This is an issue I wish to tackle as a theatre critic in our town recently not only wrote a preview article of a show in which he participated, but then went on to review said show.  I firmly believe that is a line which should not be crossed.  Laura and Mike Clark wrote the following article which addresses that issue as well as the question, “What is the difference between a reviewer and a crtic?”

Our survey asked: What is the purpose of a theater review? According to Edwin Wilson’s The Theatre Experience criticism should answer: “(1) What is Being Attempted? (2) Have the Intentions Been Achieved? and (3) Was the Attempt Worthwhile?” The third question is a more personal question that the first two, but it seems is the one that most people want to know about. But being a more personal question (and answer) a show that I consider to not be worthwhile might be a show that you consider to be very worthwhile. A lot of the feedback we’ve gotten on the site is that we don’t take a stand on shows. That’s a tough request, since I am different from you. One survey response made the distinction between a reviewer and a critic: “To critique the performance of the show presented … not to critique the script itself.” Wilson defines a reviewer as “someone who reports on what has happened at the theater. He or she will tell briefly what a theater event is about, explaining whether it is a musical, a comedy, or a serious play and perhaps describing its plot. The reviewer might also offer an opinion about whether or not the event is worth seeing…. Their work may lack depth and may not be based on critical criteria discussed above.” The critic “attempts to go into greater detail in describing and analyzing a theater event…. The critic also attempts to put the theater event into a larger context, relating the play to a category (nonrealism or realism, for instance). The critic will try to explain how the theater event fits into this framework or into the body of the playwright’s work. The critic might also put the theater event into a social, political, or cultural context.” (Wilson, The Theatre Experience, 10th edition, pp 74-75.) By these definitions, I think that the reviews published on ShowBizRadio.net are done by reviewers, not by critics. A few times Laura and I have gone into deeper analysis on a show, and we receive insults in response. We described in one review last year some problems we heard with the singers’ voices. We received lots of comments that we were flat out wrong. So we hired a vocal coach to see the show and give us an opinion on the singing (not the script or any other technical area, only the singing). They basically agreed with our opinions we published in our review.

Read the whole article here: http://www.showbizradio.net/2009/01/06/survey-results-defining-the-purpose-of-a-theater-review/

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