Many theatre reviews in our region have lost their way. The close ties between the reviewers and performers, their websites and theatre advertising, have led to compromised write-ups of local productions that not only deceive theatre goers but breed a culture of mediocrity in our region. If our art is to improve then we must talk honestly and constructively. There is a vast amount of theatre being produced in DC, Maryland and Virginia, and the choice for the paying public is greater than ever – if every show is receiving four or five stars we are not only denying them an informed choice but actively pushing them towards poor value for money.
These reviews have become thinly veiled advertising, comprising of little more than an unnecessary synopsis of the plot broken up by a ‘participation trophy’ approach of praising everyone. This is often dressed up as not wanting to say anything negative, especially about a community theatre show, where the vast majority of those involved will be unpaid. Even this misguided morality is a lie. It comes down to money and egos. The websites want the relationships with the theatre groups and their advertising dollars and the reviewers want to be liked by their thespian friends and welcomed as minor celebrities when they arrive for a show. All of which seems innocent enough until you realize the point of a review is to guide people in the direction of quality theatre. The paying public are a complete afterthought.
Community theatre is a wonderful outlet for many people and those who volunteer their time on and off stage are to be commended. We believe with honest and constructive reviews we can help improve the quality of theatre in our region while giving meaningful recognition to those who deserve it. Whatever the status of the theatre, and those involved in the productions, it’s time to get #tothepoint.