The snickers were all over the Facebook and Twitter feeds of theatre critics yesterday after they came across a press release from the production company of Strut & Fret. In what appears to be a last-ditch attempt to get some kind of publicity — any kind of publicity, really — for The Tie That Binds (scroll down; it’s listed under “Box 3″) at Brooklyn’s Gallery Theatre, the producers are offering a $100.00 “reprint fee” for any reviews that they excerpt on the show’s Web site:
To qualify, you must (1) have a website (which may be a print medium’s online site) on which you exclusively or regularly post theatre reviews; (2) post a review of The Tie That Binds currently in its final week at the Gallery Players Black Box Festival; (3) notify the producers by email at email@example.com with a link to your review at the time of publication; and (4) agree to permit the producers, should they request to do so, to reprint, publish, and post your review — or an excerpt of approximately 450 words approved by you — online with proper credit to you as author, all other rights reserved to you. All reviews must identify playwright Rebecca Sue Haber, director Heather Arnson, and producers David Watson and Strut & Fret, Inc. Reviews posted before 9:00 a.m. EDT Saturday, June 16 will be eligible for a $100 reprint fee if selected for reprint. Reviews posted after that time but on or before Saturday, June 30 will be eligible for a $65 fee if selected for reprint.
One or two of those in-the-know noted that at least the fee the company offers is “competitive” compared to those offered by mainstream press outlets for freelance reviews. It’s almost enough to make me want to take up reviewing again (reprint rights are still available for all of these) — a Franklin is a week’s worth of groceries!
So long as we’re on the subject, there is a notable essay by Jonathan Abarbanel at the Web site for Chicago’s public radio station WBEZ, which is hosting a conversation about theatre criticism this morning on their Eight Forty-Eight program. Abarbanel concisely states:
The difference between mere opinion and criticism is knowledge based on continuing study and research, and discrimination based on diverse and continuing experience. Criticism is personal opinion, but it is supposed to be informed opinion, perhaps even erudite opinion on occasion. This applies to any field of endeavor, and my particular field happens to be theater. …
Over the long haul, the best service a critic can render the public is consistency of perspective. Those who follow a critic over a period of time easily should come to know if he/she is liberal or conservative, pro-choice or anti-abortion, religious or not, a fan of Mozart or rap, vegan or omnivore, pro-military or anti-war (although one can be both) and so on. From this, an individual reader or listener can make up his/her own mind about a particular production.
I’m not so sure I’d go as far as that. Whether I prefer steak tartar or mashed yeast, Obama or Romney, Bach or Justin Bieber may be just beside the point when it comes to a discussion of drama or theatre. But certainly, over time, a distinct critical perspective must become clear — whether I prefer straight drama or musical, experiment or tradition, O’Neill or Odets, and especially whether I can knowledgably express my reasons for it — that I know what I’m talking about. Yes, from even this (and eschewing ideological debate), an individual reader can make up his or her own mind about a particular production.