Picking up where I left off on Monday, I’d like to address something Isaac brought up: reviewers reading the script of a play they’re reviewing before they go see it. This is both a good and a bad idea, I think. On the good side, there is much potential for discerning, as Isaac pointed out, “how much of what’s going on is based on choices…made vis-a-vis bringing the script to life on the stage.” (Which also ties back to what Matt wrote about directors being choice makers and problem solvers.) On the bad side, there exists the very real possibility that reading the script beforehand will blind the viewer to the production on stage in favor of the one already created in his or her head. I don’t think there’s any way one can read a script without doing this to some degree. Which can be very beneficial for anyone who’s working on the production. But, for a reviewer to attempt this with a new play, I think, is ultimately very dangerous.
Then, there’s the whole matter of reviews as marketing. As a former producer myself, I understand the need for a good pull-quote. But, reviewing, in and of itself, is not a marketing technique. Theatre reviewers certainly don’t think of their work as such; producers do. Which is as it should be. But, to think of reviews only in those terms is perhaps a little reductive. Yes, it’s true, a review is only one person’s experience of a given production. But, it’s an experience that theatre artists could potentially learn something from. If the artists look to the audience as their ultimate constituency, then I think they need to include reviewers in that, as well, because reviewers are audience members, too. Isaac hit the nail on the head when he said that “we absolutely cannot look to reviews for any kind of validation.” Definitely not. An artist must validate themselves first, before anyone else tries to do it for them. But, I do believe that theatre artists can (and should) look to reviews to gauge their measure of success.
Reviewing is an imperfect art (or science, depending on how you want to look at it), just like many others. But, I think if it’s approached in a healthy way, it can turn into a conversation between the artist, the reviewer, and the audience that benefits all three. I know I’ve already grown as a reviewer just from having this particular conversation here on the blog, and I’m grateful to Isaac, Don, Matt, and everyone who commented for helping me do that.