Thursday, December 22, 2011

Part II: Being Reviewed

Contributed by Guest Blogger of the Week Duncan Pflaster.

I don’t have a problem with bad reviews. The wonder that is the Internet has more than proved “You can’t please everybody”; just think of your favorite movie or book (or a notorious bestseller), then go on Amazon or Rotten Tomatoes. There will always, ALWAYS be some bad reviews of whatever it is. This has helped me to come to terms with my writing- I don’t write to please anyone but myself, and very often the things I like are things that other people like as well, and there will always be haters out there.

I do read reviews during the run of a play, since good reviews are often effective promotional tools when posted on Facebook, Twitter, etc. I can understand performers not reading them, as their performances are a nightly thing, and are therefore susceptible to the taint of criticism, but as a playwright/director my work should be pretty much finished before the lights come up on the show.

It’s nice to get good reviews, and disappointing when one gets bad ones; that’s a part of doing any art that is released to the public. The kind of review I can’t stand is one where the reviewer clearly didn’t pay attention to, or sometimes didn’t even understand the play. My play from 2008, Prince Trevor Amongst the Elephants, was well-received, won some awards, got some excellent reviews (and is now published online at Indie Theater Now).

…And the play also got one absolutely terrible review, in which the reviewer claimed the material was in the style of Charles Busch (it was an homage to Charles Ludlam and said so in the program), made the belittling and homophobic assertion that the work was “more suited to a cabaret stage in a gay bar where this kind of camp is most welcome”, and that it was in the style of Restoration Comedy (it wasn’t, though a wig worn by one character was reminiscent of that); he got several details of the plot wrong, got many of the performers’ names wrong (both in spelling and in ascribing them to the characters they played), claimed that it was tasteless, meaningless, and had no message, and, worst of all, said that the play “isn’t even truly funny”. Fortunately this was in a lesser online publication that very few actually read, so we were able to pretty much ignore it- we didn’t even bother to send in corrections.

It’s this sort of misguided and uncaring review that is truly offensive. It was clear to me that the reviewer decided what the play was before he arrived and only saw what he expected. I will gladly listen to a bad review when the reviewer knows what he or she is talking about. 

I hope this has been interesting for people. I hope to see more great theatre in the new year!

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