Critiquing community theater

Well, I’m in one of my periodic “I’m tired of writing about gambling issues” moods now. I want to see how long I can go before giving in and writing a post about casino expansion or new technology or something.

Instead of blogging about Massachusetts casino prospects or lottery revenues today, I’m going to share a link to some writing that I really, really enjoyed. This excerpt will give you a taste of the travails of a community theater critic. From The Smart Set:

They eased me gradually into the job. For the first assignment I was sent to Center Stage, Baltimore’s regional theatre, to watch Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale. I got free tickets, they gave me press packets and, on opening night, they gave me cheap champagne. I came home, dissected the play, summed it up, listed three good things about the production and one bad thing, and ragged on one actor. I was the Frank Rich of Baltimore, and I hurled my bolts of insight from the mountaintop: If you like your Shakespeare straight up and easily pegged, the Bard’s later plays can be problematic. I could offer veiled criticism: The main characters are a little less fiery than one might expect. And I could always end with a bang: This is the late Shakespeare, who pleases some, tries all, and doesn’t really care if you walk away a little confused.

Just when I thought I had the job down, I ran out of professional theater to review — which, in Baltimore, doesn’t take long. But I kept getting assignments from the City Paper, and I noticed some funny things happening. The ticket prices started plummeting. I didn’t need to make reservations. The audiences were getting smaller. The people in the seats were getting older. The theaters were harder to find. And the actors weren’t necessarily bad, but, well, let’s just say they stuck to their day jobs. I had quickly spiraled down through Baltimore’s few examples of semi-pro theater. And minor-league theater. And, because it was the only place to find more shows, I ended up at theater in the rough.

The Smart Set: Confessions of a Community Theater Critic – September 11, 2007

I challenge you a) not to click through and read the entire article and b) not seriously contemplate attending some community theater. For that matter, maybe you, like me, will wonder just where an ordinary American can sign up to become a roving community theater critic, earning $55 a pop for mildly praising the thespian efforts of local would-be actors.

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