I’ve been away a long time. Not from a place but from this blog. I’ve missed it. My absence was in large part due to bad press I got on a play I directed (not Shakespeare), and my strong reaction to/philosophy on the role of the critic. I believe in criticism. Thoughtful, well-informed, constructive, speaking to the quality of storytelling; its effectiveness, or lack-there-of; use of visual metaphors, design choices, performances, direction; the emotional and critical engagement of the audience. Criticism that challenges both artists and institutions. That calls out cultural biases, arcane practices, injustice, inequity, and the like. But more than anything I realized that I believe criticism is an act of advocacy, at least it should be. I’m not suggesting that a critic recommend you see a “bad” show, but that a theatre critic advocate for the art of live theatre. That the critic not do damage to the field by writing cruel and degrading things that don’t articulate a point of view on what was unsuccessful but are just mean or nasty rather.
So how can I continue my mission of being a critic of Shakespeare in production, and also remain an ambassador, advocate, and champion of that very work? So, that’s what’s kept me away this past year. Reflection; re-envisioning my role as someone who is deeply deeply passionate about Shakespeare performance but also willing to do the hard work of challenging my colleagues in field. I don’t want to be “bad press” for anyone, don’t want to be cruel or thoughtless. I believe in producing Shakespeare for the stage (and screen) and I intend to continue my advocacy. I also believe in representation and equity, and I intend to continue my advocacy.
My pledge is to be thoughtful in my criticism; to acknowledge that artists, artisans, and administrators worked hard to produce the best quality productions; to honor the work of my colleagues. I will, however, identify blind spots, deficits, and cultural incompetencies. In doing so, I will assume good intent on the part of the producers, but I will hold them accountable.
I will hold myself accountable. And I will get back to the task of offering you a point of view of the field from a person of color.
[As a side note, I’m writing this post from my very first ever Shakespeare Theatre Association conference, hosted this year by SF Shakes]