Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Degree or not Degree, that is the question

I am a technical moron (in addition to being wretched at spelling). I have just learned how to read the responses to the blogs and I just read the responses to "Acting 101" blog. Thank goodness we never stop learning. Anyway- I found it quite fun to see the different reactions and learn some things about blogging like: 1) People that respond as "anonymous" took some of the comments personally which I find hilariously ironic considering I used broad statements to avoid placing any one actor in the awkward position of personal criticism and that the respondant would not identify themselves. 2) At least one person wanted me to give specific examples which I think would be mean spirited. I like to give names when praising people but do not wish to publicly denounce anyone personally on that particular issue. 3) Many responses that were anonymous chose to attack me personally rather than address the issue- not fair considering I don't know who you are- at least I have the integrity put my name on my opinions whether they are agreeable or not. 3) Blogging is a place where we can all express and converse - it is really cool.

Someone thought I did not have the qualifications to address an acting/directing issue later mentioning that some of the people I was addressing had degrees in theater. There are at least two problems with that line of thought. The first is that this person did not lay out what qualifications they felt were necessary for one to have in order to give acting advice. The second is that they implied that without a degree from a University one cannot be knowledgeable in a field. It is hopefully assumed that a critic has some level of competency in the area in which they are critiquing. Since acting is a huge part of live theater a theater critic should have some knowledge of what constitutes good acting or directing. It is true that it is not always clear if the director or an actor makes a choice in regards to performance but the actor usually gets credited with the result. I am assuming that this person does not know what my qualifications are for critiquing theater or bringing attention to an acting/directing issue since they said I am not qualified to do so. Hmmm. It is true that I do not hold a degree in theater but I did study acting, dance, movement and voice for twelve years in Richmond, Boston (theater major at BU) and DC. I have acted professionally in plays, industrials, television and film and have taught acting in Arlington, Va. I have produced several shows (locally the Byrd Theatre Christmas Shows, "Red Badge" for Randy Strawderman and "Austin's Bridge. With my husband and another business partner ran the largest theatrical scenery shop in the Washington area for five years with clients like Ford's Theater, The Washington National Opera Company, The Miss Universe Pageant, The MTV Awards, Fourth of July at the Capitol, etc. I am also licensed to teach theater arts in Virginia - so at least the State Board of Education thinks I am qualified to do something with my training for what that is worth. Some of my local acting instructors are still active or were once active in Richmond Theater ie: Una Harrison, Bruce Miller, Phil Whiteway, Al Flannagan (Ford's brother) and the late Kim Strong. Not least of all I have seen hundreds of shows all over the world. I go to New York about once a year but frequent theaters like Studio, Source and Woolly Mammoth in DC. I also try to go to as many shows as I can here in Richmond. So if one needs to have a degree to be considered knowledgeable or valid in theater/acting/directing/set design/etc please don't tell all those wonderful acting hopefuls who have signed up for classes at Firehouse, Comedy Sprotz, SPARC or Richmond Shakespeare that you do not consider their training valid because they are not getting theater degrees at University. As for me? Well you will make your own judgement.

Mary B.

PS. I also discovered the spell check today! Yippy!


Anonymous said...

You are an immensely qualified and respected theatre person and critic. In the day to day scheme of things, critics don’t give notes, they give well formed opinions. So you stepped out of the box with your post. That’s ok. Imaginary hackles got imaginarily raised. Gut reactions may have included “I don’t yell, get off my back” and “I’m not dysfunctional.” The dysfunctional family theory was broad and unsupported. To twist a phrase, each dysfunctional family is dysfunctional in their own way. They don’t all yell. So that’s two potentially visceral blows to your readership, putting them on the defensive. And the mission you set forth of improving the craft in our fair city may have sounded grandiose to some, considering it could be taken as a given that that’s everybody’s goal. Finally, because you are a critic, potentially strange things could happen – it’s unlikely, but what if an actor knows you are coming to the show one evening. “Don’t yell” might get in their head in a weird way.

Yes, teach; study, at whatever level, its just letters behind a name. But I think acting study is really only possible in a classroom stage, or in production, not online.

If the same topic was addressed as “What’s up with all the yelling?” asking for some actual discussion of the topic with some humor thrown in instead of sounding so pedantic, I think you would have had a different response.

Curious, why do you believe in gender distinction (actors and actresses)? There’s another topic for you!

Anonymous said...

And because of you Mary...we now have a new shirt crazy sweeping the city! I got mine today!

Anonymous said...

That would be "craze"! Please no one yell at me! You all know I can't spell!

Anonymous said...

I walked out of Barksdale's recent Odd Couple production. One of my favorite leading actors yelled during the entire first act. It hurt to listen to. I was shocked that the director allowed this. The yelling broke all credibility of the relationship the two leading charaters were trying to set. Especially in such a small space. Ouch. That's my opinion, anyway. Obviously the continued sold out crowd disagreed with me. So there's a "what's up with the yelling?" example that I for one just didn't "get".

Angelika HausFrauSki said...

Love for you, Mary. I personally don't give a crap what your credentials are in this regard because I didn't think your comments applied to me. I'm an actor who often gets scolded for being too quiet or "film"-ish. :)

And even if I did...I don't do it for the reviews. I do it because it's a job that I love doing and feel pretty competent at doing. And I was never really good at desk jobs. :)

I have fibromyalgia and often receive advice from people who aren't members of the medical community on how to treat my illness. Though it's annoying and intrusive at times, I always just take it in the nature in which it is intended.

I personally find your frankness refreshing, whether I always agree with it or not.

Dave T said...

And my chief qualifications for being a theater critic's see...well, I know a lot of nifty adjectives!

Anonymous said...

...and you're cute and you like my boobs on stage. That's all the qualifications I need baby!

Dave T said...

Let's be clear, Jacquie -- I'd like your boobs anywhere!

Robinitaface said...

This is for everyone - It's not your list of credentials, it's what you do with them.

I'll quote Barack Obama:

"Nobody had a longer resume than Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, and that hasn't worked out so well."

Regardless of your political views, "Acting 101" views, opinions about critics, whatever...please play nice, talk to each other, and make good choices.

Love, Miss.

blogva said...

Hey Jaquie,

What does your shirt say? The only shirt I thought I inspired recently is one with art spelled out in big red letters.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mary. It's a shirt that Robert T. made for us in an effort to find humor among the 60 or so comments regarding your yelling blog. Go back to your post and find his post with the web address. The shirt is hilarious! I wore it proudly this past weekend!

Andrew Hamm said...


You wrote, "It is hopefully assumed that a critic has some level of competency in the area in which they are critiquing." I don't think that's quite true. From my perspective, that's not as important as "It is hopefully demonstrated that a critic has some level of competency in the area in which they are critiquing."

Richmond has a history of theatre critics who were barely qualified to read a play with competency and insight, much less view and review one. These are some very nice people, and even some good writers, but when a review is published that is massively ignorant of vital theatrical detail, it skews the perception of potential audience members. For me at least, my interest in reviews is less for self-satisfatction than it is about getting the best publicity we can get. The Times-Dispatch has taken to running theatre reviews next to obituaries, and Style is regularly publishing reviews two weeks into the run, long after they can do the most good. So please pardon us if we're very defensive about our reviews. They mean a lot.

Anonymous said...

Mary I think you have no reason to be a critic for Richmond Theater! It's like you hate every production that comes out and I think you just hate Richmond theater all together!