So as not to bury the lede, let me just get to the announcing: I’m going to do an experiment in theater reviewing on this blog this year. I hope those of you who produce theater will help me out with it.
For the next year, I will be open to reviewing your productions in the Central or Greater San Joaquin Valley (and beyond). If you’d like me to review your show, 1) please send me an invitation with the customary two comp tickets waiting at the box office, along with 2) any press release or info for your show. If you’re open to my requesting review comps, please let me know.
Here’s what you’ll get:
- A review on my blog with links back to your show. (The Just a Moment features on my blog average a little over 240 unique clicks within a week of posting, to give you an idea of their stats).
- A mini-review and link back to your show review sent out in a weekly newsletter and via social media channels. (WMCT newsletter currently has over 600 subscribers and a 52% open rate – so approximately 300 people).
- Cross-posting to FB and Twitter feeds
- The ability to spread your greatness far and wide.
I’m also open to reviewing in Bakersfield and Merced with plenty of advance notice, if that floats your boat.
But Heather, you ask, have you reviewed before? Yes, yes, I have. If you want to see a smattering of my previous write-ups, go here: https://valleytheatrereviews.wordpress.com/
(FYI: This is just a sampling of the reviews I did back in 2007-2009. I’ve removed a few of them because I’ve learned a lot more about fair criticism since then and they were not great examples of it. )
So there you are.
Now, a few caveats:
- I probably won’t review everything I’ve been invited to review. This is subject to my schedule and energy resources. But I hope to do at 2-3 a month.
- I cannot review Rogue Festival shows. Period. I’m the executive director. Nope.
- Please try not to take the reviews personally. . . especially if I know you personally. I cannot promise a glowing review every time, but I will endeavor to be respectful of the work and effort you put into the craft. I am a theater-maker, too. I get it. But I’m also married to a performer and one of the first agreements we made was to be honest about the work. The same respect will be extended here. (And I promise, I still love and admire YOU. Just maybe not everything about your show. )
- If we’re BFFs, a special negotiation may need to be arranged. Or please don’t ask me to review. If you’re feeling raw, I understand and will hold off.
- I’m not yet ready to commit to regular previews of productions. If the notion strikes me, then yes. But I will inquire about it, if it does.
Now for the “Why are you doing this, Heather?” Question.
Well, a few reasons.
I’d like to see where or how my perspective on reviewing had changed since 2008. I’ve gone back and forth with reviewing several times in my life. I first started as a college student writing for an entertainment weekly in Spokane. I got paid per column. (Paid, I know. . . it was the 90s). I picked it up again at the blog above or with a few reviews for Kings River Life. I love reading arts and entertainment criticism and really enjoy the context a good review can give a theatrical production.
I engage the artform through writing, both as a director and as an audience member. I receive theater first with the written word (the script), then with the spoken word. But I begin to really understand it when I write about it. So I want to write about it more.
I’m not anticipating producing any theater in the next year and would like to have a structured way to engage with it in my community. Many people have asked if I review. Many have wished for another voice added to the fray, even as they support the excellent work of Donald Munro and the coverage at Kings River Life. So, I thought I’d give it a go. . . at least for the short-term.
I’d like to see what I learn along the way. About the art, the community, and myself. I’ll keep you abreast of developments.
The biggest pitfall of a theater-maker reviewing the work of her peers tends to be the hurt feelings among colleagues that ensue. Taking criticism is hard for every artist. No one likes it, artist or not. But when a reviewer also has to recruit actors, directors, designers, volunteers for their own work, criticizing those very people can be counter-productive. Even alienating.
I get that and know that is a risk I’m taking here.
However, a few things:
I’m inspired by the work of Terry Teachout, the reviewer for the Wall Street Journal, who is both an excellent critic, but a playwright of some success. He’s managed to get his play produced a few times and maintain collegial relations with people he’s criticized.
I hope (HOPE!) I’m at the place where my local reputation as a good director who creates enjoyable working experiences for actors and crew is pretty firmly established. Feel free to disabuse me of that notion in the comments. But if I have to take a hit in opportunities down the line, well. . I will have learned something there, eh?
I know I have a much greater grasp of how to write a review respectfully than I did eight years ago. Back then I had no idea how to write a bad review. I know I can approach the process with more empathy than I did back then.
I feel that the Fresno theater community is actually at a place where most of us have learned how to take a review on the chin. Thanks, again, to the tireless work of folks like Donald Munro. Newbies to the community may still have to learn how to do this, but I believe that they have great models to guide them through it without holding too many grudges.
Okay, so there you go! If you want to send me anything, hit me up on the Contact Heather page or email me directly at heather @ heatherparish.com