Fairly often, I receive queries about or submissions about New York-based events. And every time, unless they have an obvious Philadelphia connection, I reject them.
Since taking the helm of Broad Street Review last summer, I’ve instituted a pretty strict Philadelphia-area coverage radius, and I’ve received a bit of flak about it. However, our readers don’t seem to mind. It’s the writers who complain. And I get it, I really do. It’s nice to get press comps to the Metropolitan Opera or Broadway. Tickets don’t come cheap and those openings garner national interest; plus, Philadelphians head up the turnpike or hop on Amtrak every weekend. Why aren't we serving them?
I believe we are. I’m not backing down, and here’s why: in Philadelphia, we have an advantage. As our arts scene grows exponentially, regional arts coverage is shrinking. It’s insane. Today, Ben Brantley and Charles Isherwood, the New York Times theater critics, listed their top 10 New York shows for 2016. Four of those shows had Philadelphia connections, and three were developed or premiered here.
I reviewed the world premiere of one of those productions, Lightning Rod Special’s Underground Railroad Game, for the Philadelphia Inquirer, but when I searched online today for a link, it was buried in an archive for which I’d have to pay a monthly fee. We sent one of our critics, Trish McFadden, to the show’s next iteration, and it’s still available for you to read in our free archives (and will remain there).
One show on this week’s roster, Jib: Or, the Child Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was, is a new musical produced by a Brooklyn-based company with the help of the Dresden Dolls’s Amanda Palmer. But they didn’t open it in Brooklyn, they opened it in Old City. And Melissa Dunphy, a Philadelphia composer whose Gonzales Cantata made its own mark on the national scene and is presently in the throes of opening her own brick-and-mortar theater, reviewed it for us.
There’s so much happening here and so much that would otherwise be overlooked that it’s — if not criminal — at least inexcusable to cover work that’s already getting reviewed from every angle elsewhere while allowing our own creative ecosystem to wither unnoticed. Take Elkins Park’s White Pines Productions. They have a new home and are doing wonderful things for their community, including producing a new holiday musical featuring disabled actors who trained with the company’s acting school. Who’s covering them? Nobody. Our podcaster Darnelle Radford recorded a half-hour long interview with their artistic director, Benjamin Lloyd.
Every week, we sift through press releases and every week, maybe a fifth of what I'd like to cover gets covered. I could go on and discuss this city’s non-theater buzz, or tell you that after 20 years of reviewing, I’ve developed a near aversion to seeing theater out of town because it means I’ll suffer an inevitable case of FoMO when I read about everything I didn’t see back home, but you get the point. But even more compelling, it seems that by limiting our coverage to our region, our readership has either remained the same or grown.
Sure, some readers could still accuse me of parochialism, but only if they don’t believe that Philly, with all its universities, festivals, cultures, arts organizations, and museums, has much to offer. And if you don’t believe that, you should really be reading more Broad Street Review.