There's been a subject I've been wanting to broach for a while, but haven't really known how best to get into it. For one, it's a potentially slippery thing that could go in all sorts of directions and for another, I'm in an odd situation since I'm "part of the problem" but also have very little true power in terms of changing the situation.
But Andrew Hamm's recent posting on the new RichShakes blog brought it to the fore for me again. That, plus the fact that my lovely son informed me that I am now the company scapegoat at "A Christmas Story" because Style hasn't published a review of the show yet, even though Mary B was at opening night. So somehow, since I hold so much sway at Style (HA!), I'm now being held responsible.
I have many reactions here. One is that I'm happy that among the things my son is getting from his theater experience is an expanded vocabulary; 'scapegoat' isn't a word that comes up in casual conversation around our house. (Also, for any "Xmas Story" people out there reading, I know that this is all in good fun -- RCoop told me that Eric Evans used to be the scapegoat so I am proud to wear the mantle shed from such a noble head...)
The other is to feel defensive on behalf of Style and (in reference to Mr. Hamm's post) any other media outlet that has chosen not to review a show. There are dozens of factors that an editor and publisher have to balance and that determine what shows up in print and what doesn't: number of ad pages, timing of publication, perception of urgency, availability of art, etc. My lovely wife used to be an editor and it could be pretty tortuous at times for her to make cuts one way or another -- not unlike a director having to cast a show and turn down many worthy auditioners.
But on the other hand, I have been oftentimes befuddled and not infrequently angered at the coverage theater receives here, from all the possible outlets. It's ridiculous to have to wade through the obituaries to get to the RTD's theater reviews that seem to never appear in the Flair section anymore where things like movie and music reviews appear. And it's annoying that Style's theater reviews often don't get published until the week the show is closing. And as far as the other alt-media in town, well, theater might as well not exist.
But on the third hand, I have my own little part in this drama and haven't always done all I could do. When I first started reviewing, I wrote more than 50 reviews a year -- I saw a show a week on average! With previews and occasional features, there was usually something theater-related in every single Style issue. Now I see maybe a show a month and it's not even the Arts editor's fault; I just don't have the space in my life to do it. And there have been times that I've rolled my eyes (at least) and downright balked (at most) when I've been asked to, for instance, review "A Christmas Carol" for the 5th time. There are shows I like that I haven't seen twice -- I'm not going to get too excited at my 7th "Anything Goes." As much as I feel sorry some times that Daniel Neman has to review stuff like "Gigli" and "Blade: Trinity," a movie reviewer generally doesn't have to watch anything he doesn't like twice.
I think there is a chicken-egg deal with theater and the media: theater doesn't get much coverage because there's a perception that it's not that popular and it doesn't get any more popular because the media doesn't let people know what's out there (or they put out the wrong stuff -- y'all see the TD's listing of plays from about a month ago in Friday's paper?) From what I hear anecdotally, the media had a great deal to do with the growth of the theater scenes in Chicago and Seattle. Some reviewers yelled loud enough until the audience started noticing -- and then they actually showed up at the shows. So what's the story in Richmond where there is a pretty darn lively professional theater scene, at least two very well respected college theater programs, and you can't even get the papers to review all of the professional mainstage shows?
Like I said, I could talk this issue around in circles and I'm not sure where to go from here. Andrew has expressed his frustration and I think it is a fair point. Anyone else want to chime in?