Thursday, July 15, 2010

Biting the Hand That Feeds Me

I couldn't help it. The director offended my artistic sensibilities, and while I did not storm out of the theater on opening night, I felt compelled to take him to task and publish an unfavorable review of the play.

I am drawn to all art forms, and particularly to theater, by its ability to take us on an emotional journey that teaches us about ourselves, our fellow humans, and our impact on one another and the world. I'm inspired by the a creative expression of authenticity, or the real, as singer-songwriter Stew so succinctly put it in the marvelous rock musical, Passing Strange, an homage to the artistic temperament.

"The real" touches, provokes, inspires, and moves consciousness forward. We may not like it, but we appreciate it, and we are changed.

The quest for the real: You can call it a sickness. You can call it a religion. I call it food. It's the nourishment on which artists live and the promise of it is the juice that keeps them going. Without it, they die. Does this sound dramatic to you? Precisely.

And this production strayed from "the real" in favor of entertainment. "Um, what's wrong with that?" a friend asked me. "What's wrong?! He beat the very soul out of the play in favor of cheap jokes!" I cried. Ahem, that is, he played up the comedy and lost the nuanced and emotional impact of the message. It entertains, but it doesn't move. And the sad part is, the story is meant to move.

But is anything wrong with choosing to entertain? When you can make an emotional impact in your art and decide not to, it is. As I watched the director make this choice over and over again during the rehearsal process, the artist in me was appalled.

The audience, however, will love it; the critics might, but he, like all artists, will have to answer to a higher power: The Real.

You're welcome to take me to task for not being real by publishing the review as Freelance Arts Writer, but my name appears in the program, and I have a rep to protect in this town. Don't tell anyone it's me.

*The review was originally publish on


  1. I love your posts. They make me wish you and I still lived on the same coast so I could debate you.

    I think the highest power art must serve is art itself. As artists, we have to ask: What is best for the piece? Sometimes it's a deeper message, and sometimes it's simply to amuse. The heaviness of Chekhov would feel completely out of place in a Neil Simon play, no?

    At the same time, it sounds like the writer of the play you saw was not being true to the piece, so I'm sure I would have agreed with your critique had I seen it. (Incidentally, I think you made your point just fine without revealing the name of the play, although I will admit I'm curious. HeeHee.)

  2. I originally had the link to the review, then I took it down so as not to offend any actors I know who were in it, or the director who signed my paycheck. Since there's little chance they're reading this blog, here it is (for a limited time :-)

    I'm sure we'd have great conversations about art if we lived on the same coast. I hadn't yet discovered the artist in me during those heady chess days. Alas.

  3. No, that's true. I did not know about your inter artist back then. Your writing, however, shows a great of passion for the creative process. I'm wondering now, after having read the original review, if it should not stay linked to this post. A good, well-thought-out critique is necessary for any artistic endeavor. I'm not sure how many reviews this one got, but yours was excellent!

  4. Thank you for the encouragement, Chris. I highly esteem your writing, so it means a lot. I'll think about linking to the review--I hesitated because this is a play I worked on and would hate for the director & actors involved to see it. But who am I kidding, the odds are very slim that they will.