When I started this blog, I had hoped to write reflective pieces rather than more traditional production reviews. However, I got so involved with other commitments that I have not had the amount of time and energy needed for comparative analyses. Friends and colleagues frequently ask me for recommendations (or condemnations), so I am going to try to provide brief reviews on a more regular basis. I am going to model my comments after those of my friend and colleague, Bob Sholiton, whose very regular reviews of much of the New York theatre scene I recommend at www.bobs-theater-blog.blogspot.com.
I hate reading reviews before I see a production. However, I am interested in knowing “the bottom line”: Did you like it? Do you recommend it? I have learned to skim reviews for the answers to those two basic questions. Bob has developed an effective scoring system that we former academics know all too well. He rates shows from A+ to F and I have decided to adopt his method and place that rating at the top of each of my comments. These types of ratings are inherently problematic — a “B” for the production of a Samuel Beckett play is unlikely to match the criteria for a “B” rating of a new David Ives French farce adaptation. You might enjoy comparing my take to Bob’s response, since we tend to see most of the same productions. Another great source for comparative reviews is www.show-score.com. This free website features brief summaries of “mainstream critics” reviews (with links to the full review) as well as numerical ratings and brief “pros and cons” comments from literally hundreds of NYC theatre addicts. All Show-Score reviews are rated on a 0-100 scale (even Hamilton didn’t get an average score of 100, it’s at 97). When Show-Score started, I was reluctant to identify myself on an unproven site, so my reviews appear under the screen name “Buzzy.”
Bruce Smith, this site’s lead writer, has been a performing arts addict since he was a child. He is equally interested in social and political issues and when these worlds collide, he is most enthusiastic. For many years he taught theatre in colleges and served as an academic dean for 15 years. He holds advanced degrees in theatre and education and has published in both fields. The hours spent in a theatre, concert hall, or gallery are surely the most vital aspect of experiencing the arts. However, reflecting on those experiences helps shape our understanding of the art work and its relation to our lives.
The site’s primary focus is theatre, but commentaries will extend to operas, concerts, and visual arts. Criticism and public response are also vital components of living arts and the reflections on this site will frequently address “the critics” and “the audience.”
The name of this site plays on the initials of its author but that name also invites the reader to respond to the author’s “b.s.” In fact, the site will only succeed if the readers provide their own reflections in the form of extended comments. Dialogue is a form of reflection and active dialogue extends the experience of the art beyond those few hours in a theatre, concert hall or gallery.