Friday, August 10, 2007

Too little and maybe too much

During my recent visit to the Byrd Theatre, I saw an ad for RVA Magazine, an alternative mag that I know next to nothing about. But in perusing their website quickly, I only saw a single story about theater (a puff piece on Yellowhouse). What’s up with that? How can a magazine claim to be tapped into the local arts scene without coverage of theater? I found more articles about dance than theater and as many articles about roller derby as theater. For some reason, music is totally over-covered and RVA in particular seems intensely in touch with the visual art scene. I can only speak from personal experience but I’ve only been to two concerts in the past year, two art shows, and no dance performances (compared with a dozen plays). Are these other scenes really drawing a dramatically larger (richer? hipper?) audience than theater?

Though this criticism is directed at RVA, most of the local media are guilty. The T-D, Brick, and even Style generally underperform when it comes to covering theater – though Style I think is getting better with the welcome addition of Mary Burruss to the ranks of those covering live performance. I should also say that I generally appreciate’s level of coverage, posting more reviews from Joan Tupponce than I would have expected from a venue that is just a web presence.

What gets to me is that the existing reportage, which runs from less-than-expected to zilch, usually only covers the professional scene. In a perfect universe, the burgeoning college scene would also get the coverage it deserves, particularly given that – in my totally unscientific speculation – many of the popular college productions have drawn way bigger audiences than some of the less popular professional ones. Oh, but in those cases most of the theater-goers were college kids and we all know that their money and attention doesn’t count…

I could work myself up into a full-fledged rant about this but it’s Friday for one thing and also still so hot that I don’t want to do anything that might work up a sweat. But to give interested parties something else to think about over the weekend, I'll throw out another -- somewhat contradictory -- observation for consideration:

I am loving the Barksdale Blog but I honestly cannot keep up. I came back from vacation and started to peruse the new content (great piece on Vickie and Richard, Mr. Maupin) but had to move on after a couple of posts. I have the interest but just don’t have the time. To reiterate: I love that it's so informative and that Bruce in particular has put himself out there is such an accessible way. However, maybe it’s just me but it feels like too much of a good thing. Short and snappy are generally the guiding principles of the arts writing I do and also that I like to read. I know I’m just a blogger/critic who isn’t immune to rambling myself, but I think an outreach/marketing tool has to strike a balance between informing, entertaining and overwhelming. Just my two cents…


Frank Creasy said...

Okay Dave, I guess everyone else is either too busy or too cautious, so I'll bite: I agree, I love Barksdale's blog but by the time I see a posting and then think "hey, that looks interesting but I'm too busy now, I'll come back to it tomorrow and read it all the way through" (the recent Barksdale history pieces being a prime example), those postings have already been buried by half a dozen others! Still, as someone who works by day in a management job I'd say it's better to err on the side of OVERcommunicating, so it's hard to fault anyone.

Knowing lots of friends who work for the Barksdale/Theatre IV organization I'd say it's simply a matter of wanting to promote their productions and their enthusiasm for them, especially those which may not grab such widespread attention like "High School Musical" (though I've heard it sold well). Anyway, being zealous IS a good thing, and the blog is cheap PR, so the multiple daily postings are understandable from that perspective.

On a completely different topic: Unless people really HATE action movies, I HIGHLY recommend "The Bourne Ultimatum"! Absolutely one of the best action films I have EVER seen! Perhaps the most realistic hand-to-hand combat sequences I've ever seen on film. Matt Damon is to Jason Bourne what Sean Connery was to James Bond, and throw in top-notch supporting cast members including David Straithairn, Joan Allen and Albert Finney and you've got your money's worth and THEN some. Don't wait for the DVD, see it on the big screen to enjoy the full experience!

Dave T said...

Thanks for the endorsement, Frank. I'm hoping to see "Bourne" sometime soon.

Also, thanks for feedback on my comments on the B-Blog. I would agree that its better to err on the side of overcommunicating. And my work experience in marketing and communications pre-dates the whole blog phenomenon so I'm not sure what the popular wisdom is on how they work into an organization's outreach plan. However, there would be two main concerns that I would have:

-- If there's any truly major bulletins or concepts or selling points that Barksdale is trying to communicate, they may get lost in the volume, and

-- You know the old saying: Familiarity breeds contempt. I love my best friend but would get annoyed if he called me every day. Sure, you have the choice to "tune into" a blog at your leisure but, even if my friend just left a voice mail every day (so I would have an analagous choice about "tuning in"), it would be annoying to have to sort through all of them to find the one that might actually be important.

I'll be very careful here and reiterate again that I love the blog for many reasons. I'm just putting out a word of caution based on my own recent experience -- something I have become used to doing (perhaps unfortunately) as part of that whole critic thing.

pnlkotula said...

Dave, I can't miss an opportunity to say to your readers "Check out Richmond Marquee." It's only once a month for now, but I try to consolidate all the local theatre action in one publication. If I don't have something listed, it's only because the producer in question hasn't sent me their info, and if I get urgent information after the monthly issue comes out, I do send e-mail updates to my subscribers.

That's not to say that I claim to meet every need for the community, but I'm giving it the best shot I can and welcome input.

As a side note, I picked up a copy of The Brick yesterday out of curiosity, and it seems very self-indulgent and not terribly informative. JMO.

Anonymous said...


I was part of a summer dinner program in Ferrum College, took theatre at community college, and did some musicals on the side. Saying that is just to show I do have a honest interest in theatre. I loved it when I was creating it.

I read your blog with some interest. RVA is an arts mag leaning towards the visual because we are VCU educated painters, photographers, illustrators, and designers. Its easy to find writers that can cover these things and when in a pinch we can attempt to.

My question, is there a theatre scene in Richmond? We cover alot of stuff but finding a writer on the subject is very hard. We do our best and through Yellowhouse was making some inroads but there isnt much interest in our circles to cover it.

About our lack of coverage - I have no answers other than there is an accessibilty problem with dance and theatre. If you were not at a performance you have no idea how great it was and if you were there it still hard to relate to someone how exciting it was. Songs and images can be shared quickly to many people - theatre by its very nature cannot.

My questions for you - does it still have a place in the modern world except for the high minded elite? What can you do to make it more open to the masses? Maybe UTUBE post them or having performances on the street at the First Friday Artwalks. If there is no attempt to reach out - theatre will continue to decline here.

There are things going on but with more options for my time than ever I struggle with reasons for people to go to theatre.

What can I do to help?


Le Synge Bleu said...

i do agree - its hard to find a balance when using the blogosphere as a marketing tool. shorter is better and i've always been a great fan of the videoblog myself for those purposes. its fun, interactive, and can definitely create an interest and buzz. perhaps you shoudl pass along yuor thoughts to barksdale so that they can take the constructive feedback and run with it?