Next Thursday, I’ll be seeing “Fully Committed” at Hanover Tavern. I just checked my geeky little spreadsheet where I keep track of company schedules and various other details and noted that it’ll be the 40th distinct local professional theater production I’ve seen between September 2008 and August 2009.
I say “distinct” because I saw Stage 1's “Children’s Letters to God” at least 4 times, maybe 5. I saw Theatre IV’s “Annie” twice all the way through and other additional snippets during its run.
I say “local” because I saw “Oliver!” in Charlottesville 3 times and “South Pacific” in NYC, just once.
I say “professional” because I saw two VCU productions, an exceptional CYT show and a few endearing school plays.
And I also saw a few shows that I don’t exactly know where they fall along these various spectra (is the Playhouse at Fort Lee local? Is it professional? I don’t honestly know either answer.)
So if you add it all up, I can pretty confidently say that I saw, on average, one play a week this past year. Out of all of those productions, I wrote 20 reviews. (I also wrote an indeterminate number of features and interviews, maybe 8 or 10?) This leads me to make a few comments:
People wonder – some out loud, some just to themselves I’m sure – what qualifies me to be a critic. If I was lost in a fit of braggadocio, I could maybe outline some journalistic qualifiers. But one of the most important aspects of being a good critic, I think, is seeing a whole bunch of shows. I’ve been doing this for almost 10 years now and so have seen at least 500 distinct local theater productions during that time. Nothing has given me as much perspective on the range of talent and skill available here in Richmond or versed me as well in the differences between just a good show and a truly amazing one.
I’m realizing slowly but surely that this level of viewership is unsustainable for me. A couple of years back, I was going to fewer plays because I was writing fewer reviews but this past year, because of my son’s activities and because of the whole Critics Circle awards thing, I’ve been seeing more shows. And I am regularly encouraged / invited to see the ones I’ve missed. I can’t keep it up. There’s simply not enough nights in the week or hours in the day.
I’m really lucky. Not many people get to see so much theater. And fewer get paid to do it. If seeing theater and writing about it paid enough to feed my family, I’d do it as my sole vocation (maybe). And whether the number of shows I see diminishes or not, I’ll never stop going. Theatre is simply too much fun.