Saturday, September 01, 2007

Thank you, Tom Garvey

There are some comments on the Hunka fracas over at the Mirror Up to Nature blog, and finally, someone who makes sense -- my colleague Tom Garvey. Now, why don't you all go pillory him, hm?

He writes:

You know, Hunka probably has some twisted rationale for his behavior, but frankly, he's so far over the line it's almost funny. And the naive marketing ploys of Playwrights Horizons have little to do with his own decisions, I think; ditto the quality of the play in question (it would be just as problematic to deliver a rave based solely on the first act). Hunka accepted an invitation to blog about a show before it had opened - that was a mistake. He then left at intermission - another mistake, if he intended to review it. Then he panned it - strike three, I'd say; Hunka's out - and has probably given all of theatre blogging a black eye in the process.

I'm sorry if I didn't make clear that I disagree with Playwrights Horizons' actions in this case. Based on the late opening night, and the pathetic attempt to generate "blog buzz" without letting in professional reviewers, I'd say they're well aware they have a bomb on their hands. (The case of "Young Frankenstein" is a little less clear, I'd say, as technically the show is in "development" all the way to New York, but certainly it's debatable.) When it comes to previews, yes, I agree, they should be cheaper, and obviously marked as "previews," but I also have to agree that the audience doesn't seem to care half as much about these issues as reviewers do. (Indeed, several local theatres have been charging full price for previews for some time.)

In the end, producers have no real incentive outside of market repercussions to abide by any of these rules, and if the market will pay full price for a preview, it's hard to see why they shouldn't take advantage. As for pushing "opening night" as close to "closing night" as possible - again, that simply means they have to market the show sans reviews. Hunka's mistake was stepping into that situation - of reviewing a show that was transparently trying to dodge reviews. If he wanted to pan it, he should have bought a ticket and just avoided the whole mess. On the other hand, though, perhaps his actions were a good thing - in that they've demonstrated to Playwrights Horizons, and no doubt other producers, that at least some bloggers won't play ball.

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Robin Reed said...

I've only been following this chain of events and blogs loosely, but has anyone commented on the fact that George Hunka, by the nature of his employer, is like a little bit more than Just Your Average Theater Blogger? Martin Denton at writes reviews and keeps a blog, but he keeps his reviews on the review site and the more theoretical stuff on the blog. Other reviewers who keep blogs will link to their reviews (Eisler, Cote, Comtois, As an actor, if I was reviewed (or Just Written About) by Hunka even on Superfluities, I would consider it a Times review. Am I alone here? Has the Times had anything to say about the ethics (or lack thereof) on this matter?

Anonymous said...

George isn't employed by the Times. He never was.

For a short time he was a freelancer who occasionally reviewed for the Times, but he hasn't done this for a while now, and he has publicly stated that he isn't likely to do it again.

It's a pretty safe bet that the Times found out what a crackpot he is and stopped asking him to review for them.

At any rate, the Times isn't responsible for defending the blog or ethical choices of some freelancer that used to write for them.