Friday, December 26, 2008

2008 - The Data

Next week, I'll roll out my "Best of 2008" list, but I thought it would be interesting to compile some data, aggregating myself as a critic (especially since I'm occasionally excerpted on Critic-O-Meter). This is your chance to get a better idea for my preferences, and to check out my archives, which I have spent the last week comparatively grading and sorting for your convenience (and, hopefully, interactivity). So, from the 2008 Archives:

Unmissable (Six Star) Shows Seen: 13
Excellent (Five Star) Shows Seen: 29
Recommended (Four Star) Shows Seen: 40
Decent (Three Star) Shows Seen: 60
Flawed (Two Star) Shows Seen: 58
Awful (One Star) Shows Seen: 27
Unredeemable (Zero Star) Shows Seen: 12
Workshops/Unreviewed Shows Seen: 12
Total Plays Seen In 2008: 251

This data is more or less consistent with what I've said about my own criticism: I'm looking to defend the downtown scene, but not at the cost of my integrity. That is, I'm looking to find decent things to say (and I succeed 57% of the time), but even failing that, there's still usually something positive about the show. For those reading between the lines, the shows that hit the low end or high end of the scale are pretty serious (and evenly distributed, with fives balancing ones and sixes balancing zeroes); I don't throw raves or bashes around.

However, take these statistics with a grain of common sense: although I saw a great number of shows, I didn't pick them at random. Think of reading blurbs as you would of counting cards: you can go with your gut, or you can give yourself an edge. Of course, you still need to take risks, or you'll never be surprised by anything, and that's where reviews and word of mouth can help. This is why, in the film Ratatouille, the critic's anagnorisis is that his duty is not to bash, but to find the "new" and to defend and promote it; this is why I tend to avoid revivals and busy myself with premieres (and, in turn, why I've seen so little Broadway this year).

Should you think that things are skewed because I mostly walk downtown (two of every three shows I see are off-off), note that it still breaks up evenly:

Number of Broadway shows seen (from six-star to zero and the total): 1, 2, 1, 4, 2, 2, 0 = 11
Number of Off-Broadway shows seen: 6, 9, 9, 16, 13, 6, 3 = 61
Number of Off-Off Broadway* shows seen: 6, 18, 30, 40, 43, 19, 9 = 165
(N.B. Off-Off-Broadway refers to theaters with under 100 seats and to anything performed for a limited-run festival, like Under the Radar or the Fringe, regardless of venue.)

When you factor in the average cost of tickets for these venues, you're better off checking out the off-off-Broadway scene (particularly during festivals), especially if you're looking for six-star performances (the only Broadway one to make the cut was Passing Strange, which started off-Broadway). Some people would swear by Gypsy and South Pacific this season, and having not seen them, I can't argue with their beauty, but--I won't lie to you--I'm looking for something more substantial in my diet, no matter how well-prepared.

But that's where my curiosity takes me--if any of you are interested in a specific breakdown of the data, just let me know. We can all learn from our habits; what are yours?

1 comment:

Esther said...

It's interesting. I don't get to New York that often, so I like to see as much of what's new on Broadway as possible. But I do find that increasingly, there's a lot off-Broadway, like Black Watch, that I find very tempting. I'm really glad I saw it, and I wish I could have seen more off-Broadway, including Farragut North. Next year, I'd like to see a production of Our Town that's coming off-Broadway. I don't think I've seen anything off-off yet, but if I lived closer to New York, I definitely would try to see as big a variety as possible of what's out there. I mean, that's the great thing about New York - whatever kind of art you're interested in, there's a limitless number of choices. Why limit yourself to one type of venue?