Fringe By Numbers: Day Seven, The Beginning
I have a song to sing o! Sing me your song o! There is a concert tonight at Fringe Central. I don't personally know anything about the group, but I suppose I will after I hear them play.
I thought I would take a moment to review reviewers. Number one, on the very first day of the Fringe, I (and the rest of the audience) watched a certain Star-Tribune reviewer and his lady friend walk out of the show after only one third of the performance (walking out of the Lab theatre unnoticed is really hard to do, as the stairs are better lighted than the theatre itself). Not surprisingly he gave the show a poor review. But he also was only able to describe what happened in the first part of the show. I, too, gave that same show a less than stellar review, but at least I could describe what happened in the last forty minutes of the performance. These shows are only one hour long. And they are spaced so you can make the next one without the least bit of effort. Even if you're in a hurry you don't have to leave early.
Now, the second thing I'd like to look at is the fact that there seems to be a great amount of grade inflation going on in the online reviews at the Fringe site. I've read five-star (five-kitty) reviews that include the reviewer saying things like: "I simply didn't understand this play at all". Really? You didn't understand what was going on at all, and you gave the show the highest possible rating? I've come to learn, over time, that many of the reviews posted on the Fringe site are from friends and family of the productions. The sad thing is, that because this is true, there is no real way of telling which reviews about a show to trust.
The third, and last thing I'd like to look at regarding reviewers is this: Why have reviewers? This is an unjuried festival, after all. Well, here's the thing. Yes, anyone with $400 and a dream can put up a show if they are selected in the Fringe Lottery in February. But that doesn't mean that it will be a good show, and it certainly doesn't mean that anyone must feel obligated to see it, nor even have a desire to see it. This is a time of monetary hardship for many. And tickets are $12 a pop (a little less with some of the special deals).
If I have only enough cash to see a handful of shows, I am going to turn to reviewers to see what I ought to see. If I have a specific reviewer whose opinion I trust and agree with, or whose opinion I know I always disagree with, I can read their column and make a decision accordingly about how I want to proceed. For instance, and this is one of those real life things: Away from Fringe time, despite many theatre people not liking the reviews put forth by Dominic Papatola, I find that I often agree with his assessments. I also respect what Quinton Skinner has to say. On the other hand, I often take issue with what Graydon Royce says. Rohan Preston I agree with sometimes, and other times no, but I always find it well-thought out. When I read their reviews of things they inform me, and I can take that into account when making my ticket purchases.
I write my reviews for my readers, to inform and to entertain. If my opinion and the information I convey in expressing it is helpful to their decision of whether to spend 12 bucks on one thing rather than another, then I've accomplished my job. But the thing is, no one is forced to read my review. Nor is anyone obligated to agree with me. In fact, if I constantly disagree with you, then you can figure out that you'll want to go the the shows that I do not like. That's the beauty of it. The one thing I can promise you is that you're getting an informed opinion. One from a person who has done this reviewing thing for five years now, one who has an MFA in playwriting, one who has worked as a professional actor, director, designer and playwright for just shy of 15 years. I use that experience to inform what I write.
The other reviewers in town (meaning in the press) all have their respective experiences that they bring to the table, too. They aren't idiots. They aren't intentionally being mean to any one, though a barb or two can be thrown this way and that in the effort to make a point more entertaining (let's face it, saying "this play is bad", while straight to the point, would get awfully redundant after a while). They have the same obligation as I. I don't work for the Fringe, nor do they. We work for the sake of our readership (in a perfect world... I mean, we do, after all, have superiors to whom we answer).
So... today I'll be trying again to make it to both a 5:30 p.m. and a 10:00 p.m. show. That was the battle plan for yesterday, and sadly rehearsal went longer than I expected. So, only a 5:30 review got posted. That won't likely happen again. Much of the timing of rehearsal is specifically dependent on me, so I'm going to try to do a better job, a more efficient job, and in so doing buy myself a few minutes to drive safely to the venue of the hour. Cross your fingers for me.
- Peter, Paul, and Mommy
- I like raisin bran, but haven't had any in years.
- Trivia Time: "Medical studies show that intelligent people have more copper and zinc in their hair." - How does one find out the content of their own hair? And is there a scale upon which to test this? Just think, Mensa could opt to skip IQ testing and just take hair samples in the future.
- I have a couple more feature articles coming out tomorrow.
- North by Northeast.