Power of My Press Pass

With great power comes great responsibility.

Endless array of Fringe Flyers for the crazy number of shows produced this year

I’ve been flaunting my press pass around the Hollywood Fringe Festival for the past two weeks, demanding free tickets left and right, and, well, looking super cool. Sure, I know that the real reason I have my laminated badge of royalty is that Colin and Enci are really busy this year and asked me to see as many shows as possible on their behalf, but it still makes me happy to force people overlook me to that see I might actually have something to contribute to the community.

However, as the Fringe Festival is coming to a close, masquerading as a theatre reviewer is finally catching up to me. I keep getting questions like, “What kinds of things have you written?” and, “Are you going to review our show?!” that I find difficult to answer. I try to change the subject or mumble something like, “Oh, yeah, we’ll see…!” So I’ve started thinking that maybe I should actually write something. Maybe it’s about time to let the internet know what Maureen Chesus thinks about the theatre scene in this town.

So if I’m going to pen down my opinions, I need to find a solid lens through which I see theatre; a point of view. What’s my lens? I know I love new stories. I’m always asking how drama is evolving to adapt to our always changing world… how we can  be relevant, and how we can have the most efficient exchange with audiences. In trying to narrow it down over the past few weeks I think I’m asking two things: How taken into their world am I (level of engagement), and did I learn something from this/did this cause something shift inside of me? I think if those two aspects come through, I can give it my stamp of approval.

Another review element came to mind in a great conversation I had yesterday with Ian Federgreen and Mary Kimball about universally-determined quality versus subjectivity. Are some shows “just bad” or is it a matter of one’s own personal opinion via their background, experience, etc?

I’d love to hear other reviewers/drama nerds’ opinions!


11 thoughts on “Power of My Press Pass

  1. Heh. I once played the “blogger” card to get a free ticket to “The Ballad of No-Armed Johnny,” a (very funny) Off-Broadway musical directed by Will Frears, Stephen’s son.

    Re: your lens: I’m very interested to hear how yours develops. For me, there’s value in a well-produced entertaining show that doesn’t necessarily teach me anything–“Pulp Shakespeare” was a good example of that. I don’t know if Martin McDonagh’s “The Pillowman” has anything to actually teach me about the world (though it’s a nice, strangely effective anti-power-of-art argument), but it sure as heck has stuff to teach me as a writer.

  2. So did you write any reviews over the two weeks? Even on the Fringe site? Because it seems like that was the point of the press pass, wasn’t it? Or did you have it for a different purpose?

    I think your lens is a good one, but I think the most important thing you do now is write, not talk about writing. And in the interest of full disclosure, I’m one of the people asking “Are you going to review my show?”

    1. Hi Scott! Super appreciate the comment. I was given the press pass to contribute to Bitter Lemons awards on behalf of Colin and Enci who were going to be too busy to see as many shows as they’d wanted to. I’m definitely in the process of writing something up. What show did you work on?

      1. Hey Maureen,

        I directed ‘The Nina Variations’

        Thanks for clarifying, I look forward to reading your write up!

  3. Hi Maureen,
    I’m a theater critic in Philadelphia (look me up at http://www.citypaper.net). I suggest you write honestly and in detail about your experience, and avoid judgement. Explain why you liked something or didn’t, but don’t offer something as crass as a letter grade. Give readers a sense of the performance experience as well as insight into YOUR experience. Write in first person.
    Mark Cofta

      1. Growing all the time! We’re rich in small professional companies that produce in 100-seat houses. Graduates from the local theater programs (Temple U, Villanova, U. of the Arts) often stick around and find (or make) work. We also have a HUGE Fringe Festival in September!

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