Monday, April 06, 2009

metaDRAMA: Doin' What We Do

So . . . how exactly does one become a theater critic, anyway? (Not that this is exactly the best time in the world to do so.) Education only takes you so far, and unless you're independently wealthy, seeing enough shows to gain "experience" can be difficult, too. It's hard to believe that there's much mentoring going on these days, or that there are apprenticeships. There are things like the O'Neill National Critics Institute or internships with, say, American Theater, but most of those require either funding or the Catch-22 requisite of prior experience. And while Mirror Up To Life points out this great article by Andrew Haydon in The Guardian, it's worth noting that the "Young Critic's Scheme" was an overseas-only collaboration between Time Out and BAC. (As to Haydon's question of whether mentoring threatens to stifle originality in the review format, that really depends on the type of teaching being done, as well as on the inky chains of word counts.) MCC has an excellent youth company, but I have yet to find one that seeks to cultivate criticism, too.

Though I've agglomerated with fellow critic-bloggers at Show Showdown, seen the so-called Blog Critics site, and had the opportunity to weigh in at the elegant Critic-O-Meter, I've never really had this discussion--I'm not sure how to approach critics who have been in the game for a long time. (The few that I have met with were kind enough to reach out, which says a lot about them.) This is something I'm now getting far more serious about at Theater Talk's New Theater Corps, and we hope to start organizing workshops for the members (and to find new ways of reaching and recruiting writers) that perhaps provide moderated discussions, the opportunity to shadow professionals, or just to continue providing basic editorial suggestions.

In other words, the answer to this question is: I don't know. I'm glad that people find this site useful, and I'd call myself a critic, but I don't even know what criticism is turning into, so if there are steps to take, I certainly can't share them. What I can say, however, is that if you're blogging and serious about theater--which was, for me, the first step--you should check out Ken Davenport's "Theater Bloggers Social" (h/t Leonard Jacobs). I think top-down discussion (provocative/thoughtful post leading to colorful commentary) is the format in which we're going (just look at media sites, like Hulu, which append reviews/discussions to every streaming show/movie), and I'm looking forward to the chance to meet more people who do what I do--so that I can figure out where I'm going next.

1 comment:

Jon Sobel said...

How do you become a theater critic? In my case, by saying I was One. I slid on over from being a music critic... which I still am, but less so since getting more and more into covering theater. The rest is just learning on the job...