Monday, April 12, 2010

In review

Once I was just a little girl with a dream. A dream of being a princess. And an astronaut. And an astronaut princess. I knew I’d have to work hard to achieve my dream, because I didn’t know any princes, and was never terribly good in astronaut studies. But I did my best. And yet, I did not achieve my dream.

Alas, I became a writer, instead.

Trying to fulfill dreams and failing doesn’t seem to stop some folks, though, from continuing to pursue them. Even if they lack the talent required to be truly good at that which their hearts desire.

For instance, there’s this blogger. Let’s call him BB. BB wanted to be an actor, so he was active in community theater. He wasn’t very good, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing his dream. Then, he changed direction. “I think I’ll be a critic,” BB said. So he started a blog.

See, folks, you don’t have to be talented or even know how to correctly form an engaging sentence to get an audience on the Web. You just have to sign up for an account at

And that’s what BB did.

To say that he lacks finesse would be a gross understatement. To say that he doesn’t know the first thing about theatrical criticism would be another. To point out that he obviously is a throwback to the golden days of monospace type is blatantly obvious, as he insists on double spacing between every sentence. (This should provide a clue as to how “professional” he is, in case his uber-snarky 14-year-old-girl-with-a-slam-book delivery doesn’t do the trick.) But the real issue is his structure. He works through the show, character by character, constantly telling readers what he wrote in his notes.

The first rule of journalism is “show, don’t tell.” Don’t tell me what you wrote in your notes. If I gave a good God damn, I’d just ask to read your notes. Explain. Don’t tell me that an actor “never invests himself into the performance”; explain why that’s your opinion. And for the love of all that’s good and holy, do not criticize a teenaged actor portraying a teenaged character for needing “more time to mature as an actor.” At least not until the universe stops giving roles to Miley Cyrus. The teenager in question, while not perfect, gave a realistic portrayal of the angst of growing up.

To put it mildly, BB has no earthly idea how to write a review.

Would you let just anyone perform surgery on you, just because he or she had a scalpel? Get in an airplane piloted by someone who merely had a deep desire to fly? Probably not. You’d want to know that they had the education and credentials to carry out these tasks without incident.

Now I’m not saying that reviewing theater is a life or death situation. What I am saying is, if we’re going to take someone seriously, we should at least expect them to know more about the subject than we do. We should require them to be educated, write in a manner that is both fair and consistent, and entertain us. BB’s review is perhaps entertaining, but only to the lowest of his readership - those also willing to blindingly tear apart the cast, crew and staff of the show he most recently reviewed without any thoughtful analysis whatsoever.

I understand that any single review is also simply one person’s opinion, but unless you actually know how to write theatrical criticism, I won’t be taking you seriously. Dearest BB, I found your review to be froth with errors. Like that one; what you mean is “fraught.” But that’s okay. You can leave the actual writing to the actual writers.

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