The Blogger-Critic: Or, Why Do I Write?

27 07 2010

What does it mean to be a blogger-critic? On Bitter Lemons, this question has become a common point of contention. It has arisen again in the comments following Colin Mitchell’s recent post “Is It a Critic’s Job to ‘Assist’ and ‘Protect’ a Production?” – a great article with a fascinating follow-up discussion.

I have been thinking about my position a a blogger-critic quite a lot lately. The summer has sent me across the country for several extended trips: I was in NYC for an off-off-Broadway musical premiere in early June, and now I am in NC to visit family and friends. Because of this off-kilter schedule, I have been on “theater binges” whenever I have been in LA, cramming in as many shows as possible before my next trip away from the city. I always jot down post-show notes in my journal, but then other responsibilities, shows, and trips crowd my calendar – and my blogging gets backed up. This sometimes leads me to ask impossible questions like:

Who is reading this blog? Am I letting anyone down (other than myself) if I fail post reviews on a regular basis? Is it worth it to write a review of a show that has already closed? Why do I write, and does it matter?

I suppose I wouldn’t have started a blog if I believed that it didn’t matter, but the nagging question is always there – especially when I haven’t posted in several weeks. (Guilty.) What does it mean to be a blogger-critic?

Perhaps the beauty of the blogger-critic is that every individual has a different motive for writing. I am not paid to blog; I choose my own shows and buy my own theater tickets, I blog (or fail to blog) on my own schedule. But for me, writing is a quintessential way of thinking. I have always processed ideas best through writing (and rewriting). Since I am studying for a PhD in theater, a blog is a wonderful way to record my thoughts about productions and to actively practice theater criticism – but a blog also allows for a more personal engagement than my normal scholarly work. Some may find my theatergoing and reviewing to be self-indulgent – and it is, to a degree. If you follow my blog, you know that I write about myself; I’m an unabashed, gleeful, overly-optimistic musical theater lover and aspiring composer. This is my lens on theater and my lens on life. On this blog, you’re getting both. (If you don’t like it … don’t read it.)

Unlike a critic who has been hired by a specific publication, I have no desire to be an authoritative, objective reporter deciding whether or not you should see a show. I offer legitimate theater criticism – in the first person. But this is perhaps another beauty of the blogger-critic. There is an undeniable person behind this blog, and hopefully I am here to engage in a conversation rather than a one-sided report. I recently received a great comment and follow-up e-mail from Jonathan of seatgeek.com, who had enjoyed my review of American Idiot. My thoughts on the show spurred him to do some independent research comparing the price of Green Day concert and Broadway show tickets; we had a nice e-mail exchange about the economics of it all, complete with bar graphs! (FYI: On average, patrons spend more on American Idiot tickets than Green Day concerts in the secondary market, although the difference in venue sizes and availability makes the comparison a little difficult.)

Now this is why I blog. To offer up my own perspective so that it can interact with other opinions. Bitter Lemons is continually encouraging such dialogue and critique, offering multi-faceted perspectives on the productions and politics of the LA theater community. Even as I bounce from coast to coast this summer, I am always reading, Colin and Enci!

I mentioned earlier that writing is my best way of thinking – and sitting down and forcing out this blog entry has really done a world of good for my motivation. I may be behind on my reviewing this summer, but I will eventually get around to writing about all of the wonderful productions I have seen on my recent theater binges. Even if the reviews are “outdated,” the theater always bears writing about, thinking about, and talking about. I hope you’ll help me keep up the conversation!

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2 responses

6 08 2010
A Blogger-Critic Confessional : Bitter Lemons

[…] Taylor Ellis has a nice piece over at her blog entitled The Blogger-Critic: Or, Why Do I Write?. It’s a nice first person confessional from an excellent, young, curious blogger-critic.  An […]

14 01 2012
Celebrating 2 Years of Blogging « Sarah Taylor Ellis

[…] in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, New York, and Chicago. I have written articles on the blogger-critic, repetitive theatergoing and fandom, and the art of listening. I have used this blog for […]

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