Thursday, January 28, 2010


This is super smart, and gets at the true democratization of criticism (rather than a republican, or "senatorial" model) that is possible and underutilized in the internet age. The critic's entire ethical legitimacy is derived from his or her position as an audience member - I really, really believe that. What gives me the right to review a show? My ticket, and that I used it. Surely, what makes Kris Vire a good critic is that he "knows something", but even more that he can communicate what he has experienced - what was done, how it was done, and whether it was worth the doing - but it's not his intelligence or his expertise that validates his position, it's where he was sitting last night.

This descriptive methodology of criticism, though, changes when a readership is removed from the equation. The more voices present in a conversation, the less "responsibility" an individual voice has. It is certainly true for me that what I say to a friend about a show (or write here) is different from what I write for TOC. There are technical reasons (word limits, decorum, evenhandedness, etc.) but also there's a fundamental generic discrepancy between a theater review and a theater response. The former is an act of analytical expression, the later is an instance of extroversion. We live in an extroverted world, in more or less than 120 characters at a time we bombard our every acquaintance with our thoughts and - this is what's new - reasonably expect an audience. Talking to yourself on the street is still strange, but talking to yourself on a computer - with hundreds more witnesses - is as natural as drawing breath.

What Oracle is doing here, then, is in encouraging extroversion, directing extant extroversion toward a desirable topic, and forging a campaign of ambitious multiplicity in an overwhelmingly disparate and hyperactive marketplace. I'm excited to see how it goes.

1 comment:

chitheatreben said...

It's also brilliant in the potential to reach people who not only might not read a review in the paper or on a blog, but might not pay much attention if they did. As you write, what you say about a show differs depending on who you're talking to; you can usually trust your friends for an honest opinion, good or bad, and give their thoughts a lot more credibility, or at the least have a better idea of where their coming from as they form their opinion. A review from a personal friend can carry a lot more weight than one from even the most respected critic. It's a great way to capitalize on those relationships already in place and facilitate word-of-mouth on a large scale with pretty minimal effort (or expense) on their part. Well done Oracle.