Oct 7, 2014

The Annoying Guy at the Party

I've heard from colleagues that sometimes they don't really know what they think until someone asks them--whether in the context of teaching a course explicating what they do, or just in the context of a pointed interview question. I shouldn't be surprised by the notion; I've often said I don't know exactly what I thought of a show until I've written the review. I recently had the occasion to be interviewed by Matt Windman, a theater critic for am New York, for a book about theater criticism, slated to be published next year by McFarland & Company. One answer he got from me so well encapsulated my thinking on a question I'm often asked, and have frequently written about here and elsewhere, that I thought it was worth sharing.
Is a critic part of the theater community or outside of it?

I would say the critic is part of the theater community, but he is that annoying guy at the party who’s telling everybody, “You look like shit.” He’s the kind of person it might be hard to be friends with all the time, but he’s the kind of person you need. You need the truth teller. The problem is confusing him with an authority. He’s not the authority, but he’s the one who’s going to tell you what he really thinks. And I think there’s value in his subjective opinions. He’s not objective. He’s not standing outside, from some mountain looking down. He’s in the mix of everything. Whether you like him or not, whether you or not you trust him, you can trust him to say what he thinks. I think there’s a huge value in that, and the theater community could definitely use more people like that, who will tell the truth, not just to the people in the room, but to everyone.

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