21 Comments

  1. Graham
    December 29, 2016 @ 11:43 pm

    This list is a disgrace. Try building up your local musical and theatrical community instead of tearing it down. I expect better from this publication in 2017.

    Reply

  2. Tom
    December 29, 2016 @ 11:55 pm

    I think this is sort of wretched. I don’t understand what you folks are doing or accomplishing by dragging folks a second time. Your job, as critics, is not just to given your opinion as if you’re cultural arbiters. You’re given a position to evaluate artistic work and advise the public on entertainment options. It is not just about you having a space to say what you think is good or bad.

    A celebration of the theatre season would be fantastic, but I am unsure what inherent value there is in discussing what you dislike. Again. It’s self-aggrandizement. Then you just harp on a style of theatre, the “pop-up” style because it’s inconvenient. You’re professional theatre critics. Do your jobs. Critique the work, move on. This is just reprehensible.

    Reply

  3. Mark S.Burgess
    December 30, 2016 @ 11:27 am

    Graham and Tom –

    First and foremost: Thank YOU! for taking the time to comment. We really REALLY appreciate hearing from you. And I can guarantee that everyone on the staff will consider your remarks and count them as representative of more readers than just the two of you. “Bravo” from me for your contribution.

    That important piece said, I must now say it fascinates me that you both appear to wish for lauds and honors for all. That “celebrating the theater” and “building up…the community” can mean only praise – and visited only once. Should the critics follow your tone and direction, we could no longer call them Critics, but – possibly – professional Sycophants? And, overall, the Bravos appear to outnumber the Boos…

    First, I believe this piece is a rare celebration of the arts community by its very existence, representing hours and hours of effort over a year. The best way to kill something is to ignore it. Despite working on their own time, this crew conducts itself as if each piece were their primary occupation. Feedback to Arts management about the impact of their operations is an important part of the conversation.

    Second, I believe few of the arts management teams in town will read a praising review and do anything differently. I trust they feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction and that’s a good thing. However, a negative review or even negative comments embedded in an overall positive review I trust inspire inspection, review, consideration and act as a contribution to the overall artistic process.

    Lastly, regarding revisiting and “moving on”: a year of San Diego’s rich Professional Performing and Exhibition Arts seems a fitting celebration of it, lest it fade away unnoticed. Choosing not to wake in a brand new world everyday permits learning and growth and reflection. It’s not only an overall contribution for Critics of the Arts to look at their work again and provide that review, it serves as an important and formative study of their own art in reviewing shows and setting 2017’s efforts in context.

    Again, thanks so much for your comments. Keep ’em coming!

    Mark S. Burgess
    Publisher, sandiegostory.com
    Managing Partner, Critics LLC

    Reply

  4. Tom
    December 30, 2016 @ 12:22 pm

    Dear Mark,

    In my comment I never said that you should sacrifice your credibility at the altar of praise. What this article does, however, is posit the critics opinions as worthy of a year-in-review. I don’t have an issue with bad reviews, I have an issue with the need to bring up creative work that you’ve already given your opinion on in order to give it a second bad review. That serves no purpose.

    You say “the best way to kill something is to ignore it.” Fine. That’s a pretty pat sentiment, but you’re not ignoring it. I imagine you’ve been reviewing shows all year long. There’s nothing to be gained or learned from repeating the critiques and creating a Worst Of list.

    Look: I’m not a San Diego actor. I’ve done three shows in the city during my professional life. I’m not having a go at you for the sake of it, but I think you’re over-estimating the impact your reviews have on arts administrators. They like good reviews, sure. It makes a nice quote. And a universal pan doesn’t help them any, but I am fool proof, 100% positive no artistic season, execution, or decision is made in response or in hopes of a critical analysis.

    I enjoy criticism when I think it is fairly applied, but as an artist, if you think about working to please another’s voice or taste your work is already dead and limp.

    So why does this list exist? If it’s a celebration of the theatre community, reminding folks of failures, through your perception or not, only serves to place the writer as the formost arbiter of taste. That is not to the best of my knowledge your job. Lastly you say this article provides your critics to review their own art which… I’m gonna be honest here, man…
    doesn’t make a lick of sense.

    You wanna analyze your own work? Cool. That doesn’t make your analysis worthy of publishing.

    Reply

  5. Charles
    December 30, 2016 @ 12:24 pm

    That’s very curious to me. I have never personally viewed published art critique (positive or negative) to hold any place in the artistic process. It is an entity of its own, separate from the creative endeavor.

    Reply

  6. Mark Burgess
    December 30, 2016 @ 12:44 pm

    Tom and Charles

    ““A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight.”
    ― Robertson Davies

    Seems a worthy exercise to both reader and writer to go through the year’s reviews and organize them as a whole. A reader who attends a performance and then reads a review brings a different perspective to the reading than one who reads it and then attends. So it is when looking back over the year’s reviews for both reader and writer.

    Maybe I’m missing something in what everyone perceives as the role of the art critic. A critic’s role in my view is not to be the live theater version of TV guide, giving a precis of the plot so as to assist in distinguishing episodes. True, the profession appears to have receded in its power to close or extend a show by its impact, but that seems to me to be a darkness to rage against.

    And, there’s no intention to corrupt but to assist the artistic process with educated, clear speaking commentary. The critic isn’t promoting an actor’s career, a venue’s character or any self interest other than to provide an independent point of view in the context of an interest in Art. Management’s who don’t avail themselves of that input seem to me to be inviting a form of myopia.

    Mark

    Reply

  7. Tom
    December 30, 2016 @ 1:00 pm

    Mark, you’re not re-reading the book. You’re just repeating what you had to say about it in the first place. And you’re not posting the full reviews to be re-read, you’re posting snippets to list of what’s best and what’s worse.

    No one is asking you to provide a synopsis, no one is asking you to tread lightly. I think I’m seeing this list with a shake of my head and I can only think it’s disrespectful. You wanna have a conversation about theatre, that’s fine. But you are not having a conversation, You’re telling people “my voice is most important” when you create a list like this.

    This comes across through a very paternalistic view as to who should be listening to you. No, your job is not to guide or promote any person or any place, but you are also not an advisor to the senior staff. I’m sorry, brother. You have your job because folks trust your taste, but when you say “[m]anagement who don’t avail themselves to that input seem to me to be inviting a form of myopia” it makes me pause. You have taste, but yours is not superior or to be listened to more closely by the artists’ than their own. None of us, not a single one I’ve encountered in ten years of doing this all over the country, has ever opened a rehearsal and thought about what a critic might say. Your primary engagement is with your readers, you’re their guide.

    Reply

  8. Tom Zohar
    December 30, 2016 @ 1:43 pm

    I would first of all like to extend my sincere apologies to Martin Jones-Westlin for ruining his month of August. It was never my intention to destroy his summer by choosing to perform in an irreverent crowd-pleasing little comedy show he hated with every marrow of his being. Should I send a fruit basket? Please respond to me at your earliest convenience and we will arrange a way for me to atone for the unintended murder of the eighth month of the year.

    Joking aside, one wonders who Tom Methvin is. It would appear I performed with him but somehow I can’t recall anyone I know by that name. Weird. Anyway, I personally don’t see the point in a “here’s everything we hated last year!” list, as I find it needlessly, pointlessly negative and unproductive, but then again I also think Book of Mormon is a brilliant show and I absolutely loved When the Rain Stops Falling, so I guess we will all have to agree to disagree!

    Best,
    Tom Zohar
    AKA Destroyer of August

    Reply

  9. Kirstin
    December 30, 2016 @ 2:15 pm

    This article reeks of tabloid op-ed journalism and lacks any constructive critiques or praise to be taken seriously. The overly dramatic lamentations are tawdry. Remarks that a stage play is “a mess” is neither funny nor helpful to a would be theatre goer. It seems that the true divas are in the newsroom and not on the stage. I seriously doubt an article laced with mistakes can help the arts in San Diego but based on your comments that’s obviously the intention.

    Reply

  10. Hannah Logan
    December 30, 2016 @ 3:27 pm

    Um, okay… I don’t know who signed off on some of this…but you couldn’t get twenty people to agree to these assessments of Rain nor Gutenberg. Rain was beautifully acted, directed and designed. It was inventive, moving and original. Frankly, I only wish I could have been a part of it. And as for Gutenberg I haven’t laughed, really laughed that hard in a long time. And I know people who went back multiple times. It is not high-art…that is sort of the point. Read the program. It is a parody. It is satire and ANTHONY (not Tom) Methvin and Tom Zohar were seamless in their comic timing and craft. Again, show me twenty people who agree with this assessment. I take ALL reviews with a grain of salt. The onus is on the theatre goer to review, critique and share their opinions with kindness and civility. I am sad that the strong negative opinions expressed here are lacking both.

    Reply

  11. Bill Eadie Bill Eadie
    December 30, 2016 @ 5:06 pm

    So sorry that I didn’t catch the mistake in identifying Anthony before we posted. It has been fixed now, along with a couple of other typos and errors..

    Just for the record, I enjoyed Gutenberg.

    Bill

    Reply

    • Hannah
      January 1, 2017 @ 9:18 pm

      To be clear I am referencing When the Rain Stops Falling at Cygnet.

      Reply

      • Bill Eadie Bill Eadie
        January 1, 2017 @ 9:29 pm

        Hannah, I also enjoyed “When the Rain Stops Falling” and was happy that it was nominated for Outstanding Ensemble and for Rob Lufty’s direction.

        Reply

  12. Mark Burgess
    December 30, 2016 @ 6:21 pm

    To All,

    Personally, I love this! Critics of the critics. I trust the writers above taking a negative view of our year end summary (with the embedded links to each review mentioned) do not consider yourselves the last and final revered word anymore than any of our writers do.

    When we first started the site our motivation was not at all to position ourselves above anyone but to try to be a voice in an ever diminishing chorus of reviewers. To help stimulate the conversation that promotes the Arts. Among our contacts were artists not be being covered anywhere else in ways they could repeat in grant applications requiring it. Since we started, almost all of the full time arts reviewers in town are gone, with only part time and freelancers filling the gap.

    We don’t countenance unprofessional or axes to grind or trivial treatments. Every piece we publish is by an experienced reviewer and a lover the Arts rendering an educated and honest opinion.

    We believe in the conversation. We offer up how we experience a show and hope someone will notice and continue the conversation. Who knew what some of you thought until you had written above? Most of the reviews to which you have taken exception to our views don’t have any comments on them. I”m so glad you offer them now.

    Please, in the coming year, if you see a show we’ve written about and don’t agree with our views, punch us hard in a comment with your reasons and background as to how we missed it. I read every review we publish and every comment and learn a lot. Sometimes I agree with our writer and sometimes I don’t, but over time I’ve developed new ways to take in a performance and a greater appreciation for the artists and what it takes to present these works.

    Mark

    Reply

  13. Mark Pinter
    December 30, 2016 @ 8:36 pm

    Boos have no place in the theatre. Save the boo for the ballpark. Have some respect for the artist and for the theatre. Class is sorely missing in this attempt at opinion.

    Reply

    • KMW
      December 31, 2016 @ 12:26 am

      Don’t change a thing.

      Reply

  14. Rachael VanWormer
    December 30, 2016 @ 11:07 pm

    As initially disgusted as I was with the format of this year-in-review article (I’m in the “you-already-spat-on-it-once-so-what-good-will-a-second-do?” camp), I wonder if it has not potentially helped to crystalize what has long been lacking in most of the theatre criticism in San Diego, on both sides.

    What I’m hearing repeated through the comments left by those in the theatre community is that negative reviews are not unwelcome. What is unwelcome are:

    A) Negative reviews that fail to offer specific support or evidence or explanation of the negative criticism

    and

    B) Negative reviews where the criticism is delivered in aggressive, snarky, irreverent rhetoric.

    The former raises frustrations in the community because they offer no context or means to understand why a choice or performance or production is being criticized, and so nothing could be learned from the review, even if the reader were inclined to take it into consideration. Taste is not a just basis for criticism. It is a legitimate reason to not like something, but not reason enough for a reviewer to label something unworthy.

    The latter raises hackles because, frankly, it’s just plain rude. Perhaps it’s Pollyanna of me, but tact and respect and civility matter. As has been pointed out several times, no one – not those who do it, or those who write about it – get paid enough (if at all) for however they contribute. Making theatre is an enormous commitment of time and resources. The vast majority of theatre makers in San Diego (excluding the Globe and the Playhouse here) work second and third jobs in order to be able to afford to do the work they love. I know a few people who have taken second mortgages on their homes in order to keep some of the smaller companies afloat. So when a production that is a culmination of the multiple sacrifices and efforts and energies required to make it happen at all – let alone happen successfully – is ridiculed with the vehemence that some of the critics on this site use, it cuts deep and it cuts true, and it is no small wonder that defensiveness and anger lead very quickly to disregard on the theatre-makers part.

    I, for one, am encouraged to see that you, Mark, are so welcoming of this sort of feedback. I’m thrilled that you are welcoming of this conversation, and grateful to those who initially commented for breaking it open. You’ve tasked us with continuing the discourse through the next year. Good. Thank you for reminding us of our responsibility in creating an Arts Community that is engaged and involved and beneficial to all parties involved. But meet us half way. Task your critics with living up to the objectives and purposes you posit for this site: fostering educated, thoughtful, respectful analysis of what we produce, for everyone’s benefit. If a reviewer doesn’t like something, task them with including specific reasons why. If a reviews loves something, included specific reasons why. And do so respectfully.

    No one does this because it’s easy, and if it were easy to do well, there would be no need for critics at all. I can’t imagine critics do what they do because they don’t love it – your own comments have convinced me of that – so listen and hear what the community that does the work you love wants from you, and hold yourselves to the same standards you hold us to.

    Reply

    • Mariel Shaw
      January 3, 2017 @ 2:07 pm

      First off, thanks for taking the time to review our local theatre community. I appreciate what this publication has done to raise awareness of San Diego theatre.

      I want to second Rachel V here. She has put into words what I found troubling about the “boos” section of this article. Constructive criticism is always welcome, while unsubstantiated and/or disrespectful critique is hurtful and unproductive. Additionally, I agree that it feels unnecessary to negatively review a show more than once by including it on this type of “boos” list.

      Speaking for myself, a good rule of thumb for writing a review is “would I be comfortable saying this to the person’s face?” For example, saying someone’s show is a “mess” would not pass that test for me, personally.

      Again, thanks for this. Although I disagree on some of these points I appreciate San Diego Story’s work as a whole.

      Reply

  15. Mark Burgess
    December 31, 2016 @ 6:35 am

    Rachel

    Assignment accepted. Thank you for your thoughts.

    After a short couple of audition articles, everyone writing on this site publishes directly. We don’t make an editorial pass first, so the other principals and I see the pieces they and the other writers post at the same time you do.

    I’ll refresh a watch for reviews containing, and comments that point out, the unsubstantiated. As for guarding against snarky, that’s a bit more difficult to measure and even more difficult to coach – one’s snarky is another’s piercing commentary and we purposely avoid much direct censure. In fact, I’ve lost arguments to publish some quality work that the writer feared would bring too strong a reaction. But, I agree and will watch for snarky AND unsupported which sounds like the one-two you object to the most.

    Mark

    Reply

  16. KMW
    December 31, 2016 @ 12:10 pm

    Don’t ditch the erudite and snarky, please.

    Reply

  17. Kraig Cavanaugh Kraig Cavanaugh
    January 2, 2017 @ 6:28 pm

    The very intention of “SanDiegoStory” is: Sandiegostory is a vibrant forum on live performance in San Diego County. Sparked by reflections from seasoned critics in theater, music, dance, and performance art, the site invites discussion on the arts and their meaning in our lives.
    I think the comments posted on this year’s Bravos and Boos proves our mission!

    Reply

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