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More Ways To Review Theatre

March 13, 2014

This week, the Publicity Associate at my company wanted the Box Office Manager to find out if a particular reviewer did actually attend a performance of the current show because a questionable review appeared on her blog. Not really sure how looking up ticketing history could establish if this reviewer attended or not – she could have passed the tickets to someone else. But that’s not the point.

What perked my interest in this event was how concerned we were over someone who reviewed through her personal blog and has never written for any publication in her life. This is the same person who attends every show at this company and has “special needs” for where she sits. When she arrived late to a performance of another production, she was given the choice to attend another performance and she cried foul because the curtain wasn’t held for her to begin with. This is also the same reviewer who spoke highly of a Shakespeare production that I stage managed except for one actor. This actor happened to find her review and he was a mess afterwards. So I’m clearly not keen on this woman. And while I acknowledge and respect that everyone has their own opinion, this woman’s writing demonstrates a huge ego which is hard to overlook.

I generally pay no attention to reviews of any sort and don’t go out of my way to read them unless there is something to note – like why one of my actors is upset. And so keeping the golden rule to never talk about them is essentially easy for me. But I get that they are important for theatres and the artists that are mentioned in them. What I don’t get is how a review that is blogged by someone with a small readership can matter so much and how a theatre company can justify giving comps to a writer who has no notable writing credentials other than a blog.

I mentioned all this to a friend who works at the same company. Though agreeing with me, she did point out the fact that given today’s technology and social networking, blogging reviews is becoming more pertinent and important to many on either side of the curtain – doesn’t matter what the person’s background in writing might be – it’s out there for people to find and read and be influenced by. Point taken. But I still bash my head against giving away free tickets to these particular reviewers. Are comps only given out to a blogger if they ask for it? And if so, does the company have to consider the reach of a blog’s readership before comping them in? I know I would do some research before saying yes or no. But where does the line get drawn? What are the different unwritten rules and ethics to abide by when you are writing a review for no money and were comped in versus those who still write but paid for their own ticket? And how much bending over backwards should you do for someone who blogs versus a writer for the New York Times? Sure, you would hold the curtain for the New York Times but a small town blogger? We certainly didn’t.

So reviews are coming in many forms. And word of mouth is happening by way of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, etc. – not just over a cup of coffee. So when my friend also commented that actors need to be thick skinned if they choose to read reviews, I thought “Fair enough”. But with all these methods of talking about a show, how can you avoid any critique (good or bad)?

In the end, I suppose the best answer is to be mature about it. Take what you read with a grain of salt – it’s just someone’s opinion. They might say something relevant and helpful but it’s not The Word of God. What really matters is: how do you feel about what you did? The old saying – we are our own worst critics – well, that’s the most important review of all, isn’t it? That’s part of how productions can excel – when everyone involved is constantly assessing themselves personally and figuring out where they could improve.

Now, I think back to this reviewer that started this topic for me and marvel at how quickly things have changed in the way of what is regarded as a legit or relevant review. I’m finding more and more blogged reviews and publicity in the media packets for shows at regional theatres. I wonder what the next medium will be to review a show. I’m sure we’ll see very soon.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. California Triple-Threat permalink
    March 13, 2014 2:15 pm

    I’ve stumbled upon reviews I didn’t want to read and regretted clicking through and reading them. But I don’t think I will ever stop doing google searches on shows that I’m in. I do enjoy reading reviews on, when I’m in a show that uses Goldstar to sell tickets. They are almost always fun reviews, and not usually written by theater people or even people who frequent the theater.
    I agree though that bloggers and small reviewers shouldn’t expect a theater to hold curtain or give them comps. Those are benefits that take time and trust to be given.

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