In the week of one of the most significant turning point elections in the United States, what are American theatre critics talking about?
Are they analyzing the differences between McCain’s and Obama’s approaches and policies for governmental arts funding and support? Are they providing a critique of what the United States’ creative vision will be? Are they lobbying the next administration for a new approach to American culture? Or, are they whining about their jobs and their own lack of an audience?
You guessed right. You must know a theatre critic.
Riedel notes, “they’re newspaper drama critics, those once all-powerful arbiters who, with a vicious turn of phrase, could close a show, humiliate an actor, bankrupt an investor.”
Oh, wow. Has there ever been a better description of critics and their arrogance of self-importance? Isn’t that a perfect way to link Aristotle, Diderot, Lessing, Kierkegaard, Shaw and Esslin to today’s American low achievers?
How does one cutback-critic describe his predicament? “The diadem is certainly sitting uneasily on the heads of first-nighters.” Gee — they really know how articulate an issue and to communicate directly!
Another laments, “There’s no glamour anymore. During the stagehands strike, my editors had me standing on the sidewalk at 2 a.m. getting quotes.” OMG, he had to be a working journalist!
Of course, the blame for their lack of audience falls not with their own easily predictable take on a show, refusal to provide a historical context, or lack of enlightened perceptions. No, critics are blaming bloggers for fulfilling their roles with skill, determination, and imagination.
As in all turning points, maybe theatre critics are waking up to the fact that being oh, so clever (New York Times on Broadway?) is no longer as valuable as being informed, perceptive, and hard working (All that Chat?).
Maybe they will take a moment to marvel at their own lack of theatrical foundations and initiative in comparison to their audiences, and to the very artists they ostensibly help to make better works of art.
Maybe it is time for them to analyze the significance of their own election results.
- Bill Reichblum