Thursday, October 22, 2009

Other People’s Writing

Joe Inscoe has written what I consider an extremely insightful and articulate comment in response to Bruce Miller’s recent post on “Shining City.” It’s an interesting piece of perspective from someone who’s played many places, has many years of experience, and who is a thoughtful, intelligent guy in addition to being a great actor. Worth checking out.

Speaking of insight, I was recently directed to Angela Lehman’s blog, The People’s Snob, specifically to check out her response to the conversation recently here and at the Barksdale Buzz about critics and their role in the artistic process.

I love everything about Angela’s post. In particular, I found two exceptional nuggets near the end:

1) “Of those 240,000 people, several thousand of them have never even heard of your organization/group/company.”

I am regularly amazed by how often I come in contact with people – longtime Richmond residents – who have either never heard of Barksdale or Theatre IV or only have a vague idea that they do kid’s shows or something. Barksdale/Theatre IV is among the biggest arts organizations in the state and some people here don’t know it exists. And Firehouse, Triangle Players or Henley Street? Forget it.

2) “Richmonders, if you ever think you've gotten a bad review, you need to stay the heck out of New York City”

Amen, sister. When I received a fairly infuriated email in response to my review of “Normal” at Stage 1 last spring, I looked up the New York Times review of the show (I offer the following NOT to drag up any old, bad feelings but to provide material support to Ms. Lehman’s statement).

Here are the most negative phrases from my review (read the whole thing here if you like):

“...Stage 1’s enthralling and frustrating new musical, ‘Normal.’”

“…too much of the story concerns the tribulations of the clichéd Freeman parents, with two excellent actors constricted by characters that never seem to reach an epiphany.”

I end the review with what I thought was a moderately supportive statement:

“'Normal’ has had only one other production off-Broadway and, while not perfect, it is the kind of challenging new show not usually seen in Richmond. That alone makes it worthy of a look.”

Here are the most negative phrases from the New York Times review:

“[‘Normal’] is both awful and not much fun.”

“[T]his ill-conceived show is such a grueling misfire that it puts the audience in the painful position of hoping that poor Polly will either croak or eat a Ho-Ho so we can all go home.”

‘Nuff said?


Anonymous said...

"Nuff said?" What's that suppose to mean? Once again, it SOUNDS like, "There. That's MY opinion, and it's the only one that matters. End of discussion."

Andrew Hamm said...

OR, it sounds very much like, "The evidence in the excerpts clearly and convincingly makes my point enough that eNUFF has been SAID on the matter."

Clearly it's NOT the end of the discussion, or your comment wouldn't have been posted. It would actually BE a discussion if you would take the point being made in the above post and have something constructive instead of simply negative and dismissive to say.

And technically it's his blog. His opinion IS the only one that matters.

Reviews in the big markets are often snarky, hurtful and just plain mean for the sake of creating controversial readability. The smaller markets like Richmond involve more courtesy and support from the critical circle (for the most part). That's the point being made. It's a pretty obvious one.

Anonymous said...

"Reviews in the big markets are often snarky, hurtful and just plain mean for the sake of creating controversial readibility."

Hmmm - not really. Reviews in the big markets are written by experienced theater critics who have the guts to tell the truth, and not sugar-coat everything. If they don't like something, they say so honestly. If it comes off as mean, it's because it's honest, and some people can't handle that. Of course it's good to be supportive and and courteous. But let's be honest - not everything in Richmond is wonderful. And I have yet to ever read a review by any critic that says "so and so show is truly terrible - don't waste your time and money to go see it." Maybe we need a little less niceness, and a little more truth. HOWEVER, the truth of one person is not necessarily the truth of someone else. What one critic/audience member enjoys, another will not.

All this being said, the Critic's Circle Awards are a fabulous, feel-good event, and it's great to recognize talent and hard work in the Richmond community.

And this IS Dave's blog. And his opinion matters, and I respect it.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hamm-
Whaaa??? You're writing in circles. If enough has been said on the matter, why post the excerpt in the first place? And am I to understand that only something constructive (or in agreement) makes a conversation? What is negative or dismissive in saying what someone says is sounding like? If anyone's blog is the only opinion that matters, write a book. If you open the forum to discussion, that's what you'll get. Not everyone has to be a cheerleader like you to respond. And not everyone who does is going to agree with everything that's said.

Andrew Hamm said...

Not gonna hijhack, but I've written more on this subject at my blog.