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He Bought a Ticket

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It is my impression that individual critics don’t have all that much impact over the mass media arts. Movies, TV, music, mass market books are so spread over the culture and reviewed by so many different critics that even the biggest names in the biggest venues have relatively little impact individually, though critical consensus in either direction is important.

With this in mind it’s easy to forget how much power critics can have over localized, or performance arts, and in particular over the theater. When he was chief drama critic for the NY Times, Frank Rich could close a show with a few poison words – he was called the Butcher of Broadway.

In this story, another NY Times critic didn’t have to write a word to close a show, at least for the night. That’s the kind of preemptive power even George Bush would envy:

    The George Street Playhouse canceled the first preview of its new production this week because New York Times critic Neil Genzlinger bought a ticket for the show.

    David Saint, the theater’s artistic director who made the decision, said he had no other choice, even though canceling the performance of “Double Play” cost the theater more than $1,000 in labor fees alone.

    ….The dispute hinges on an unspoken agreement between most theaters and the news media in which reviewers are barred from previews so the theaters can work out technical or artistic issues.

    In George Street’s case, it schedules three discounted preview shows beginning on a Tuesday, after which the audience engages in a question-and-answer session with the artists. The theater then invites reviewers to its official opening night. [AP]

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About Eric Olsen