Sunday, March 7, 2010

Pre-written reviews

Mortimer in "Arsenic and Old Lace" is a theater critic who hates plays and writes all of his reviews in the taxi on the way to the theater. He's the playwright's way of slyly jabbing at critics, a favorite pasttime among theater people.

But I suspect there are a lot of critics who write their reviews, mentally at least, on the way to the theater. I know I do it. It's a kind of visualization. Athletes do it all the time. They picture in their minds how they're going to run the race or play the game, and they say it helps them a lot.

I do it when writing theater reviews and art reviews. Often I mentally write, if not the entire review, at least a good chunk of it, and certainly the opening paragraph. In most cases I've already seen other performances of the same play or the movie version, and I've seen other shows starring the same actors or many other plays at the same theater, so I have a good idea what to expect. The same things hold true for art exhibits. Mentally writing ahead of time based on reasonable expectations gives me a good leg up.

More often than not what I see matches my expectations pretty closely. Even if it doesn't, the contrast between my preconceived notions and what I actually see gives me a lot to think about.

Unlike cynical old Mortimer, I love theater and enjoy a good two-thirds of the plays I see (I think community theater in Southwest Washington must be a whole lot better than community theater elsewhere).

Also unlike Mortimer, I have my own critic, and I actually listen to her. My wife, Gabi. She goes with me, and we discuss the plays on the drive home; and then she edits my reviews before I send them in to the actual paid editors. Readers have no idea how often she keeps me from making really stupid statements.

As for Mortimer, I wonder why he even bothered to go to plays at all. A guy like Mortimer could stay home and base his reviews on press releases and Google, and fool most of the people most of the time.

Now Gabi and I are off to see "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" at Paradise Theatre in Gig Harbor -- a play I've never seen based on a movie I didn't see, so I guess I won't be pre-writing this one.


Bev Sykes said...

I don't pre-write, except perhaps some clever turns of phrases on shows I know very well. Walt and I rarely discuss things on the way home and he never reads my stuff until it's in print.

Unlike Mortimer, I mostly enjoy doing what I"m doing, though on 3-show weekends, I am really dragging by the 3rd show. I know know how critics who go almost every night stay sane.

Bev Sykes said...

(that should be "don't know how," not "know know how," which sounds like something from "The Wizard of Oz")

Unknown said...

Is this Bev and Walt Sykes of Davis, CA? I just have to ask cuz, if so, it's quite a random name is James Raasch, I'm in "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" that Adam just reviewed, and I went to school/performed with both Paul and David who both influenced me profoundly. I have mourned from afar both their untimely passings. I would welcome any correspondence with you if this is the case.

Alec Clayton said...

Yes James, that is Bev and Ned from Davis. If you'd like for me to put you in contact with Bev send me an email. See Email follow-up option below. I never give out contact info without permission, but I can ask her to contact you.

Bev Sykes said...

The internet is a strange and amazing thing. Yes, Alec, give James my e-mail address.

Anonymous said...

Hey, how was Dirty Rotten Scoundrels?