In his latest post over at the Barksdale Blog, Mr. Miller makes an interesting point about the economic impact of a good review in the Times-Dispatch. It’s something I’ve heard before though I’ve never seen it laid out in such specific dollar amount terms.
Given the impact a critic can have, you might expect that they get delusions of grandeur or somehow take advantage of their position. My perspective – which is unquestionably biased – based on my interaction with critics in general, and Ms. Haubenstock specifically, is that they take their responsibility very seriously and tend to be as generous in their opinion as possible while remaining honest. I think Richmond theater is well-served by Susan’s even-handed point of view, her modest disposition and her manifest love of theater.
What is a bit surprising to me is that in some quarters critics are still viewed as some kind of pariah – or at best maybe a necessary evil. I’ve personally received at least two screeds in the past several months that put forth that perspective and I’ve heard interviews with a couple playwrights (Bill Davis and none other than Edward Albee) that seemed to tow that line. There are certainly critics whose style or perspective consistently annoys me (ex.: initials of D.N.), but I’ve never questioned their utility, or in fact, their necessity. One of the reasons sites like Epinions.com are so popular is that people want to know what they’re spending their money on. People check Consumer Reports when they’re buying a toaster; you don’t think they want some insight before plunking down $30 for a show?
One of my detractors most eloquently stated recently, “what critics do is fart after eating a meal prepared by someone else.” Maybe it’s just gas, but clearly some folks value what we say (or at least what Susan says!).