Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Another Problem with Theatre Criticism

I've noticed some of the other bloggers link to this Michael Billington profile in the Guardian of playwright Edward Bond. It's a great piece, particularly the way Billington relates Bond to a whole class of British playwrights who don't seem to fit particular molds; his reference to William Blake in the lede is just dynamite.

The piece, moreover, is more than 2,000 words -- and that's another problem with theatre criticism: We lack print or even Web venues that will pay for and publish profiles of such a length. No, this is not to lend credence to George Hunka's ignorant trashing of American theatre critics a few weeks ago, and I only raise the memory of that horribly ugly column (written in the Guardian's blog, where he paid fealty to Billington) because his attack was on American theatre critics and their ability, not on the venues that publish and support their work.

Ironically, the profiles I wrote for Back Stage run about 1,350 words, but sometimes, oh, what I wouldn't give for more room. I also know of several online theatre publications that don't believe that people will actually read 2,000-word profiles. I'd be curious to know how much traffic the Billington piece got, especially vs. being published in print.

There are exceptions, of course, such as John Lahr's recent (and appropriately praised to the sky) profile of Harold Pinter. I'm just saying such venues are fewer than they should be.

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