Three Things That Should Change about Theater Critics.

I have recently been listening to pod casts by Ken Davenport. He invites a professional in to his studio and asks them questions such as how they got in the business, what keeps them going, what kind of training they received etc. I haven’t listened to them in any particular order but the ones I have listened to lately have all made the same point. If they could change anything about the industry–it would be the critics. Now, they each then go on to explain what they mean by that and the specifics are usually different, but the core is the same.

And if you asked me….I might not say that’s the one thing I’d change, but I’d definitely think about it.

Let’s face it–the whole industry is changing a little. And believe me, when King Kong starts to visit other towns–it’ll change some more.

Here are the top things professionals want to change about critics:

  1. They would like them to have more diversity in their responses. It seems that things go in cycles of what type of musicals win top favored criticism, and it would be nice if the critics would judge things with a more open attitude. I think I agree with that. Critics, in general, would not favor wholesomeness.  I would plea that being edgy  does not necessarily make it an award-winning presentation.
  2. They wish that critics wouldn’t have the power that they do. I would agree with this point. I recently learned about the sabotaging of a Broadway musical that is really a brilliant show. I do not understand why the critic has the power to make or break a show, but they do seem to have that authority. Because so much is subjective shouldn’t we subjectively read their thoughts and then come to our own conclusion?
  3. They wish that the critic would have a personal relationship with them–almost like an agent. The critic would then champion the play– giving instructive criticism and giving thoughts on how to fix the performance instead of ripping it to destroy. I’m not sure how that could ever happen, but it is an interesting idea.

Maybe we have it all wrong?

Jonathan Mandell said, “Theatre critics can help careers, boost morale, and even aid a creative team in refashioning a show. But they do not exist to inspire or enrage theatre makers.”

I again would like to state that I believe that theater is changing. In our world of social media there are hundreds of us (myself included) who like to write a review of things they have seen on stage or screen. (look here for past posts:, (review of Frozen and Harry Potter)

In short, there are so many of us who have the ability and drive to go to the theater that you can find information about the show from more people than the professional critic who may or may not have the standards/interests that you do.

My thoughts? There is no amount of money that I can spend that has the same impact as getting a review from the paper. Then, if they can print a picture along with it? It would give a huge impact on my sales. What I can’t stand is that for whatever reason, I cannot seem to attract the interest of a critic or a  paper printing  a review by an audience member. I’m not sure why that is the case, but it vexes me that it is true. I don’t want to give the critic that much power, but I think in my lifetime that will not change.

I will admit,  I do read the critic’s thoughts..both to determine if I want to see something and/or to determine if it’s a show I’m willing to think about producing. Do I always follow their advice? Nope. But it still means something.

Ken Davenport always ends his podcast by asking the interviewees a “genie question”. If they could change one thing about the industry what would it be. Two times in a row the answer was the critics. If he asked me….I think I would change them as well. Not because of what they say…but because it means so much. I wish that could be available for us little guys that are just out here trying to make a difference.

What would you like to see change about the industry? What is your “genie question?”

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Until Next Time!

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