Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wednesday Quickie -- In defense of critics

My fellow blogger/playwright, Kyle, posted this funny item about "Angries" or critics who fuel up on free wine and then confront the playwright with cutting, suicide-inducing, on-the-spot reviews.

I don't think critics should ever engage in such poor behavior, but I will say this: I can somewhat understand the temptation to do so.

Though, many artists prefer to paint critics as bitter wannabes who can't do abd therefore they criticize others, this is, in most cases, I think, not true. During my short stint as a theater critic, when I gave very bad reviews, it wasn't out of jealousy or general animosity on my part, it was because the play was bad.

And as a theater critic, you have to see a lot of bad plays, which after the initial thrill of seeing theater for free wears off, makes you angry. And as time goes by, you start kind of hating any playwright that subjects you to works that are tedious, boring, self-indulgent, self-important, deeply unfunny, mastabutory and a bunch of other ugly adjectives that I'm sure, I too, could throw in the face of a playwright if I got drunk enough. Because this playwright has not only wasted my time, but also has no reason to live, and I don't get paid enough to have sit through such drivel.

Same goes for when an otherwise good play is ruined by a over-directing, over-acting, or just an over-terrible production.

In many ways, paying for plays is much preferrable to being a critic, because at least you can walk out. Until you've been forced to endure and stay awake through a bad play that clocks in at over 2 hours, don't presume to understand the critic's motivation.

You know how some vets have a hatred for war that goes way beyond the run-of-the-mill anti-war person's hatred for war, and sometimes gets them arrested? They'll tell you that's because they've seen a lot of bad shit while out in the trenches.

Same goes for theater critics, because for the most part the job is sitting through bad plays and reporting back to consumers as to whether they should see it or not. That's also why they tend to cream all over a playwright in print when the play is actually good.

So dearest playwrights, please don't take it personally when a critic lambasts you in writing. or much more inappropiately, in person. It's not you. It's your play. And it's set off someone's PTS.

Besides, I notice that no one ever complains when a critic, hopped up on cheap wine, gushes all over a playwright -- which is also inappropriate.

Hope this helps,
etc (the former critic)

P.S. -- See why I don't do criticism anymore? It makes you kind of harsh. I think my blood pressure actually went up while writing that piece.

P.S.S. -- As a recovering critic, I've since learned to appreciate art for art's sake and now actually enjoy seeing someone fail well -- especially if it seems like they were really putting some effort into it. Long live art!

P.S.S.S. -- Please come be part of my ongoing recovery. You can check out my latest directorial effort at The Quickie, and perhaps confront me angrily with your criticism afterwards. Click on the pic for details and tickets.

1 comment:

Kyle said...

I have similar reactions as an Ovation voter. I gotta sit through some tired mess, believe me.

And that Pittsburgh production of Kiss of the Spider Woman I had to review for the paper still upsets me. I just remember running into Caden and Ryan and watching them happily leaving at intermission as I went back inside for the 2nd 1.5 hours....