It was brought to my attention last week that I was talking about theatre criticism as a collaboration between theatre artist, critic, and spectator without really exploring what that means. I touch on the relationships between these types of people a bit in the article on The Separation of Art and Critic, but I think it might be useful for us to explore this a little more. After all, when you go to the theatre, you’re going to be (at least) one of those three things every time; don’t you think it’s better to know what you’re getting into?Continue reading
This Dark Day Monday I’d like to lean back into a more theoretical query: what is the end of theatre? I’m being deliberately vague (not to mention pretentious) about this question, because it lets me explore a few boring assumptions about theatre in an interesting way. This question has two distinct meanings that I’d like to unpack. Obviously, both questions could be answered, “The answer to that is incredibly personal, and will be different for everyone.” But that’s boring too.
What are community voices, anyway? This is a new section of NOC devoted to giving space to people who normally live in the background of the conversation around art making and art criticism a dedicated place to speak.
I’ve been talking for weeks now about what the critical landscape currently looks like in this country, what the New Ottawa Critics thinks it’s trying to accomplish, and the theory behind that. Now it’s time to talk a bit about how exactly we are hoping to address some of these issues. So this edition of DarkDayMonday is going to have a bit more of a practical focus than usual.
Scarcity culture is the persistent systemic feeling that there’s not enough of something to go around. In theatre, that usually means one of two things. In the first place, usually from the mouths of artists: there isn’t enough audience for their work. In the second place, usually from the mouths of people who consume art: there isn’t enough good art being made.
This week I am going to talk about a rather insidious process I am calling ‘approval creep.’ We’ve touched on something like this before, in a discussion about star ratings, but this part of the conversation is a more constructive (rather than deconstructive) look at the way our particular brand of criticism works (and doesn’t work).
I’ve already written about the ecosystem that has been making (theatre) writers into bloggers. A lot of people complain about this transition, and fall into the timeless trap of glorifying the place criticism has historically occupied. I believe the transition to online criticism actually marks an important opportunity for us all to redefine and re-democratize the art of criticism.
Critics are positioned in a middle ground between the artist and audience, each of whom perceive the critic (in their ideal form) to be in uniquely service to their interests.
From the perspective of theatre creators, the critic is part of their publicity machine. We write reviews principally for the purpose of steering audiences towards or away from their production. This is why such bitterness persists against the star rating system. Regardless of the words the critic writes, only this number exists in the practical discourse around the show.
In a recent article in Exeunt magazine, three theatre critics engage in a long, and poignant discussion about the nature and role of criticality in the theatre and the world at large. I won’t expound upon it, but it is distinctly worth reading here. Instead, I would like to focus on expanding on one point in particular, brought up by Mark Fisher, as he cites Irving Wardle: “Criticism begins with the word because.”
Confession time: I am writing a play. I hope you come see it at the Fringe this summer.
Now that that’s out of the way, I want to address a common misconception about theatre critics and criticism. Namely, that critics speak objectively about the art they critique. Wrapped up with this idea are all sorts of elaborate mental/logical gymnastics, all bent on ensuring the critic’s separation from the art they speak about. This article by Jessica Goldman argues that critics shouldn’t even socialize with artists at opening parties.