Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Preparing for a thrill

I’m always interested in how impressions get formed. I had the occasion today to speak to John Knapp, the Artistic Director for Richmond Triangle Players. Mr. Knapp has directed many fabulous productions for RTP and is currently preparing “Thrill Me,” which he asserts will be an intriguing and creepy departure for RTP. He mentioned in passing (and to be fair, possibly half in jest; it’s hard to gauge these things over the phone) that he realized that I didn’t have any great love for the stuff RTP did. This took me aback a bit. I tried to assure him that to a great degree I am ignorant of much of what RTP is doing because I haven’t had the chance to see one of their shows in so long.

This prompted me to look back into my archives and the last time I had written a review about an RTP production was an only mildly qualified rave review of “Breathe” in 2005 (which I made a point to mention again in my 2005 wrap-up column) and before that, an unqualified rave of “Santaland Diaries” in 2004. So where-for comes the idea that I’m down on RTP?

I know my former Style partner-in-criticism, Mr. Nickerson, was no RTP fan, judging from his reviews last year. And on the cyperpages of this blog I voiced some reservations in advance of the VCU-student led Christmas show last year and maybe some unkind second-hand comments about some recent RTP productions. Perhaps I’ve done so without enough qualifications (e.g., “the opinions expressed by those whose opinions I pass on are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the opinions – or lack thereof – of this author…”) But rest assured, I look forward to each RTP show I go to with as much fresh-faced eagerness as I approach any other show in town. Truth be told, my attitude about ANY show that I actually attend is usually pretty euphoric given that a night at the theater means a night I’m not overseeing bedtime for 2 cranky tweens and 2 obstinate pre-schoolers.

This reminds me of times in the past when folks at Chamberlayne Actors Theatre thought I was down on them (beware of what you say in line on opening night – you never know who might be listening) and leadership at Swift Creek Mill wouldn’t even talk to me. Those were giddy times indeed! I’m looking forward to 2007 and the sowing of additional mis-impressions…


Anonymous said...

See Dave the problem is you were a great friend (and still are) to theatre folks in town before you became a critic. And I will put my neck out there and say that I think you are a damn good critic (better then MANY we have had in the past or have currently). I think we had to adjust to our friend Dave who IS the critic. And maybe we are more sensitive to what you think because we do know you as a friend. We don't get to just shrug you off and call you ignorant! Which is a wonderful thing...and sometimes not so wonderful. I don’t envy you my friend!

AmyBerlin said...

My guess would be that theatres interpret Style's failure to review a show to be an indication of what you think about the theatre. Style stopped reviewing CAT shows a couple of years ago, and only sporadically reviews RTP shows. I have no idea of the inner workings of the paper, and who makes such decisions, but that would be my guess as to where the theatres get such impressions.

I actually would bet that Style's (and your) past reviews of CAT, RTP, and Swift Creek contain way more positive reviews than negative. I can't remember many, if any, negative comments directed to any theatre group as a whole (except one, that prompted me to write a letter to the editor -- do you remember that? : ) ).

John said...

So, first of all, Dave, thanks for the comment that I have directed many "Fabulous" productions for RTP. I guess you do like me!

Let me just state that what I mentioned in passing that you didn't have a great love for RTP was said in jest. I haven't seen you at RTP in so long (but then again, being out in Charlottesville, I haven't kept up with you and your kids either). To be totally fair, Dave, you have always been completely honest in your reviews of RTP shows (even if I didn't agree with your review of Pageant), and that I really respect. And Mr. Nickerson has likewise given us fair reviews. While I don't know if he was a fan or not, he seemed to review shows for what they were and did not appear to be biased in any way. We have done good things, excellent things and not-so-good things like most theaters. You win some, you lose some and good and bad reviews come with the territory.

What kind of bugs me is that Style decided to stop reviewing RTP with the production of The Stops. We offered a world premiere of a new musical starring some of our best talent in Richmond, Kirk Morton, Steve Boschen and Todd Minnich, and to have Style snub us stung big time. But, heck, the show sold out, extended, played a second run, moved on to the Columbus Gay and Lesbian Theater Festival where it won Best Musical, Best Ensemble, Best Technical Elements, Best Actor in an Ensemble (Steve Boschen) and was named as one of the 2006 Top 10 Shows in Columbus by The Columbus Dispatch. So, why should I be bugged???

Because actors, designers, directors and crew don't generally work for the money that we pay them. They work for the love of the stage, the feedback from the audiences and an occasional pat on the back in writing from a critic. Am I asking for too much for all of these hardworking folks at RTP and CAT?

John said...

Oops, got something wrong, darnit.
Style didn't STOP reviewing RTP. They have reviewed RTP shows recently and have been more than supportive with the cover article featuring Christmas with the Crawfords. Sorry for that unfounded rant.