A selective guide to arts commentaries in print and websites elsewhere.
Introduction to Broad Street Review, plus biographies and contact points for our editors and contributors.
See a list of coming appearances by BSR's writers.
Directors vs. critics: BSR’s debate (1st comment)BY: Jackie Atkins 05.30.2011
At Broad Street Review’s debate on theater criticism, three Philadelphia directors largely ignored the panel’s Internet-based critics and mostly complained instead about the Inquirer. Earth to directors: Hip theatergoers no longer care about, much less read, the Inquirer.
“Theater People vs. Theater Critics.” Debate sponsored by Broad Street Review. Bernard Havard, Charles McMahon, Seth Rozin, Gresham Riley, Robert Zaller, Jim Rutter; Dan Rottenberg, moderator. May 26, 2011 at Franklin Inn Club, 205 S. Camac St.
Theaters, critics and delusions of injusticeJACKIE ATKINS
A day after witnessing adults behaving badly in front of a child (in Alan Ayckbourn’s superbly crafted My Wonderful Day at the Wilma), I observed a live re-enactment of adult egos tripping over their own lines in an effort to impress themselves.
The first drama contained enough truths about the human condition to amuse, edify and reflect on the sorry state of affairs of pampered souls. The second bit of tomfoolery was an example of theater children trying pompously to imitate irate adults: a debate sponsored by Broad Street Review with the topic “Theater People vs. Theater Critics: the Ultimate Debate.”
Each speaker was told to initially present his argument in a five-minute summary, a typical debate format. Three theater directors were on hand: the earnestly bombastic Bernard Havard of Walnut Street Theatre; a pensive, mild-mannered Charles McMahon of the Lantern Theater; and a bemused Seth Rosen of Inter Act. On the writers’ side sat genteel Robert Zaller, the erudite Gresham Riley and everyman Jim Rutter, all stalwart veterans of the Broad Street Review web site. The moderator was BSR’s editor, the ubiquitously steadfast Dan Rottenberg.
Inquirer, without end
I might be old-fashioned here, but when you accept an invitation from a new media outlet (the Internet), it should behoove you to at least acknowledge its presence during the debate. Instead, the theater people subjected the audience to a non-stop litany of all their perceived and genuine grievances with the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Havard couldn’t get over the “smears” William Collins heaped upon his theater in the ’80s (Collins once described the Walnut’s audience as “sheep"), even though, Havard was happy to report, Collins has apologized now that he’s no longer a critic. McMahon bemoaned the fact the Inquirer is down to a single full-time theater critic, even though annual theater attendance in Philadelphia has increased from 84,000 in 1994 to more than 150,000 today.
“If the Inquirer would covers us more the way it did in the ’80s,” he lamented, “we would have a larger attendance.”
Now, let’s see. If theater attendance is practically double today, when the print media don’t cover plays as thoroughly as they used to, how would it stand to reason that more exposure in this dying estate would lead to larger audiences? Don’t McMahon’s own figures suggest the declining relevance of print journalism to theater marketing?
Guys, let me hip you to your new audience. In my loft complex in Northern Liberties live 200 people who don’t subscribe to, let alone read, the Philadelphia Inquirer. They do assiduously frequent Philadelphia nightlife, which includes theater. All of their knowledge of the theater scene comes from perusing the Internet, whether it’s Broad Street Review or any site that allows for interactive communication. No “high priest” of theater criticism lays down the law to them as to what’s good and what’s not.
It’s not 1984 any more, or even McMahon’s halcyon 1994. Give thanks.♦
Respond to this Article