about reviewing shows and conflicts of interest

In which I review Thais Francis’ Outcry, directed by Christopher Burris at Jack, in Brooklyn.

Now and then I write reviews for Jody Christopherson’s New York Theatre Review. I like the Review, which published 12 plays from the Sticky series in 2009, including one of my own, and I like Jody, who I worked closely with on Eschaton Cabaret, presented at Dixon Place and the late, great, Bowery Poetry Club from 2011-12.

At first, when I would write a review for a show in which I knew all the people, I would put on a disclaimer, saying that I’d worked with those persons, and that I thought they were terrific. This disclaimer indicated that I might perhaps be biased in my review, and that the reader should understand, in reading my review, that I could perhaps be unduly influenced by my affection for those persons.

But I’ve given that some thought, and I don’t do that anymore. Why not? You might ask, oughtn’t I let the reader know that I could perhaps be unduly influenced?

No. And here’s why.

We all know each other downtown. We all have seen each other’s stuff. We are a community that runs deep. I am not just reviewing a specific show, when Jody gives me an assignment, I’m tapping into a body of work that I’ve seen develop, that I’m watching develop, that I am interested in seeing develop. I don’t always like the work I see, be it performed by friends and adored colleagues, or no. But whether or not I like something is not what a review is about. In fact, whether or not the reader should go see the show or not, is not what a review is about.

A review is about continuing the discussion of the ideas in the show. What is a show trying to say about what it is to be a human being? About how we ought live together in the world? That’s what I want to talk about.

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