Thoughts from a Los Angeles Theater Producer

Comunication Breakdown

Posted in Producer Tools, Producer's League by Rick Culbertson on February 8, 2010

It is certainly not news to point out that the theater community in Los Angeles (and around the country, if not the world) has bemoaned the anticipated death of the printed newspaper, because of the implications this death will have on our theater critics. Soon, experienced theater critics will be out of jobs, and arts journalism as we’ve known it will be a thing of the past. 

In addition, it is not earth-shattering news that bloggers are cropping up to fill the void.  The result, as we know, is that we are losing our educated critics– journalists who are trained in the art of reviewing theater, and replacing them with theater enthusiasts who think that if they see enough shows and buy themselves a web domain, it makes them experts.  I think most of us agree that this is an unfortunate turn of events.

In all the discussions that I have read about this issue, however, we as a theater community seem to only focus on that which we can’t control: that the papers are laying off critics, that bloggers will review theater, and that the opinions of these less trained bloggers will dominate the critical landscape of Los Angeles theater, whether we like it or not.  Well, instead of throwing my hands up in the air, I propose two ideas that, in combination with many of my other ideas, could potentially create a much-needed solution.  I will roll out these ideas in my next two blogs:

Idea 1)

We, the artists, producers, creators, etc., need to speak to and listen to our patrons. Directly. Without a blogging middle-man or a self-made critic. By engaging in this dialogue, we will, in fact, be encouraging reviews by bloggers and self-made critics– only the dialogue will be from a place of integrity and education– NOT a free for all for anyone who thinks they know something about theater to adopt an authoritative voice. This dialogue is essential to the life-blood of our theater community. We must not be silent in the face of patron reviews. Rather, we must engage, and talk openly about what makes good theater good and bad theater bad.  (Click here to read this post)

Idea 2)

 The LA Stage Alliance must set up a Professional Theater Panel to classify professional critics as professional critics and bloggers as bloggers.  Combined with a marketing effort directed at theater patrons, a critic with an authorized critic designation from the LA Stage Alliance will be understood by our patrons  as someone who has been vetted by the theatre community. (Click here to read this post)


One Response

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  1. Kevin Saunders Hayes said, on February 10, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Very interesting, and thank you, your article addresses one of my latest concerns.

    Because of blogging, I’ve had to include a clause in the Vox Lumiere rider that states that I must personally meet with any critics at least 30 minutes before show time. This allows me to find out some very important information about the folks coming to review my show – what their personality is, who they blog to, what they blog about, what their readership is interested in, and what their tastes are. Hopefully I can adjust expectations, and perhaps make a suggestion as to whether or not our show might be something their readership would even be interested in.

    It’s a tough and tricky thing to do, as you run the risk of pissing someone off and having them rant away on you anyway.

    Many theaters still subscribe to the of paradigm that reviews will drive people to see a show. This world is long dead. I believe the future of theater is building a core audience of fans and keeping them engaged and excited.

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