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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

 

Theater Without Critics ... Absurd


— photo courtesy James Sims —
James Sims, a Columbia University journalism grad student and a native Los Angeleno, laments the loss of theater critics at some of LA's largest newspapers in a piece at BroadwayWorld headlined "Death of a Theatre Critic."

Sims, who attended one of my journalism courses a couple years ago as an undergrad at CSUN, brings an interesting perspective to the issue, having grown up on the backlots and production sets of Hollywood, as well as having worked as a theater critic in LA for an online publication before heading east to further his education at Columbia.

Here's a snippet from his piece at BroadwayWorld:
The three stalwarts of Los Angeles theatre, Sheldon Epps of the Pasadena Playhouse, Gilbert Cates of the Geffen Playhouse and Michael Ritchie of Center Theatre Group, recently took to the airwaves and discussed the loss of critics at local papers. While many fine points were made, it was Cates' suggestion of resorting to peer-review amongst his lot that was troubling. Lending a critical voice to those that stand to financially profit from a commercial success begins to look like a slippery slope. Would Jack Warner writing reviews of MGM's films have served the public? I can picture it now. "'The Wizard of Oz' is a competent piece of celluloid, but you would be better served saving your money in these hard times, as we have a real hit coming your way next week."

A critic must stand alone, unaffected by any controlling interests or pressures to valiantly inform their reader. "It is only by remaining collected, and refusing to lend himself to the point of view of the practical man, that the critic can do the practical man any service," wrote Matthew Arnold.


— TJ Sullivan in LA

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