Thursday, April 05, 2007

Full Disclosure

Full Disclosure

The latest issue of Time Out New York offers a look inside spring theatre in the Big Apple, along with "Insider's advice and shows you don't want to miss."

Along with that is a must-read story -- "20 Dirty Secrets About NY Theater" -- reported by David Cote, Adam Feldman, Kirk Miller and Robert Simonson. It's especially handy for first-time theatregoers.

Naturally, one of those dirty secrets that caught my eye was #3: "Beware the blogotainmercial." Here's the sound advice that was purveyed:

You know that clever theater blog you bookmarked, the one with inside dope on the edgiest shows and artists? Be careful -- it might be a PR tool. Marketing departments have offered drama bloggers free seats to write about hipster-skewing plays such as Pig Farm and Dying City. Mind you, theaters don’t demand positive write-ups; they just want the cool-kid buzz. Blogs to trust: George Hunka’s Superfluities, Isaac Butler’s Parabasis and Jaime’s Surplus.

I was especially pleased to see two of my personal favorite theatre bloggers listed among TONY's list of Theater Blogs to Bookmark, including Garrett Eisler's always insightful The Playgoer and Rocco's hilariously funny What's Good/What Blows In New York Theatre. Both are very deserving of the recognition they've received.

The charges that bloggers are being used as PR tools is certainly nothing new, yet they continue to serve as an excellent caveat emptor for anyone googling through the Internet, particularly those trying to find out whether buzz is for real or merely whipped up to support a show.

With that in mind, I want to provide you, my dear readers, with full disclosure about who I am. I originally had planned to write much of this on the rapidly approaching first anniversary of Steve On Broadway, but now seems like the perfect time.

Aside from being a financial donor to Chicago's exceptional Steppenwolf Theatre for the past three years and to New York's Public Theatre last year, I have absolutely no connection to any theatre (I resigned my volunteer position as one of Steppenwolf's Auxiliary Council Board of Governors, which also requires being a donor, midway through last year; however, while a member, I always provided full disclosure of that role with every review I offered on Steppenwolf productions).

I am not -- nor have I ever been -- an actor, a playwright, a director, a producer, a composer, a musician, a designer or any of the myriad behind-the-scenes activities that come to mind with the stage. Not even an usher, coat check or any of the other functions associated with a theatre. I'm not even a teacher. However, I greatly admire those who have chosen those vocations because they help make theatre what it is.

You should know that I do not have my sights set on being anything more than what I am right now: I am purely an audience member. And with the exception of two shows over the last year where I accepted gratis tickets (no, they weren't for Pig Farm or Dying City, but instead for shows I would have reviewed the same regardless), I paid for each and every ticket (in most cases it was actually two tickets) for the productions I've reviewed. You may ask "Why?"

Well, it all comes down to this. I love live theatre as an artform. And the civic-minded side of me believes in the necessity of supporting the performing arts. The rush of seeing writers' words come roaring to life by a breathtaking array of actors gives me the same kind of high that chocolate offers others.

The shows I choose to see are ones that genuinely pique my interest -- I go hoping I'll enjoy the performances or at least find something to admire. I never go because I want to disparage a production. Now that I'm nearly a year into writing Steve On Broadway, I also go because I'm hoping that I can inspire non-theatregoers to check out this wonderfully enduring, vital artform. Thus, I write this blog as my own personal diary of what I like about theatre, and occasionally what I don't.

As alluded to in my "About Me" section, I have personally been involved in public relations. But you should know that I handle PR in the travel business for one company with which I'm extremely proud to be associated. Only thing is, I don't find it appropriate for me to use this vehicle to promote that company (after all, this is not a travel blog). I've completely refrained from mentioning the company during my first year of writing Steve On Broadway and pledge to never write about it in this space.

I'm passionate about theatre. I appreciate the trust that many of you have placed in me to give it to you straight and honest.

As I stated last April, three posts into Steve On Broadway:
Starting a new blog -- my very first -- is more than a little daunting. But I'm relying on old friends, and complete strangers, to keep me honest in my assessments. I'm looking for real dialogue with those of you who enjoy the entire theatrical experience as much as I do. So regardless of what you think of this site, I invite you to post your comments.

While I'm known to be a bit of an SOB (thus Steve On Broadway), this site has a few simple ground rules. First, we don't need to be vulgar to make our points. Instead, we'll engage in polite discourse on a topic -- theatre -- on which we're unmistakably passionate. We may not like a particular actor, actress, playwright, composer or director, but we'll not take the low road with our comments. Instead, we'll engage in true critical analysis that aims to be thought-provoking and stimulating.

So go ahead, post your comments and let the critical analysis begin!

I can only hope I've achieved what I set out to do. Thank you for your trust, and thank you for continuing the dialogue!

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 06 April, 2007, Anonymous Michael H said...

Hi Steve,

Good to read - I am sure that if the money at stake was like that in film there would be a larger number of "for sale" blogs
But never understimate being an audience member (esp a paying one)-that is why we do this thing called "show"

At 07 April, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Of course, parallel to the Time Out New York column was an online "dust-up" regarding the use of comps as outlined here, hereand here.

I don't believe any one person can be "bought" for the price of admission to a show. Considering the fact that traditional news outlets have no ethical issue with accepting gratis tickets to review theatrical productions, why should theatre bloggers be treated any differently?

Just as I would never rely solely on one news source for any of my information, I believe savvy blog readers should continue to consult a multitude of sources to help inform their own points of view.

Yet personally, as perhaps as one of the only true audience-perspective blogs, I'll continue purchasing my tickets for this thing called "show."

At 08 April, 2007, Anonymous Esther said...

I think blogs are changing the political and cultural landscape by making the debate more egalitarian, and that's a good thing.

While it can be difficult to separate the good from the bad and the downright ugly, I've found excellent blogs written by fans of literature, film, and now theater. I think they can be as knowledgable and illuminating as the work of "professional" critics. Also, they have a passion and enthusiasm for the artform that professional critics sometimes lack.

I've learned a lot about the theater from your blog and the others on your list of daily reads. But perhaps more importantly, I've become excited about the theater in a way that I never was before.

While you may not have ever been a playwright, composer, director, producer or usher, your passion and enthusiasm, as well as your knowledge, come through in everything you write.

So, happy almost blogoversary Steve. I hope there are many more to come!

At 08 April, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thank you, Esther. I'm pleased that my passion for the theatre has been contageous as far as you're concerned.

Also, I believe that as you regularly read any source of information, you get a sense for the bias or agenda that source carries with it. That's not a bad thing, and certainly in the great blogosphere where opinions are de rigeur, if not a necessity.

Time to time, I find myself disagreeing with fellow theatre bloggers, including those listed among my favorites. But I love the fact that you can find a variety of opinions and personal taste. And by taking in several sources, you can actually learn and join the discourse.


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