Blogs of Fury, Part Two

Now, to address the hot button issue from David Cote’s Time Out New York Blog

5. Bloggers should flame –

That’s not what we’re here for. We aren’t here to talk about how much everyone else sucks, or how much we suck. We can’t grind axes on these pages, we just can’t, and the truth is, we absolutely shouldn’t.

That’s not to say we can’t begin to instruct each other on what works, but we have to establish a language to do that. It’s beginning to happen on various blogs, we’re starting to discuss not the *quality* of what has been produced, but the *effectiveness*, and that’s an entirely different thing.

I’ve mentioned on here before that there are a few things that turn me off in live theater, but these things are pet peeves. I don’t like stage violence very much because it either looks fake or it looks real, and the real stuff makes me worried for the actors. I don’t like nudity for the same reason.

But there’s no point to that in a blog, the point would be to discuss the effective *use* of stage combat or nudity, or whatever other tool the team is using. There is a red special focused upstage right… do I know why? Does it help with the story? The entire cast is twenty years younger than the roles call for… why? Is there a point being made?

I read a review of “Music Man” at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where they talked about the non-traditional casting of Marian as a black woman. The fact that she was a black librarian in the middle of Iowa at the turn of the last century actually FEEDS the story, it expands it.

This is what blogs can do that reviewers (save the example above) tend not to. We can do long form conversations about what and why. I can tell you how much I loved Matt Freeman’s Glee Club, but better than that, I can keep talking about it, I can keep tearing apart the performances and the script cues, I can re-visit it and, even better, Matt can explain or defend or even say, “I didn’t plan that, it just worked, but now that I know that can happen, I’m gonna use it next time…” That’s because we can write on each other’s blogs, he can use HIS blog to tear apart and rebuild *my* play, and on and on.

A critic has a responsibility to his or her audience to let them know what they’re getting themselves in to. That includes, I believe, taking each production as its own entity, while not completely ignoring its context. Mr. Cote was incredibly kind to our Fringe show in 2007, but seemed continually shocked that it was in the festival. We’ve now had four shows in the festival, we *belong* here because we *are* here.

A theater blogger’s responsibility is to our work as a tiny lever in our community’s culture. We owe our criticism to one another, and, only to the extent that we are also one another’s audience, the audience. We won’t get anywhere tearing in to each other, getting our backs up and using our blogs to defend the work, which, in the final say, has to stand on its own regardless of what we say. We don’t owe each other our ire. We have a responsibility, instead, to further the conversation.