Best of/Worst of: Year in Review. We have come to expect it. The list, the discussions around why “x” was added, but “y” wasn’t. Several media outlets have created their lists, including the ArtsFuse and the ARTery. (Feel free to list others in the comments.) On Sunday Don Aucoin, crtitic of the Boston Globe, published his own list, “A Year of Big Names and Big Letdowns on Stage”.
It didn’t take long for my email and social media to light up. Mr. Aucoin only briefly mentions his “highlights” of the year (which are tongue in cheek at best), and spends the entirety of his article talking about the letdowns on the season. He focuses primarily on the larger theater companies and visiting commercial productions, but even in that frame, there are no highlights? Even when one LORT theater wins a Tony for best regional theater (the Huntington Theatre Company), and the artistic director of another (the ART) wins a Tony for best director of a show that we all saw last winter? In most other end of year wrap-ups, that would at least merit a sentence.
Let me be clear about one thing—criticism is important. And critical thinking is necessary. “Liking” and “not liking” a production is the start of a conversation. Opinions matter, and critics have a wide frame that allows for more discourse. Stirring the pot is good for the stew. In these days of social media. the discourse is changing. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need critics. We do. But with the power of a platform like the Boston Globe, there is some responsibility. Mr. Aucoin has every right to write the article he did, but did it have to be his end of the year wrap up?
When I think about what makes other cities a “theater” city, and why Boston isn’t described as such, I know that articles like this make a difference. We in the community know that Boston and New England have a lot of great theater going on. It comes in all shapes, sizes, price points and locations. The depth and breadth of the community is a story not told often enough. And when our paper of record doesn’t balance an end of year article (though every other art critic in the section did just that), it tells the readers of the Boston Globe that we don’t matter, or that we don’t do good work here. And diminishes our community just that little bit. Which makes it harder to say “we are a theater town”.
We are a rich, vibrant, varying community. Let’s organize around that idea in 2014. And own it. More on that later this week, with our resolutions for 2014. If you would like to write a letter to the Boston Globe about this article, here are the details: Letters to the editor should be written exclusively to the Globe and include name, address, and daytime number. They should be 200 words or fewer; all are subject to editing. Send to: E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: 617-929-2098, Regular mail: Letters to the Editor, The Boston Globe, PO Box 55819, Boston, MA 02205-5819
For today, in the waning hours of 2013 (and early days of 2014) let’s talk about 2013 in theater. What was your favorite show/production/moment? Comment on the blog, or on our Facebook page. Or use Twitter and hashtag (#NEthtr13) it.
Happy New Year theater makers of New England! I am proud to be part of this community, and am looking forward to working with you in 2014!