Friday, April 04, 2008

Boston Theatre - Critics Locked Out?

Wow, Thom Garvey brings up a good point about the Bill Marx interview with Ilana Browstein about the Breaking Ground festival at the Huntington.

Why doesn't the article mention that critics have been barred from attending?

I hadn't heard about this at all. Here is Thomas Garvey:

This raises a few intriguing issues. First, of course, the Huntington can refuse entry to Breaking Ground to anyone it wants - and it's clearly not interested in a critique of the festival or its development process. To my mind, said process is a valid topic of critical conversation, and the fact that I haven't seen clear improvement in the scripts that have gone through it is worth noting. No doubt to the Huntington, however, a review is simply publicity, and who needs negative publicity about their development process? I get that argument, of course.

But here's the rub. Even as the Huntington was telling me I couldn't go to Breaking Ground, I was being approached by one of their playwrights in the festival (no it doesn't matter who), asking me to see his/her work and give some feedback. But I had to tell the writer (after checking with the powers that be) that I wouldn't be allowed in.

An interesting problem, no? It's hard to fight the impression that my critiques of the scripts at the Huntington have impressed at least a few of the playwrights themselves. But oddly, in the interest of "protecting" them from the withering influence of critics, they're being prevented from getting the very feedback they seek. Of course the Huntington has the right to control its own publicity. But isn't there some way, in a "development" process, to include the kind of pushback that might actually help the plays develop?

It is strange the Bill Marx would not mention this, but, as Thomas said, it could be that maybe only he was disinvited.


nick@ said...

Thanks for the heads-up on this.

The Hedy Weiss v. Dramatists Guild controversy in Chicago had brought up some similar questions, specifically on whether or not workshop or developmental productions are open for review. If only Thom Garvey is uninvited, that complicates the matter. Also, if a playwright desires a public review, but the producer doesn’t, that would be another interesting layer to explore.

Bill Marx said...

The heart-rending sight of Mr. Garvey fighting the shadows of assorted straw men (academia,left wing fiends, ememies domestic and abroad) is nothting new. But I am deeply worryed with his latest self-destructive delusional bout -- he is battling with his own shadow. Perhaps he is frightened by the sight.

A theater company can ask that a critic not come to a public reading or a production, but that request has no legal standing. There is nothing stopping Mr. Garvey or any critic from walking into Breaking Grounds and writing about what they see.

If he is stopped by the HTC from entering the theater he has something to complain about. Until then, he is punching at air, as usual.

Art said...

Hi Bill,

I will say that from Garvey's post it would appear that they explicity said that critics were not allowed in.

But I am only going off of Thom's description of the disinvitation in his post.

You are a critic as well. Has the Huntington made the same request to you?

Bill Marx said...

Hi Art,
I talked to John Michael Kennedy of the HTC about the question of critics and Breaking Ground. He told me that they are asked not to come, though that policy may change with a new artistic director.

But who cares? The Huntington can only reques a critic not come -- the event is free and any critic, blogger, whoever can attend. Mr. Garvey simply has show up, sit, and write about what he sees. I could do the same -- it does not frighten me to dismay a theater.

This is a non-issue -- it would only have significance if a critic is intimidated by the request, or his or her editor tells the critic not to review the show or not take in a reading.

Blogs give critics more freedom than ever to write about what they want when they want.

Thomas Garvey said...

Oops - while in the throes of beating back this latest Marxist attack, I forgot a key question! Has Mr. Marx been invited to the festival in question? And if so, was he aware that other critics weren't? And if not, why didn't he mention that in his post?

Bill Marx said...

Hi Art,

The fact is that a theater can request that a critic not cover a public production or reading, but that doesn't mean a critic is barred from a review. It doesn't
matter if the Huntington's Breaking Ground program welcomes critics or not -- they cannot be legally barred.

Most major critics, from George Bernard Shaw to Kenneth Tynan, were at one time or another requested not to come and review. They went ahead and reviewed the show anyway. In the age of the blog critics have the freedom to review they want when they want.

Apparently, Mr. Garvey is afraid to go to Breaking Ground because the Huntington has not invited him. But that decision makes his charge that the Huntington is fending off criticism absurd -- it is only his fear that is keeping him away.

Art said...

Hi Bill,

While I do understand your argument, I feel you also seem to have sidestepped the initial question a little bit.

So, did you receive the same request to not attend?

nick@ said...

In an email to me Ilana Brownstein has confirmed what Thom has reported is true.

To attend and review a workshop performance of a play that you have specifically been asked not to attend by the artists or the artists’ representatives would be considered unethical by most critics.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, but why should another critic ask (or answer, for that matter) the questions Garvey wants answered? Can't Garvey do his own interviews? Or is the real issue who is in the in crowd and who isn't?

Art said...

Hi Anon,

Thanks for commenting.

I can't speak for Thomas Garvey. You may want to post the question in his comments section.

My understanding is that Thom was commenting on how Bill Marx always tries to promote, as his thesis, the idea of the critic as standing against the encroachment corporate type public relations spin into the non-profit theatre world.

As strange as it may seem to people, it appeared to me that Thom was genuinely disappointed in Bill.

I am not kidding either.