Thursday, August 30, 2007

Quick! Before I'm too late!

Look at all this activity!

Goodness gracious, a recap! Everyone wants Chris Jones to review workshops and no one wants George Hunka to review previews. Sorry, was that unnecessarily glib?

I'm trying to settle my ethical compass long enough to figure out exactly where I sit. Rob's vision of Jones as a promoter of Chicago is dead-on; after all, the man's fighting to review a Chicago show before Final Destination: New York. Whether the review is good or bad, it's all gravy for the locals (in general, that is -- Marisa's got the inside scoop on what this situation can mean, good and bad, for the individuals involved). On the other hand, as El Vet Diablo mentions in the comments at Casa de Don, the producers of a show should be able to give reviewers a no-go if it's their prerogative. And a part of me agrees completely that it is fun to see the show give the critic a pass for once instead of the other way around. And the ground is only muddied with Rob's point that the blogosphere is on its way to becoming the alternate (replacement?) for the newsprint critics. But for the most part we're just a bunch of shmucks posting our opinions (which is to say that it ain't our line of biznass, not that those opinions aren't informed). What sort of ethical standard are we to comply to? After all, a show can say no critics, but it can hardly say no posting your opinions online, gentle viewer.

Which brings us to Mr. Hunka, ever the eye of some hurricane or other. George has reviewed Kate Fodor's 100 Saints You Should Know, one of the shows in New York that Chris Jones fought so hard to review in Chicago. George didn't like it so much. George didn't like it so much that he also didn't finish it. It being the preview that George was at. And there's the gasp gasp right there -- is a critique of a show based on the first half of a preview valid? Matt Freeman doesn't think so. Neither does Rob. Ditto Tony.

I'm less adamant. As I somewhat posted in Tony's comments, seeing as how George is still flying under nebulous blogger review rules, why not hit a preview and why not leave at intermission? That's the word of mouth side of the blogosphere -- the part that's no different than chatting the weekend's entertainment up with your friends. But George... George, George, George... you saw a preview and left at intermission. Those are important details and the world wide opinion part of the blogosphere, the part with some more delicate ethical concerns, demands that you make them known. And by make them known, I mean before the last paragraph. Just a simple disclaimer or by and by or hey, psst, you should know this, that's all it really needed. I don't fall in the Freeman camp on the issue of respect in terms of walking out and applause (an interesting discussion, p.s., go check it out); if I don't like a show, that's that and it's my decision to act accordingly. But I'm not getting my time or money back by undercutting the artists. Be honest, absolutely. Pan bad shows, absolutely. Let future audiences know what you think they may be getting themselves into, absolutely. But we're all on the same team in the long run; at least give the show the fair breaks it deserves. And I consider an opening and a second act pretty damn fair.



Leonard Jacobs said...

I am driving a good deal of the upset over what happened with George and I plan to continue to do so. If I may without being pilloried for having strong views expressed strongly, let me explain (well, re-explain) why. Below is part of a comment, occasionally paraphrased, that I added to a comment on one of my blog’s posts:

If blogger-critics are good enough and valuable enough to be given professional comps, then blogger-critics should be viewed as part of the critic and journalist community and put on the first- or second-night lists along with everyone else.

Playwrights Horizons takes this disingenuous stance that what the blogger-critics were given were not press tickets, but if they were told that they could publish anything they liked, including reviews, what else can those tickets be construed to be? And if what George, a blogger-critic, wrote was inescapably a review (everyone seems to agree about that) based on professional press comps that he was given, why is it that he or anything else is exempt from the same expectations as all the other critics – to wait until the agreed-upon press day to publish his review? To say that George doesn’t know that this is how it works is ludicrous—George knows it perfectly well and is only too happy to say its all Playwrights Horizons’ fault, issue and problem. I believe standards of ethical conduct must be expected of anyone who accepts such professional comps in exchange for writing, publishing, uploading or posting something, including reviews, on their blogs or sites.

Blogger-critics are not, and must not be treated as, a second class of citizens -- hence my harping on the "separate but equal" analogy, which I think is entirely apt (Matt Freeman can disagree all he wants—I’m still using it.)

I want blogger-critics to be part of the fray, equally valued, not some relegated second class. Yes, that means adhering to the same ethical standards as everyone. It wouldn't be so terrible. It would give blogger-critics tremendous respect, power and influence. And I support that 100%.

Paul Rekk said...

Thanks for the time and effort for your response and your extensive explanation of your position on your blog as well, Leonard. My thoughts on this particular situation are more or less summed up in my post, and having missed much of the blogospherical commotion due to the long weekend, I don't know that I wish to have others revisit these points, so I'll throw my remaining comments here on my blog, where I know they're safe from the world.

I can't say that I can get behind your stance on 'blogger-critics' simply because I want that term defined first. I would never consider myself a blogger-critic, nor do I aspire for the title. That fact does (and will) not, however, keep my from sharing my thoughts and opinions on a show, good or bad, on my blog. Even with a standardized set of blogger-critic guidelines, it's a tenuous title whose mystique is lessened by the masses like me who are simply sharing experiences.

No, my opinions aren't written as formalized reviews and no, I'm not accepting comps for them. But if those are the only dividing lines between blogger-critics and blogger-joepublics, I'm afraid you're fighting an uphill struggle. The theatrical blogosphere is primarily populated by theatre artists. Judging from the general atmosphere when these issues come up, the last thing we're interested in is another class division.