1) A critic is the same as
a. a reviewer
b. a dramaturg
c. an academic
d. an audience member
e. all of the above
f. none of these. Since a critic is related to something in the fungi family, it cannot be compared to human categories.
E, all of the above. "Critic" is kind of a catch-all term for anyone who responds to a piece of, in this case, theatre. A dramaturg, for those still wondering what the heck a dramaturg turgs, is a person who offers historical background and textual insights into a dramatic work. A reviewer generally works in a journalistic setting and gives a rundown of a show, recapping the plot and doing a "thumbs-up, thumbs-down" kind of thing. An academic generally analyzes the production for insights into popular movements, playwright quirks, and/or weighty dissertations on the nature of the form, usually in the context of showing off to colleagues. An audience member is simply someone who has seen a show. It's worth noting that audience members are critics too, whether discussing a drama while waiting in line for the bathroom at intermission, dissing the show to friends after the fact, or calling every human they know and urging them to go see an incredible, awe-inspiring work.
2) Adrienne Martini has compared a show to
a. a snowglobe
b. a pizza
c. a Jell-o mold
d. a box full of puppies
e. all of the above
E, all of the above. This might be the best time to explain why I, personally, am in love with analogies, particularly food analogies. Quite frankly, I feel the need to explain something as intangible as a theatre experience by comparing it to something that the reader has probably experienced, like a pizza or a puppy. If I can make it something quirky, all the better, as more people are likely to read a review that uses familiar terms in a new way. Or it could be that I just like strange analogies and will use any justification to get away with using them.
3) True or false:
Critics criticize because they can't do.
False. If I ran the worldwhich we are all well aware that I don'tI would force every critic to publish his or her résumé before writing word one about a show. It only seems fair.
So, here, then is the short version of mine: My father is a part-time actor, which is relevant only because it means that I used to volunteer my time in theatres to be able to do some father-daughter bonding. Then I started doing technical stuff in summer stock, independent from the Dad-ster, and continued doing tech through high school. Directed, acted, costumed, lit, produced, and wrote for theatre while majoring in it during the whole higher ed. thing. After graduation, I moved to Austin, Texas, and worked as a stage manager for two theatres down there: The Public Domain and Frontera. I also wrote criticism for The Austin Chronicle for three years and saw at least one show per weekend per year. And, currently, I'm also doing some freelance work for American Theatre. Which all boils down to the fact that I have a lot of experience in the theatre, but have no desire to try to earn my living at it. And thank the gods for those who do.
4) Critics base their reviews on
a. the position of Orion in the summer sky
b. the answer their Magic 8-ball gives when asked, "Did I like this show?"
c. the aesthetic experience of the production
d. the quality of the free food/booze.
e. none of the above
C, the aesthetic experience of the productionalthough there are those in the community who believe that reviews are based on who a critic likes, who bought the most ad space, and/or who can get the critic the best deal on a used car. It just isn't trueand if it were I would drive a much newer automobile.
5) Criticism is
a. always scathing and intended to make people weep
b. always glowing, even if the show could suck the gold off of the Sunsphere
c. always a mix of positive and negative comments
d. always snide and sardonic, only written to stroke the critic's ego
C, always a mix of positive and negative comments. This is another strange-but-true fact: Theatre writers love theatre and want to see it improve, as well as help boost its visibility. Seriously. And, sometimes, the whole idea of any press being good press holds truewhile the review may not be 100 percent positive, it will cause folks to even know that the show is being performed, bringing them in the door. Once their butts are in the seats, however, it's up to the company to give them something they want to see and, possibly, encourage them to write a nasty letter to the critic who found fault with such a perfect production.
6) Complete the quote: "Asking a working writer how he feels about criticism is like asking
a. a lamppost how it feels about dogs."
b. Marlon Brando how he feels about butter."
c. Dolly Parton how she feels about Aqua Net."
d. The President how he feels about interns."
A, "...a lamppost how it feels about dogs." This quote comes from John Osborne, a British playwright who formed a "playwright's Mafia" after being jerked around by the press one time too many. This attitude was expressed in the late '70s by a disgruntled playwright from across the pond. I'm still not sure what it has to do with pre-millennial Knoxville, but you must admit that it is a cool quote.
7) True or false:
Critics are the ultimate arbiters of a show's worth.
False. Critics are people who get paid to express an opinion. Period. All a critic can provide is a context in which to view a work: a little historical background, a partial list of influences on the creators, a catalogue of worthy performances, or an assessment of how well the production met its goals. Words from a critic should not invalidate the experience of creation; if you had a great time putting a show together, you had a great time even if a critic hated the show. A critic can only talk about what he or she got from the theatre experience and how it fits into a larger rubric, not what the participants got out of it.
I'll let you in on another little secret as well: Sometimes, we're wrong. Not wrong in the sense that we added two and two and got nine, but wrong as in, we made a judgment that, on further reflection, was too harsh or too kind. Fortunately, the logistics of newspaper production don't allow the critic the opportunity to go back and change an initial opinionfor good or for illbecause most writers, myself included, would simply dither away at a review, constantly second-guessing themselves, unless some kind of deadline was imposed.
8) Criticism is best used for
a. examining with a grain of salt while thinking about the success of a show
b. adding to promotional material with exclamation points
c. training your puppy
d. mailing to your "Uncle" Vito with the critic's address, $500, and instructions on which leg to break
e. none of the above
A, examining with a grain of salt while thinking about the success of a show. The sincerest hope of most critics is that people will read their work with more than an eye for praise attached to their own names. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying having your name in the paper, cutting it out, and giving it to everyone you know, you should also realize that there can be more going on in the review. They are, generally, an honest reaction to a piece of work with, perhaps, some suggestions as to which of the production's concepts were communicated clearly and which were not.
9) Critics (circle all that apply)
a. snarl and bite when cornered
b. won't talk to anyone but other critics
c. hate being disagreed with
d. shrivel when exposed to daylight
e. none of the above
A word of warning: Critics are people, too. No one likes to be accosted on the street and asked when they plan to get their head out of their ass. No one likes phone calls at 3 a.m., followed by heavy breathing and recitations of Neil Simon. Approach a critic as you would any other human being, with a modicum of politeness and courtesy. Now, can we all sing a chorus of "Kumbayah"?