Steve Warren reflects on being a drama critic — Steve Warren — AAPEX

Monday, May 28, 2012

Steve Warren reflects on being a drama critic

As one of the surviving (though non-practicing) members of the previously mentioned Atlanta Circle of Drama Critics of the late '70s, I suppose I should weigh in on this thread.

I started reviewing Atlanta theater on the radio in 1967; was on WGKA, "the voice of the Arts," from 4/68 through 1/79, mostly sponsored by Dante's Down the Hatch when it was in Underground Atlanta. I called my show "The Third Voice," implying an alternative to the Constitution and Journal critics.

When Creative Loafing started I was the Curt Holman of the day, reviewing theater and film for them for six years. It was said I reviewed anything that moved. I saw Samuel L. Jackson and LaTanya Richardson with the Morehouse-Spelman Players, John Schneider as Cowboy in The Boys in the Band, and more Neil Simon plays than you could shake a stick at (which I did on occasion).

I never drew a distinction between being a reviewer and a critic. I suppose I was a bit of both. I felt my main function was to serve as a matchmaker, to help readers/listeners find the entertainment they would appreciate. I've long said that you should find a writer you consistently agree or disagree with, so they can serve as a positive or negative barometer. This has become increasingly difficult, with publications employing multiple (or no) reviewers.

My original motivation for becoming a critic was to get free tickets. I still think it's valid, showing a love for the art form. The profession - when it was a profession - never paid me enough to be able to afford to pay to see everything. Although the radio station made money airing my reviews, it was understood that I did the reviewing on my own time, not as part of my job. (I was paid a little extra for it.)

Today anyone with a computer can be a critic, although not every one can get free tickets. I don't know how theaters determine a critic's legitimacy anymore. With everyone writing blogs, I don't know how anyone finds time to read anyone else's, and I suspect only a handful are read by more than a handful of people.

When I returned to Atlanta for my second 14-year term, 1997-2011, I had crossed over to (from?) the Dark Side and become an actor. I ran into a few people who could still quote verbatim what I had written about them, good or bad, and I appreciate their forgiveness and acceptance.

I don't know what the future holds for theater criticism. I certainly don't recommend it to young people as a viable career goal, but I hope it continues in some form. Theaters will always need a way of getting the word out, and there will always be times when their work deserves a public spanking.

Steve Warren

No comments:

Post a Comment