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March 28, 2011 at 12:36pm

CARV’S WEEKLY BLOG: We're not your audience

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ON THE NATURE OF THEATER CRITICS >>>

I'm about to shoot myself in the foot, Gentle Reader. Wait for it...

Dear directors,

Theater critics are not your audience. You know this. You know you get standing ovations sometimes for shows we turn around and pan, but just as often, we praise productions that fail to recoup your investment. So what gives? Why are our tastes so often different from those of your patrons?

We're a varied lot, we critics, but invariably have two things in common. First, we love theater. We don't just like it, we love it. We're theater people, which means adult content never bothers us. We've heard cuss words and seen body parts live and in person so many times they don't even faze us anymore. Your audience may not be as tolerant. We're either gay or gay-friendly. Your audience may be downright gay-hostile.  The other thing we critics have in common is we're writers, which strongly implies we're also readers. We value wordplay and cleverness over physical shtick. If your audience = Leno, we = Letterman (or, in the case of younger critics, Conan). We're harder to please, but more forthcoming with praise. When we aren't writing about or engaging in theater, we talk about it, endlessly; dear God, our significant others often appear to be thinking, please make him or her stop. But we don't. And whatever abuse we may heap on a show in our reviews--well, I hate to tell you this, but it pales when compared to the salvos we fire against it in conversation. Theater matters to us. We expect you to do a great job. It's IMPORTANT. Your audience? Those folks just want a good time.

We've also seen it all before, meaning the same old theater war horses, so we value novelty more than your audience does. Neil Simon? Been there, done that. Rodgers and Hammerstein? Ho-hum. Martin McDonagh? Bring it on! Meanwhile, your patron base swarms out the door.

We critics don't pay your bills, theater managers. To be excessively frank, I doubt our work has much effect on the size of your houses. You're probably the only folks who read our work consistently, yet you let us in for free and, more often than not, lavish some of your best seats on our pale, flabby backsides. We do you little good at all.

BANG!

...See? I told ya.

So why do you let us in the door? Simple. Because down deep, even when our opinion completely disregards that of your audience, you know we're probably right. And what's more, you know we want you to succeed. We will always prefer to love your show than hate it; I know I speak for every critic in town when I say that. And we hope, Gentle Reader, we all hope--you hope, I hope--our mutual zeal for live performance will someday wash off on a mostly uncaring world. Your patrons are all wonderful people, but they don't seem to reproduce fast enough, do they?

Much love, respect, and compassion,

Your pal and fellow theater addict,

Christian Carvajal

Filed under: Arts, Tacoma, Olympia, Theater,

Comments for "CARV’S WEEKLY BLOG: We're not your audience" (1)

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Billy Plastard said on Mar. 28, 2011 at 1:32pm

What a sweet piece of editorializing, Christian. The output from the Volcano staff just gets better all the time. I'm not a theatre superfan. I do, contrary to your stated position, merely like it, not love it. But, as a music superfan, (not as an official critic, per se) I can absolutely relate to your viewpoint. Since the critic's influence is one of dubious effect, it sort of comes down to keeping the dialogue open so as to engender continued interest/patronage of a given discipline. As silly as this is to say, finding something to write that will fertilize this gene pool, i.e. something positive, keeps the paychecks coming in, if you know what I mean. If critics were all jaded, know it all, seen it all, writers it's possible that before long, there'd be nothing to review. It sounds like you have a good handle on your place in the machine, as you extended an olive branch of appreciation to the creators of the craft you know and love so much. Well done! We need more viewpoints like yours in civil discourse.

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