So in ’05, when I was still pretty new to the Yay Area, I saw a play that left me grumpy. Some nice work onstage, but I couldn’t be down with why they even wasted the time for a real museum piece of a script, produced in an irrelevant, imitative fashion (when it could have used some active adaptation).
I reviewed it here on the blog. Then, I met and became quite friendly with one of the women who produced the play–it seemed like she might be connected to potential teaching gigs. Plus I really liked her as a person. So I went back to my blog and deleted the entry. Because I don’t like to hurt my friends’ feelings.
This has happened many times. Not that I delete an entry, but that I choose not to write it. If someone doesn’t ask my opinion, I don’t give it, which I believe to be meet and seemly. But my blog is for me, and for my readers who are interested in what I have to say, and I stay pretty shy of reviews when a play is mediocre, or bad, or makes me angry.
This points to a bigger problem, I think, which is the lack of honest criticality here in the Bay Area performing arts community. Perhaps its the loosey-goosey Bay Area, “oh yeah man, I totally see what you were trying to do” thing. Perhaps performing arts folks are too sensitive. Perhaps so much of the work is mediocre that it’s hard to even argue about the ideas. Perhaps people don’t trust each other enough to not be polite.
The latter two seem to be it, more. I feel far more comfortable engaging in a crackling debate with someone whose work and person I like, or at least, respect. But I also don’t feel like challenging the work is welcome. And challenging the work is what needs to happen here.
This doesn’t mean bashing the work. It means challenging. interrogating, pushing other artists (and ourselves) to really get to the core of we’re trying to do as artists and get to the next level as a community.
Of course, perhaps we all need to take lessons in giving constructive feedback.
Oh, to hell with these caveats. My critique does come from a constructive place. So I’m going to start being really honest with people, because fuck it, I’m done with theater anyway.
Also: I am a big believer that a critique, or a review, is not a final word. It’s part of a conversation. I write reviewers back to keep the conversation going. And people are welcome to keep the conversation going with me.