In early 2010, I moved to Calgary and was eager to experience what I had heard was a vibrant and varied performing arts scene. I was thrilled to see that there were so many productions going on in the city. But I was equally frustrated that I couldn’t find quality critical information on these performances to help me decide which ones I should see and which ones I should skip.
Sure, the media in Calgary covers the theater, but like many reviews in many cities, I found these pieces leaned more towards cheerleading than critique and, for me, this was not helpful. I’m sure I missed several performances that I would have loved and I know I saw several that I wasn’t crazy about due to inferior information. So, if you want something done right as they say……..and that’s how Applause!Meter was born. Since then I went on to become the theater critic for Calgary’s #1 morning station, CBC Radio’s Calgary Eyeopener program – http://www.cbc.ca/eyeopener/columnists/theater/ and with my critic colleagues, established the annual Calgary Critics’ Awards honouring the best theater of each season.
Now, working as a theater critic for Houston Press, I find myself getting to know a totally new group of theaters and artists. Being the new critic in town always comes with challenges, but thus far I have been quite impressed with the energy and breadth of the theater community here and I’m looking forward to critiquing the work and becoming part of Houston’s reviewing fabric.
But who am I, you ask? Fair enough. Apart from being a print and broadcast journalist, former member of the Canadian Theater Critics Association and present member of the American Theatre Critics Association, I’m a theater junkie and have been for as long as I can remember. The dramatic arts have been a part of my educational/recreational and even professional endeavors for as long as I can remember. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I think I would curl up in a ball and die if I wasn’t able to get out and enjoy live theater on a very regular basis
While my passion is intense, I don’t think my love of the theater is necessarily all that unique. I adore the lack of falsehood. What happens on stage happens without the aid of post-production fiddling. Then there’s the feeling of community, of going out in public and collectively experiencing the moment. Most importantly however is the notion of storytelling in theater– hearing stories about ourselves told through the different unique voices of writers and performers and directors. For me, all this is completely captivating and is something I want to think about and write about and share with others. That’s what motivates me as a critic, taking these precious experiences and presenting them to people in a way that can help them find their own engagement in the theater. Yes sometimes that means presenting my frustration at a particular play or performance. But ultimately what I’m trying to do is be a theatre ‘super-bug’ infecting everyone that encounters my reviews with the same kind of love, excitement and anticipation for the theater that I have along with the knowledge and ability to demand greatness when that curtain goes up. It doesn’t matter how many plays I’ve seen or how many reviews I write, that greatness, when it happens, gets me every time and is a joy that I will never tire of. And if I do my job correctly, neither will you.
See you at the theater!