They Can’t All Be Gems

Well another review is up. Re-reading this one, it is quite honestly not my best work. I’m happy with what I said, but not happy with the way I said it. Lots of awkward sentences, it doesn’t “flow” very well and on the whole it feels unpolished (link). My perfectionist self is not at all pleased with my creative self for producing a piece of work that I feel is not up to my usual standard.

However, I’m trying something new and will instead try to focus on the positives rather than the negatives:

1. I went to a play with a friend and had a great time.

2. I made a little beer money.

3. I took advantage of the free food at intermission.

4. I enjoyed “playing writer” at Bridgehead

5. Got a blog post out of it.

6. I reviewed a show that really didn’t get much coverage aside from my review.

Ultimately, I have to come to terms with the fact that occasionally I will fail.  My new maxim with my review writing will be “they can’t all be gems” in an attempt to avoid my old creative maxim “quit at the first sign of adversity”.

Though the other demon lurking in the shadows of my mind (possibly the reason for my failure) is that I haven’t been in the reviewing mood recently. This is a concern, as I have one last one to write. Clearly, I need to find some way to make it fresh again. Any thoughts or suggestions?

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9 responses to “They Can’t All Be Gems

  1. Just like with performances, sometimes you are going to have a lousy review. It’s natural. Especially if you do not feel compelled by a piece and have a hard time finding nice things to say about a production.

    But I think a problem with Ottawa reviewers, is that they always try to find “nice” things to say. They are way to polite.

    Perhaps in order to keep it more interesting for you, you may want to slowly shift from reviewer to critic, where you go from simply describing plot and stating why it is worth seeing to going into greater detail and analyzing the theatrical event.

    I personally am attracted to the latter as they go beyond the script and performance. I don’t care to know whether the acting was good, or the costumes nice. What do they evoke. What symbolic references are there?

    I am interested in a historical and social background, an analysis of how the play fits into the here and now. I think reviewing, or rather critiquing, requires more than simply going to see a play and talking about it. Any audience member could do it.

    Unless directly involved in a production, the reviews that I do read are those that have a really good knowledge of theatre, theatre in Canada, and social issues. Sometimes I go to a review to better understand a play.

    I used to often refer to vancouverplays.com when living in Vancouver (as Jerry Wasserman really is the best, plus he was a prof of mine!)

    • Welcome to the Many Faces of Wayne Lisa! Thank you for taking the time to respond. Some of My favourite reviews are the ones that have allowed me to explore some of the ideas you mention here.
      My all time favourite was this one: http://www.culturemagazine.ca/theatre/the_arabian_night_review.html

      Where I was able to summarize what I learned of post-colonial literary theory in Grad. school but translate that into language that everyone could understand.

      I will have to check out Jerry Wasserman’s work. It sounds like he might be a good source of inspiration.

      Thanks again for commenting and I hope to hear from you again.

  2. Lisa couldn’t have said it better. It’s all about context, but to get that part right, you’ve got to turn off the perfectionist that worries about the binary necessity of succeeding or failing.

  3. You said, “My aim is to start and shape conversations about theatre…” in your post “A First For Me”. Well. You do. So who gives a shit (can I swear here? Oh WTF) if your commas are in the right place? In fact. Put them in all the wrong places. I do. I’m also big on short. Sentences. Or fragments. My favorite ‘Word’ grammar note is: ‘fragment, consider revising’ – which is of course – a fragment.

    What I enjoy in your reviews is your thoughtfulness in addressing all aspects of a production. Most reviewers don’t take the time to tease out the nuances between actors, director and script. It’s a useful technique on many fronts.

    Your approach helps theatre artists critique the work of their peers from a third person point of view, but moreover, your treatment educates the public. Ticket buyers are given a set of tools to better understand what they see, and are therefore supported in their efforts to have conversations about the work afterward. Which, I believe, in turn supports and increases the base of theater-goers in general.

    What you bring matters. You inform our understanding of theatre. We leave your page with new conversations to be had. And, as one perfectionistic extrovert to another, with love and respect, practice walking away. ☺

    • Thanks for this Mare. You are very encouraging and I really appreciate it.
      Yes, you can say whatever you like on my blog. Express yourself however you wish 🙂

      “practice walking away”: This is solid advice I will try that. It won’t be easy. Now that a few days have gone by, I am less bothered by my piece so I guess that is a small step in the right direction.

      Thanks again.

  4. I do admit that your review of Arabian night is quite good, very intelligible and you should be proud of it. However, I notice that you tend to comment more on narrative and the context of the drama than on the actual theatrical event.

  5. I love the title of this post! It’s true. And I just went through this myself a few days ago…disliking a review, second guessing the content and the way I had written it… Deadline came, I sent it off, and it’s done… but my worrying over it lingered for days. Being perfectionistic is a double-edged sword, eh? The old cliche about being our own worst critic is just so excruciatingly true.

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