Over at Superfluities, George Hunka weighs in on the weirdness going on with people offering comments high on hysterics but low on reason in blogs deigning to be critical. Long story short: blogger Alison Croggon wrote about a play she recently saw and hated, the director of the piece wrote to her to ask she not allow readers to comment on her blog, then wrote to blogger Ben Ellis to say that the discussion of his show was hurting audience attendance. Another blogger, Ming-Zhu Hii, was critical of some theatre festival, and as a result of the onslaught of vitriol sent to via readers' comments (saying her irresponsible criticism has hurt the show), she deleted the post as well as disabled the ability for readers to comment.
I had mentioned once in a previous post a while ago that a friend of mine who writes reviews had on more than one occasion received venomous hate mail from the creators of works that received negative reviews from him.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: I find that unthinkable. Absolutely unthinkable.
If you want to be taken remotely seriously, you need to learn to suck up whatever negative press you get and not throw a public fit. As George puts it, "public reception is fair game."
With regard to rancorous and histrionic comment-posting from those not involved in the criticized production, I understand that this is a by-product of the Internet and allowing illiterate dipshits to anonymously put in their two cents anywhere and everywhere (believing that all opinions, no matter how ill-informed or tangentially related to the subject being discussed at hand, are equally valuable). It sucks, but it is, of course, inevitable (like having hecklers in a comedy club).
The creator publicly weighing in on a discussion of his or her own work, on the other hand, is another kettle of fish.
One of the biggest problems with creators attacking (and I mean "attacking," not "disagreeing with") reviewers/bloggers who write negative criticism is that the creator almost always comes across as a...fine, I'll say it...whiny little bitch. With very rare, singular exceptions, the creators of the work being criticized should stand mute in the critical discussion and adopt a "Speak When Spoken To" policy. Otherwise, they (we) end up coming across as adolescent jackasses.
[Tangential note: Can someone review/comment on a show they've walked out on? Absolutely, provided they admit up front that they did (which Ms. Croggon did). Professional reviewers do it all the time. That a piece compelled an audience member to say, "I've had enough," is something worth commenting on.]
Yes, this vitriolic whining and false sense of entitlement within the theatre world against anyone who dares criticize a play drives me absolutely batshit. It's amateur hour; or, "J.V. Bullshit," as Nosedive alum Michael Gilpin would say. Those of us trying to prove that theatre — and in particular theatre at the self-produced Off-off-Broadway level — is a legitimate medium that should be given some degree of attention wind up back at square one. It's completely hypocritical to, as George puts it, "want attention, but only the right attention" and expect to be regarded with any modicum of professionalism.
Sigh. Who needs a drink?
Ending the year with hatred in his heart,
James "Cranky Bastard" Comtois