Readings in Performance and Ecology. Forthcoming May 2012!!
Forgive me for getting harsh on you here, dude, but that last post was really crappily written! I mean: you teach writing? Really? I’m thinking the emperor’s got no clothes!
First off, there’s a real problem with coherence in the post. You start with this whole bit about whether or not critics should read plays before seeing them, yadda yadda…but then you drop the topic and don’t really take it up again. So, are you saying critics should read plays before seeing them, or not? You seem to think that it was ‘okay’ that you hadn’t done your homework before reviewing all those other plays, but then you seem to be saying, ‘well, this time I did do my homework and I didn’t like the play so …’ — so, what? It’s not clear what your point is here. If I were, say, a literature or drama prof I’d be giving you some pretty big point deductions for going all ‘OT’ and vague on your reader.
And then, it’s totally unclear whether or not you actually are recommending the play to your readers! Like, WTF? Is it good, or not? What kind of review is it if we don’t know whether or not to go see the play?
And finally, in your third paragraph you repeat the phrase ‘in fact’ twice, and you’ve got the word ‘fact,’ like, four times in the post. Starts to feel like you’ve got some wierd verbal tic.
‘Impeccaby written?’ I don’t think so….Seems like we should be able to expect more from a drama prof at CMU, is all I’m saying.
Dear Anonymous —
Thank you for taking the time and energy to respond to both the style and content of the Tatler’s writing. Your criticism is astute and perceptive — indeed, when prompted to view her own prose objectively, as your letter does, the Tatler must confess that your criticisms are precisely those she would level at herself!
There is no excuse for bad writing or bad manners — both are the offspring of laziness and/or arrogance.
Yet the Tatler would like to remind you, and all of her gentle readers, that writing, like any other craft, involves making something where there was nothing before. As such, the risk of failure is ever present. This is also the case with theater, which is one of the reasons the Tatler aims to be as generous in her assessment of what she sees as possible, even in cases where a given play or production does not quite hit its mark.
Thank you, dear Anonymous, for reminding us all that the writing of criticism should live up to the kind of aesthetic and intellectual standards to which the object of that criticism is subjected.
— The Pittsburgh Tatler
I’ve already got a full-time job, not to mention a full-time home life (two girls, dog, home reno project, partner) and a looming book deadline. Oh, and need I mention dramaturgical work on The Good Person of Sezuan at CMU and on the Hiawatha Project’s Camino? So–why this, too?
I’ve wanted to get this blog going for a while; the desire to start it became even more acute this past winter, when my students were working on reviews in my critical writing course. Many of the students were writing about shows they didn’t think were successful, and they had a terrific time tearing their subject down in high snark mode. Their writing was funny, smart, crackling. I was inspired, and vowed to myself to get this site going as soon as the semester was done.
Plus, I don’t get to the theatre as much as I should, being a theatre professor and all. Making a commitment to reviewing local theatre online is a way of forcing some discipline on both my theatre-going habits and my writing habits. I’m not doing as well as I should in that latter respect (only 2 posts in 2 months? yikes!) but with summer will come some extra time, and I am determined to make this an active site. [Part of the problem is that it’s taking me way too long to write each of my posts (including this one–I’ve been working 20 minutes so far on just over 200 words!)– I’m hoping that more frequent writing will eventually equate to faster writing. We’ll see.]
As inspired as I was by my students’ funny nasty negative reviews, I realized when I sat down to create this blog that, alas, I will probably not be indulging in much lively trash talk myself. I learned shortly after moving to Pittsburgh 4 years ago that there are really only about 75 people living here, and you quickly get to know all of them. Most of the artists I’ll be writing about in these posts are people that I’ve come to know, admire, and like, and I have no interest in criticizing their work for the sake of strutting my snark. Besides, I’ve worked in theatre in multiple capacities (as stage manager, pit orchestra musician, actor, electrician, props master, dramaturg, director) and I know how devilishly difficult it is to make the magic happen. Like my students, I too was superior to just about everything I saw when I was in my twenties, but now that I’m comfortably perched between the uphill and the downhill sides of life (and hoping to stay there for a good long while) I find myself with an attitude that is at once more humble and more generous.
I think this is a good thing. I want to take seriously the task of using theatre reviewing as a way of encouraging the best local artists can do. I’m hoping to see and write about as much locally produced theatre as I humanly can (remember the two kids? there are only so many evenings I can go out!). My mission here (if I can be so grandiose) is to do my small part to help enlarge and diversify the audience for local theatre by celebrating the good and the great when they are good and great, and treating the not-so-good with empathy, generosity, and a gentle nudge towards the better.
So, what’s coming up? Tonight I’m seeing God of Carnage at the Pittsburgh Public Theatre. Anne Mundell, the set designer, leaked to me that there will be projectile vomiting (!) so….yeah. (I’m thinking we’ll eat dinner after). This weekend I hope to catch one or two of City Theatre’s new plays in their MOMENTUM festival, and next week, I’ll be taking the girls to Bricolage’s family-friendly matinee performance of Midnight Radio: Superhero Edition! I might let them post their own reviews, if they are up for it. I’ve also got an article I’ve been writing in my head about the Alexander McQueen show and War Horse, but getting it into pixels will have to wait until I have a bit more time.
Stay tuned. And if you’re a local theatre, and you’d like me to review your productions: add me to your press invite list!
And in case any one cares: this one took me 54 minutes to write, not including adding links or tags. Yeesh.