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August 7, 2013

Don’t post comments on online reviews of your own shows. Just don’t. Don’t.

If a review is good, it speaks for the multitude. If it’s bad, it’s just one fool’s opinion. And every theater artist has a different take on how to interpret them. Some ignore them until after the show has closed, or never read them at all. Some click “refresh” again and again until a review appears, and take the good words to heart and ignore the bad. Some do the same thing, but cast their focus in the other direction.

But no matter what a review says, posting a comment on it yourself, or having someone do it in the name of the production or your company, sends the wrong message. It smacks of amateurism and a thin skin.

During the recent Capital Fringe Festival, I noticed several reviews of one show with which I had no affiliation. I did not know the show, nor any of the people involved. The reviews were mixed. But on the first negative review, the director wrote a lengthy point-by-point rebuttal as an online comment. Some of her points may have been valid, but her reply — which was nearly twice as long as the original article — seemed unprofessional.

A few days later, on another local theater site, the show received a positive review. The director again posted a reply, shorter this time, thanking the reviewer. This also undermined whatever confidence I might have had in the show as a disinterested third party. It seemed like she did not feel her work was worth reviewing or worth reviewing well. Though this comment was not negative, it also left me with a negative impression of the production.

Of course bad reviews get to us as theater artists. But we do not need to make it worse.

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