There is no shortage of theater review blogs, especially for work in and around New York City.
But this one’s different. This is a blog with a mission: to promote the fundamental notion that theater, itself, is good.
More theater being made is good. More audiences seeing theater is good. More access to, better demographic representation in, and sustainable development of theater is good. It may even be the most powerful way to counteract the dissociative tendencies of our now-necessarily digitized lives. So rather than diving into the fray of mere criticism, this blog is founded on its titular axiom: theater is good.
Therefore, every review on this blog will begin with a section about “Why It’s Good”. Every show will be viewed with a positive, open mind that is seeking reasons to praise it, to appreciate it, and to honor its existence.
The idea came to me after seeing a recent production of King Lear with some dear collaborators. Perhaps it wasn’t the greatest production, but there were plenty of nice moments. But as we left, all we could focus on was what went wrong: the fight choreo was laughable; Goneril was insufferable; the actor playing the Fool was talented but clearly misdirected.
This is a very common habit among theater-makers when seeing shows, and is often borne from a sincere desire to see theater done well, as artists and craftspeople, and to see audiences given memorable and meaningful experiences.
But what I realized is that in my own head as I watched, I was collecting all the wonderful little moments, and despite its flaws was pretty well-enthralled by the show. The gathering of live performers, a live audience, and the real-time production that we all shared was paramount. To me, this sacred communion of theater is itself an inherent good, and I worried that we dishonor that impulse when we leap directly to criticism.
Because in reality, many of us love the ritual experience of live theater, and we wish that it had a more prominent place in the modern American mediascape. But against the onslaught of recorded and streaming media, rising ticket prices, with outdated and eroding regional networks, and fractured independent communities, theater is less and less a go-to entertainment option for most people.
However, the truth is that nothing is perfect, and the functions of criticism to push art forward and help audiences make choices about their media consumption are truly important. And lest the integrity of the reviewers’ taste be questioned as irrationally enthusiastic, or problematically Pollyanna, each review will also include a section about why that production wasn’t perfect. It’s not unreasonable that an exceptionally underwhelming show’s “Nothing’s Perfect” section might exceed the, “Why It’s Good” section — but the distinction and priorities are philosophically crucial.
To have a “Good” review written for your show, please email TheaterIsGood@gmail.com to arrange tickets and promotion. And above all, simply, thank you for making theater!
Editor’s Note: The writers and editorial staff for Theater is Good are drawn from working theater artists, and there may occasionally be involvement by the author in the production reviewed. It is the position of the Editor that as long as the articles conform to our mission and standards the publication is free from conflict of interest.