Monday, July 05, 2010

metaDRAMA: Everyone's a Critic, *BUT* ...

Reading through although of course you end up becoming yourself, and at first, I was just going to tweet this perfectly sized quote of David Foster Wallace's, but I wanted to expand on it.

"I don't think writers are any smarter than other people. I think they may be more compelling in their stupidity, or in their confusion."

I agree with the essence of that off-the-cuff sound bite. And I think it has an interesting application to the Big Question I face as a critic: what makes me so special, as an audience member, that I should be able to elevate my opinion--educated or not--above Joe the Theatergoer's? Well, first off--I don't feel that way, and as I've said many times before, aggregates are probably more accurate than a single critic. But, just as DFW and his interviewer David Lipsky sort of rally around Pauline Kael's voice, I think there's something to be said for people who seriously write about theater--and think about it--on a daily basis. It'd be nice if they'd practiced the art itself, at some point, just to increase their breadth and experience, but that's not necessary. What's needed is that compelling part that Wallace points out, the part that makes you empathize or at least recognize that there is another viewpoint, something that's especially important when you might otherwise dismiss a show.

There is something compelling about watching the struggle to express something--to translate from a script to the stage and then back, compressed, to the page; at least, I certainly find it fascinating. And the critics I follow are the ones who really seem to wrestle with ideas--people like Matthew Murray. It's when he's confused about a show--but unwilling to outright dismiss it--that his writing is at its best. So yeah, I'm stuck in a ramble, but something about that quote just vibrated through me, and I can't wait to get back to the theater (On the Levee, the Underground Zero festival, PTP/NYC's new season, the Brick's Game Play festival), where I can only hope to be ecstatically confused. (After all, who wants only to see a reflection of what they already know?)

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