer to people in Seattle for his reliability.

Living on the opposite coast, I can't really see any of the shows that he or any of the Stranger Staff is reviewing.