Friday, July 13, 2012

Critical Departure

“Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music” opens out at the Tavern tonight. Who wants to take the over/under with me on the number of patrons who are confused because this is not a musical? It sure looks like it’s going to be a fun show though, based on the preview pictures. Who doesn’t love a set dominated by a pick-up truck?

That production is sponsored in part by Altria. As you may have heard, Altria recently sprang for the naming rights to the former Mosque Theatre for $10 million. I’m not sure whatall comes with naming rights but I hope some of that money goes to spiffing up the place. It’s an OK place to see a show I guess, but it also still has a 1960s feel to it in some ways, and I don’t mean in a good way.

One piece of news that may have slipped past some people this week: Susan Haubenstock and her lovely husband are leaving Richmond at the end of the summer, meaning Susie will no longer be writing theater reviews for the Times-Dispatch. Thanks to the Richmond Theatre Critics Circle, I’ve gotten to know Susie a bit and so her departure saddens me personally very much. She is a lovely, generous person who is also clear-headed, intelligent, and charming. Meeting her and finding her so easy and interesting to talk to was one of the main reasons I thought something like the RTCC could even happen. Getting to know her and Mike a little better was one of the best side-benefits for me that came from creating our little group.

But beyond my personal feelings, I am also very sorry her voice will be missing from local theater commentary. Susie’s knowledge of theater springs from an earnest love of the art form and it seems to me that her criticism always starts out from that place. In her 10 years here, she not only saw literally 100s of local productions but traveled regularly to Washington DC and New York to see shows there. Her perspective has been forged by many hours seeing both the best and worst ends of the theatrical spectrum. I always found her criticism to be concise and engaging, not too flowery or effervescent. She has always given the benefit of the doubt to local productions but has not shied away from sharper criticism when warranted. I don’t remember her ever being mean.

Susie and I haven’t always agreed on shows but some of my favorite conversations have been with her, debating the pros and cons of different productions. I have great respect for her insight and more than once I’ve read one of her reviews and thought, ‘she made that point better than I did.’ The declining number of column inches given to critical content in print media has constricted all of us reviewers. Susie always made the most out of the space she was given.

So long, Susie, I will miss you. And everyone else, be prepared for a new (if perhaps not unfamiliar) byline in the T-D’s reviews down the road a piece.


ziegfeldgirl said...

Thank you for posting this very sad news about the departure of Susan Haubenstock. I, too, have greatly appreciated her reviews, which were extremely perceptive, well-informed, and fair -- not to mention darned good reading. I never had the pleasure of meeting her personally, but the interesting, intelligent voice that consistently came through in her work made me feel as if I had.

philcrosby said...

Susie will be missed. She is a passionate, devoted, caring member of our artistic community, and we are all a bit better because she was here. I will miss that beaming face on Opening Nights!!

Don Harrison said...

Good luck to Susan as she heads out the door. She'll be much missed.

Sunshine said...

Much luck to Susan and her family. I will certainly miss her reviews. Thanks so much for the heads up!