I’ve been slightly mute here in my blog lately as I’ve been focusing my writing on all things theatre. For one, my theatrical co-conspirator Elenna (of Limehouse) has had me researching the impact social media and other stage technologies on contemporary theatre practitioners for a Zine she is publishing. Those who work with me at the recording studio are familiar with my totally dorky Weekly Downbeat contributions (our in-house newsletter). I'm also reading scripts in consideration for production in next summer's Womens Center Stage festival in NYC (thank you, Manda!). What I have been most frightened and consumed by, however, is my new foray into theatrical journalism under the guise of theatre reviewer for the online publication LATheatreReview.com.
One might ask, why be terrified of writing about the medium you love? Well, if you’re a self-reflexive person like myself, there is plenty to worry about.
For example, I'm wary of the merit of any criticism regarding the performing arts. As Liz Lerman explains in her article "Towards a Process for Critical Response" (a great read for any performer, thanks to Vanessa Mercado Taylor for that one), when an audience is asked for their response, what follows if often reflective of their own personal bias' and expectations. Rather than serving the piece of work, a critic often toots their own aesthetic horn, and what good is that in an artistic environment in which diversity is vital? Which brings me to my next point - why the hell should anybody listen to me? Whilst I've made a hearty effort to see theatre in every city I've lived/couch-surfed in, my experiences in New York, London, Cleveland, Prague, and LA have barely scratched the surface of the theatrical canon, let alone all of the less traditional fare I'm so fond of. My media criticism minor and BFA in theatre performance, while conducive to theatre-criticism, hardly give me the street cred of my NY Times or even LA Stage blog peers. And let's not even remind myself about the fear of disparaging my good (if not hard to pronounce) name in a town where I need all the theatrical allies I can get.
All of these things almost stopped me from enjoying my newest dalliance, or at least almost had me taking on a pen name (thank you for your wonderful, yet-to-be-disclosed-in-case-I-need-it suggestion, Mr. Cleaver) until I remembered just what I loved about the theatre - the immediacy, the lack of censorship, and the conversations it can start within a community. As I wrote in my thesis, and have felt strongly for quite some time, Theatre (big T) is a medium whose continuation is vital to a hyper-mediated society. Real people in real time enjoying shared narratives can help ease the interpersonal divide. If I want the theatre to continue to evolve and thrive, I need to be an active participant in the dialogue surrounding it (read The Guardian theatre blog's call for public intellectuals writing on the theatre here).
As Los Angeles newspapers continue to cut staff they reduce critical dialogue and cut valuable print space that was once devoted to the communities cultural activity. Theatres big and small feel the pinch (see NPR), but dedicated community members (used to years of being thrifty in their own theatres) have turned to action.
Thus was the humble beginnings of the publication I write for - they simply wanted to create another forum for theatrical discussion for smaller theatres in LA, even if it was a low-budget website. I wanted experience practicing critical thought within the medium I love, as well as the excuse to go check out the many various theatre companies in town doing challenging, exciting, thought-provoking work. Hey - every writer has to start somewhere. What better place than an indie upstart site 6 months before the cities first fringe festival?
If you want to learn more about LATheatreReview.com, check out the website here.
LA Theatre Review is looking for more writers! Visit the site for more information; writing sample required. If you would like your small theatre production reviewed, contact Editor@LATheatreReview.com.