Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What Qualifies Me to be a Theater Critic?

(Christine Howey, photo slightly retouched)

What qualifies me? This is a good question. As it has been perceptively noted by others: Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one. So why me?

My qualifications come from work both on stage and off. I have acted in more than 30 productions in northeast Ohio. Most of those performances were at Dobama Theatre in shows directed by either Don or Marilyn Bianchi.

I also directed five shows at Dobama and one other (Damn Yankees at Chagrin Valley Little Theatre). In addition, I worked backstage at Dobama running sound, working props, helping Marilyn clean toilets (OK, not very often) and, of course, building and tearing down sets.

This was all done in the Jurassic Era at Dobama when no one got paid for nuttin’. Whether that made us noble or just stupid is for others to judge. In more recent years, I have written a full-length, one-person show that was produced in Cleveland and off-Broadway as an Actors Equity showcase production. I have also co-written the music and lyrics for a musical revue that has been performed at many locations around Cleveland and in other states.

My love affair with theater has lasted for many years and is still going strong. Which explains why I am passionate about great theater and eager to sing the praises of those who create magic on stage.

Of course, I am equally determined to point out performances and shows that miss the mark. Because if everything is “good,” then nothing is—and that does a grievous disservice to the many superb directors, actors, choreographers, stage managers, designers and other talented people working in Cleveland-area theater.

Let's face it, there are few things more torturous than witnessing bad live theater. But there is nothing…absolutely nothing… that can surpass the visceral thrills, the surge of emotions, and the indelible memories generated by great live theater.

So I will continue to share with you my unvarnished opinions on local professional productions: the soaring successes, the well-intentioned near misses and the downright reprehensible disasters.