He focuses most of his thoughts on this passage from Kennedy:
My frustration, I think, has some of the same roots as my admiration. Before becoming the Globe's theater critic, I spent nearly five years as an arts reporter, often writing preview features in advance of a show's opening. As it happened, many of these previews concerned the ART, so I've spent a lot of hours in the company's basement rehearsal space at Zero Church Street, in its offices
at the Loeb Drama Center, and in conversation with many of its staff members, directors, and actors, as well as in the audience at the Loeb and the new theater space at Zero Arrow.
Some might argue that that's too much inside information for a critic to have, and I'll admit that it's sometimes challenging for me to write a strong critique of work by people I have come to like as well as respect. (Of course, since becoming the critic I have no longer attended any rehearsals or other "backstage" events.) But I also know that having observed the process, not just the productions, at the ART has given me a deep appreciation of the company's passions, its vision, and its creative ferment. And that's why I know it could
be better than it often is.
Leonard Jacobs Responds:
Well, perhaps some might argue "that that's too much inside information for a critic to have," but I'd argue that Kennedy is doing ART, as well as her own profession, a disservice by refusing to continue attending such events. By erecting a wholly artificial wall between critics and artists, Kennedy neither helps her readers, nor helps ART, nor helps herself as a critic.
To be clear, I have no problem with Kennedy airing her concerns about ART within the public sphere. In fact, as a nonprofit that likely receives one or more forms of public subsidy (from the city of Boston, state of Massachusetts, or the federal government), one could easily argue that it's a matter of the public's right to know.
But Kennedy, like it or not, I believe has a moral responsibility to
act like the member of the theatrical community that the Boston Globe theatre critic must must must -- she is, indeed, an essential and irrevocable part of that community. By separating herself from artists, she loses the valuable insight she had gained as a result of her earlier interactions. That helps no one.
I think Mr. Jacobs has a good point. And it brings up all sorts of interesting questions. Leonard has more things to say about Kennedy's piece.
My own focus when I first read it went to this part of the article:
But I'm also moved to write by some recent experiences in other theaters, experiences that created the sense of excitement and vitality that are a huge part of why I go to the theater in the first place. In three fairly different venues - the Providence institution that is Trinity Repertory Company, the small back space at the Boston Playwrights' Theatre that was temporarily occupied by a
Way Theatre Artists production, and the sui generis Ramrod Center for the Performing Arts (in the basement of the Fenway nightclub Machine) that the Gold Dust Orphans call home - I saw three very different plays, but each of them left me feeling awake, alive, and lucky to have been there.
And each of them, I soon realized, was the kind of play that the ART could be doing.
Congratulations to Way Theatre Artists and Ryan Landry . When, in the future, you have a struggles, I hope that the critics will write long teary-eyed articles that suggest people give you more money. Somehow though, I don't think that will happen. Actually, my real wish is that they would write them now.