Thursday, August 30, 2007

Even More Hunka Fallout

I just read that Jay Raskolnikov is getting into the debate, and I thank him for the shout-out on his blog. I have a couple of comments, and already posted a comment on his site as well.

Jay writes,

I don't necessarily agree that critics must be held at bay until the "Press Opening." Hell, I've invited critics to a preview before. Working with a small company in a city with such a vast array of theatres, not every paper can make every opening. Given the choice between being reviewed at a final preview and not being reviewed at all--it's a pretty easy choice. (Almost) Any press is better than none. Most critics I know will take into account that it is a preview. There is a vast difference between a final preview and an early preview, and I know many shows that are completely different (usually for the better) by the time opening nears, as kinks are worked out. I don't necessarily agree that critics should not cover early previews, I do think they should not review a show that far before opening. In fact, writing about the process itself can make for a great story, keeping in mind that it is a process.
I say...

Inviting critics to a preview is standard practice, especially for first-string critics -- I'm talking Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway. However, critics are usually invited near the end of the preview period and quite frankly the reasons for this should be obvious. However, if it isn't, let me explain: attending at the end of the preview period, not at the beginning, gives all the artists involved in the production -- the writer(s), the director, the actors, the designers, the backstage tech crew, and, yes, all the administrative personnel, no matter how large or small the production -- a fair opportunity to get everything together and to present the best possible piece for a (presumably) paying audience.

What Playwrights Horizons did by inviting bloggers to see the play and to post, in advance of all the critics, their thoughts about the play, is patently absurd, and I'm shocked and mystified as to why they chose to do this. I didn't even know about this until Aaron Riccio posted about it in the comments section of one of my posts on this issue. However, as I said in a more recent post, just because there's a pimp doesn't mean you have to fuck everybody that walks in the door. Hunka could have said no. Or he could have mentioned that he left at intermission right up top. Or he could have -- like most critics that command any respect -- stayed for the entire play. The tickets were free, after all. Was he losing money by staying?

Let me add that I quite agree, having directed more than 40 OOB productions from 1990 and 1999, and having produced and directed in the 2004 Fringe, that "not every paper can make every opening" and given "the choice between being reviewed at a final preview and not being reviewed at all" is a "pretty easy choice." We are not talking about a small company here. In terms of budget, longevity and industry leadership, Playwrights Horizons is one of the top five nonprofit theatres in New York City. Surely you're not suggesting that the Times and all the other publications, print and Web both, won't be releasing their reviews on the appointed day. That's not true, and you know it.

I do think critics should be able to see early previews, but they should not base their reviews on one; ideally, critics are invited multiple times. (I realize the economic problems inherent in this discussion.) More ideally -- and in what would be a throwback to the days of Elliott Norton and Brooks Atkinson -- critics would be regarded as part of the process, essential eyes and ears in the developmental experience.

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1 comment:

Tony Adams said...

Hey Leonard, I don't mean to suggest that Playwrights Horizons is a small company (I'd have to be a damn fool to try and say that.)

I work primarily and produce almost exclusively with smaller companies, and was talking about my experience with inviting critics and previews.

And really, reviewing early previews is not as much of an issue with most small companies who can't afford weeks of previews anyway.

ps. Oh and it's Tony, but the blog monkiker is Jay Raskolnikov. (like Leonard/Clyde Fitch report) No worries though.