On the Aisle: Shiny Things, revisisted

On the Aisle: Shiny Things, revisisted

There are 24 comments on the The Capital Times story from Aug 13, 2008, titled On the Aisle: Shiny Things, revisisted. In it, The Capital Times reports that:

For the past couple of days, I've been thinking about my review of Broom Street's new show, " Shiny Things ." While I don't want to retract the things I said, after I sent the review on Sunday afternoon my ...

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jesse fey

Chesterfield, MO

#1 Aug 13, 2008
Thank you.
Tierna

Madison, WI

#2 Aug 13, 2008
I think it is my turn to apologize. When I read your review I was offended on behalf of several friends and family members who have severe ADD. Now knowing that your review was the result of the same feelings that I had makes me understand that to me the show portrayed an accurate and moving picture of my aunt and my roommate but to you it was nothing like your brothers experience with ADD.

Thank you so much for rising above everything that was said which is something I was unable to do last night.

Also Thank You to Kirit for his insightful post.
Scorpioice

Madison, WI

#3 Aug 13, 2008
I'm glad you could take a second look at "Shiny Things", but you should also have reconsidered your review of "For What It's Worth". Those actors were not paid either, and you did them a tremendous disservice by quite obviously, from your published review, spending more time writing in a notepad than actually watching the play.(FYI, "For What It's Worth" is being published next year. It will be Cassi Harris' fourth published play.)

As a Broom Street member and someone who saw that show several times (and loved it),and I think it's fine if you don't care for something and if your review reflects that, but it's neither fair nor professional to write a scathing review of a show that you didn't even seem to understand. An aspiring professional about to write such a review, which basically tells the public not to see a production that a group of non-paid actors and crew worked long hours on strictly for the love of it, would have asked some questions and/or even seen the show a second time before committing to such a nasty review. You can write a review that's unfavorable but still fair, professional and non-judgmental, but blindly trashing a play you didn't even seem to listen to is amateur, no matter how many community theater productions you claim to have under your belt.

If you truly mean what you say about striving to share Madison theater in an open way with our commnity, then strive to be a better reviewer than you are. Remember that it could be you who wrote or directed or acted or ran stage lights for the play you are watching. Or remember, as is the case with many a reviewer, that maybe it couldn't be you up there.
joe anybody

Madison, WI

#4 Aug 13, 2008
Scathing as it might have been, I did find the review to be accurate. It isn't a reviewer's job to pull punches for the sake of unpaid actors. They get to review the final product, not pat you on the back for the process.

Kurit, for example. So she didn't like your character? Big deal. It wasn't an insult to your acting skills. It was simply a dislike for the choices you and the director made.

I found the show interesting, and the script phenomenal, but the production was mediocre. You can argue that it's unpaid, non professional theatre. So compare this show to, oh say, a Mercury Players production. "The Pillowman", or "The Goat, or Who is Sylvia, "Reefer Madness". Take your pick. Non-pro, unpaid actors and directors putting on truly incredible, beautifully acted shows.

Why would you expect a reviewer to hold one theatre company to a lesser standard than another, just because you felt slighted by her opinions? If you're ego is so truly dependent on what one reviewer thinks, you need to get the hell out of theatre.
Tierna

Madison, WI

#5 Aug 13, 2008
Joe
It is unfair to compare Mercury and Broom Street, When was the last time that actors with the same talent as those in The Pillow Man ever tried out for something at Broom Street. The people who audition at broom street have little to no experience. Not to mention the fact that Mercury has more of a budget and a better space.
Part of the beauty of Broom street is that anyone can participate.
It is also important to note that Lindsay’s original review was written on a completely personal level. She based her criticism on her personal emotions not on her professional opinion. Her words were mean spirited and although she has redeemed herself slightly in her follow up she still did not retract her words or express herself on the professional level. Also although I did not express myself to the same standard I expect from a reviewer in my first post, I am not the proffesional here.
Kirit’s comment was not about her opinions but about her way of expressing them. As a critic she has a lot of power and it was ill used.
Even though she has personal experience she was narrow-minded. The truth is that ADD is expressed differently in different people.
In her review Lindsay says things like “directorial problems” and “Over acting” but does not follow it up with any explanation. So it may sound nice but has no real meaning besides to hurt the production.
I don't think anyone's ego was hurt here only their expectation of professional criticism.
Kirit

Madison, WI

#6 Aug 14, 2008
The contents of a single word are more important than the thought process behind it. If the words one chooses seem to be too harsh to be spoken to the individual’s face than the words should not be on a medium that will for ever hold its contents. I was not offended by the criticism from the author, but the choice of words and delivery by the meaning of those words. Such as “blandly acted” and “I know, it sounds terrible, but stay with me”. That said I would like to say that I respect Ms. Christians’ writing and that I hope that what I have said has not effected her too deeply. It was not my intentions to make her feel as low as I and my fellow cast members did when we read the review. Only to point out that her criticism was rude towards all of us involved. If her words were chosen more wisely I believe that this situation would have been avoided. If Ms. Christians wishes to continue this conversation in a more private manner I would be more than happy to oblige her. I would prefer to continue this conversation on a less a public medium. Just contact me at Tschott@edgewood.edu.


Thank You,
Tyler Schott
Cassi Harris

Madison, WI

#7 Aug 14, 2008
I would like to weigh in on Scorpioice's comments about my play, "For What It's Worth". Since the play closed on July 27th, it is now impossible for Ms. Christians to go back and see the show a second time, but I agree that she should have. Having had quite a few plays produced across the U.S. over the last 20 years, as well as occasionally receiving reviews of other productions of my published work, I can say without hesitation that Madison has some (not all, but some) of the most narrow-minded, marginally informed reviewers of any theater community I've ever seen, which is astonishing considering what a hotbed of artistic and political liberalism we are all supposed to be. From a personal standpoint, I don't write, direct or act in plays to please the Lindsey Christians and Bruce Bradleys of this or any other town. They are not important in the grand scheme of a production. What is important is what each individual audience member takes away from a show, how many times an audience member returns to see a production again ("For What It's Worth" had some people returning two and three times), and the heart and soul that the actors and crew involved with a show put into it.

On the other hand, it is just as important that fans of both Ms. Renken's and my work don't write in protest simply because they are friends or fans of either of us or of Broom Street. Like Ms.Christians, everyone has the responsibility to remain objective to a certain degree. Scorpioice was right - Ms. Christian's review of FWIW was narrow minded and misinformed, but not because it hurt our feelings - please - but because Ms. Christians made disparaging comments about aspects of the play that seemed to have been made abundantly clear to other audience members, and some of which were literally written right into the script. Those who witnessed Ms. Christians at my show have told me that she didn't bother to look up from her notes even once to actually watch what was going on onstage. That is what made her review of the hard work of my actors and crew a nonentity.

My hope is that Ms. Christians will take some time to learn the skill of effective theater criticism (and it is indeed a skill), and in the future make her comments rise above the mediocrity of that of most Madison theater reviewers. That doesn't mean coddling a bad production or stroking anyone's egos; it means seeing a play twice, once to watch and once again to make notes; asking intelligent questions of fellow audience members (not "I was in the bathroom, can you please tell me what Act One was about?") to gauge their opinions, and then making a fair and balanced assessment of the production based upon that information. If she can learn to do that, she will accord herself the respect of a theater community which at this point considers the opinions of many local reveiwers to be little more than the waste of a comp ticket.

Cassi Harris
joe anybody

Madison, WI

#8 Aug 14, 2008
Tierna,

You make a valid point about Broom Street not having the same resources as Mercury Players, but guess what? Mercury started off with no money, few actors, and a crappy space. Now they're putting on shows like "Long Christmas Ride Home" just 11 years later. I would also venture to say that there's a reason most talented actors steer clear of Broom Street. It's fine and dandy to work with inexperienced,(or outright bad) actors, but then don't be surprised when the reviews come in, and they didn't like the show.

Speaking of...Her word choice? So if she said the play was crappy, but in a nice way, you'd be okay with it? A few friends I attended the show with, whom I hold in high regard in the theatre community, took one look at the review and said, "Yep". I'm completely stunned at the thin skin of these people. So they're new to theatre? Well get used to a mean review now and then. Don't want to hear a comment on bad singing? Then cut that god awful duet BEFORE a reviewer sees it. Before we, your audience, have to endure it for that matter. That poor woman would have had to take a bribe not to comment on it...

Tierna

Madison, WI

#9 Aug 14, 2008
Joe
Your mean spirited comment just now is the sadest and lowest point of this entire discussion.

I cannot believe that you would blindly miss the point of everything that is being said on behalf of the productions in question. It is not about whether or not Ms. Christians liked the play or thought it was good, this is about what she said. It is not enough for a reviewer to say it is bad they have to give informed reasons why.

Joe your comment gives me so little hope that madison's theatre community can actually be the hotbed of creativity that so many of us believe it should be. If every theatre company overlooked inexperienced actors then no one would have a place to start from. It is obvious that not all the actors at broom street are going to win academy awards but that was never the point the point is that every last one of those inexperienced actors played their part and moved the plot forward, several of them in my opinion did this phenominally well and I am excited to see where those actors will go from here.

If you have not read Kirit's latest post I really think you should. Although you are not the reviewer your comments are up here for all the world to see.

Although I responded to your post Joe I really am not going to spend all my time trying to defend against angry and downright mean comments like yours.
joe anybody

Madison, WI

#10 Aug 14, 2008
I am very grateful it isn't up to you to decide what makes a "hotbed of creativity".

And for the record, she never said the play was bad, and she did pick out specific things that she didn't like. It wasn't a blanket "This play blew". It was accurate comments on the distracting lighting, the not so subtle script (though I happen to like the script), SOME of the acting, and the costumes. It wasn't vague, she had specific problems. Again, you can't turn being personally offended by a review into "mean-spirited".
joe anybody

Madison, WI

#11 Aug 14, 2008
And I'm perfectly content to not have you spend all your time defending against my comments Tierna.
Steve Anybody

Madison, WI

#12 Aug 21, 2008
Hey Joe, did you realize that some actors at BST DO work with Mercury as well? So that being said...pipe down. You obviously don't know what your talking about and having alot of fun doing it.

Are you also are unaware of the fact that a few members of BST were the ones who started Mercury?

Next time you decide to go this route please be informed. In closing I don't feel better instructing you on these matters. I feel sorry for you.

Best wishes on your next performance sir
Rob Matsushita

Verona, WI

#13 Aug 21, 2008
One comment, from Tierna that I have to respond to:

“It is unfair to compare Mercury and Broom Street, When was the last time that actors with the same talent as those in The Pillow Man ever tried out for something at Broom Street. The people who audition at broom street have little to no experience. Not to mention the fact that Mercury has more of a budget and a better space.”

Okay, well, first of all, as someone who has not only directed in both spaces for both companies, but was also actually IN The Pillowman, it’s worth pointing out that two of the cast were former Broom Streeters who had acted there as recently as four years ago, and one of them still acts there!

Just last year, in fact, featured at least two actors who have done plenty of work for other theater companies before and since (I’m talking about Lauren Peterson in “Why We Come Here” and Elliot Schultz in “Dr. Faustus”), not to mention Doug Reed doing “Just Sit Right Back And You’ll Hear A Tale,” just one year prior. So it’s not like people are really sitting in their towers, here, pondering when we should step down from Mt. Olympus to join the mortals at Broom Street.

To be totally frank, most people simply find that the 12-week process limits how much can be done in a year--this isn’t the right place for this argument, but I often wish that the runs at BST were shorter, that way more people could step up as directors, the season would have more shows, and the audiences would be better overall, because of the increased immediacy. But that’s another rant for another time.

And what’s with all this talk about Mercury’s budget being bigger and the space being better? Sure, Reefer Madness and the upcoming Full Monty are comparatively huge, but “Celeste and Starla Win Back Todd and Save The Day” was done for 100 bucks and a can of paint, pretty much. And I would argue that the BST space is actually pretty darn good, especially with the new seating. Can’t stress that enough.

Wanna hear a secret? I’ve seen behind the scenes of most of the theater companies, past and present, and they’re ALWAYS financially in trouble. ALWAYS. It’s not having money--it’s knowing how to spend it and where.

In the next post, I'll be dragging us back on-topic.
Rob Matsushita

Verona, WI

#14 Aug 21, 2008
Meanwhile, back on-topic:

Wow. I’ve never seen it from this angle before.

I really, seriously, should keep my damn trap shut, but I wouldn’t be me if I did, and plus, I also wanted to make sure people didn’t think I was posting as “Joe Somebody.”(Not there’s anything in his opinion I don’t, inherently, agree with.)

I know, I know, not only am I known for fisking reviewers, but the very name of my blog is taken from such a fisking. Now, I was just doing it, for the most part, on my own blog, but stopped when I realized that it was sorta keeping the reviewers away.(Funny how that works.)

I have not seen the show yet (I’m going to try and see it this weekend or next weekend, and I’m bringing friends. So there.), But I have read the review, as well as the supplemental, and there most “scathing” comment is this one:

“’Shiny Things’ is, like some other plays in Broom Street's history, plagued with overacting, technical inexperience, directorial problems and some truly terrible singing.”

Well, I mean, that is sort of true. As the director of “Irish Lesbian Vampire 2,” I feel I know what I’m talking about here.

But my point is that the review, well, wasn’t that bad.

I mean, seriously, does anyone want to see MY scrapbook?

One of my shows was called a 2-hour anti-woman joke, and said reviewer implied that she felt sorry for the cast having been duped into my own masturbatory horror fantasies.

Another show was called a bleak pastiche. And I had to look that up.

I’ve been called misogynist, talentless, useless, incompentent, irrisponsible, immature, and in one positive review, they called me “doughy.”

Now, you might look at all of that and say to me,“well, if you get so many negative reviews, why don’t you just--I don’t know--write better?”

And THAT’S where you’d...be right.

Ahem. Have a good day.
Rob Matsushita

Verona, WI

#15 Aug 21, 2008
One comment, from Tierna that I have to respond to:

“It is unfair to compare Mercury and Broom Street, When was the last time that actors with the same talent as those in The Pillow Man ever tried out for something at Broom Street. The people who audition at broom street have little to no experience. Not to mention the fact that Mercury has more of a budget and a better space.”

Okay, well, first of all, as someone who has not only directed in both spaces for both companies, but was also actually IN The Pillowman, it’s worth pointing out that two of the cast were former Broom Streeters who had acted there as recently as four years ago, and one of them still acts there!

Just last year, in fact, featured at least two actors who have done plenty of work for other theater companies before and since (I’m talking about Lauren Peterson in “Why We Come Here” and Elliot Schultz in “Dr. Faustus”), not to mention Doug Reed doing “Just Sit Right Back And You’ll Hear A Tale,” just one year prior. So it’s not like people are really sitting in their towers, here, pondering when we should step down from Mt. Olympus to join the mortals at Broom Street.

To be totally frank, most people simply find that the 12-week process limits how much can be done in a year--this isn’t the right place for this argument, but I often wish that the runs at BST were shorter, that way more people could step up as directors, the season would have more shows, and the audiences would be better overall, because of the increased immediacy. But that’s another rant for another time.

And what’s with all this talk about Mercury’s budget being bigger and the space being better? Sure, Reefer Madness and the upcoming Full Monty are comparatively huge, but “Celeste and Starla Win Back Todd and Save The Day” was done for 100 bucks and a can of paint, pretty much. And I would argue that the BST space is actually pretty darn good, especially with the new seating. Can’t stress that enough.
Wanna hear a secret? I’ve seen behind the scenes of most of the theater companies, past and present, and they’re ALWAYS financially in trouble. ALWAYS. It’s not having money--it’s knowing how to spend it and where.
Rob Matsushita

Verona, WI

#17 Aug 21, 2008
So, back on topic:

Wow. I’ve never seen it from this angle before.

I really, seriously, should keep my damn trap shut, but I wouldn’t be me if I did, and plus, I also wanted to make sure people didn’t think I was posting as “Joe Somebody.”(Not there’s anything in his opinion I don’t, inherently, agree with.)

I know, I know, not only am I known for fisking reviewers, but the very name of my blog is taken from such a fisking. Now, I was just doing it, for the most part, on my own blog, but stopped when I realized that it was sorta keeping the reviewers away.(Funny how that works.)

I have not seen the show yet (I’m going to try and see it this weekend or next weekend, and I’m bringing friends. So there.), But I have read the review, as well as the supplemental, and there most “scathing” comment is this one:

“’Shiny Things’ is, like some other plays in Broom Street's history, plagued with overacting, technical inexperience, directorial problems and some truly terrible singing.”

Well, I mean, that is sort of true. As the director of “Irish Lesbian Vampire 2,” I feel I know what I’m talking about here.

But my point is that the review, well, wasn’t that bad.

I mean, seriously, does anyone want to see MY scrapbook?

One of my shows was called a 2-hour anti-woman joke, and said reviewer implied that she felt sorry for the cast having been duped into my own masturbatory horror fantasies.

Another show was called a bleak pastiche. And I had to look that up.

I’ve been called misogynist, talentless, useless, incompentent, irrisponsible, immature, and in one positive review, they called me “doughy.”

Now, you might look at all of that and say to me,“well, if you get so many negative reviews, why don’t you just--I don’t know--write better?”

And THAT’S where you’d...be right.

Ahem. Have a good day.
Rob Matsushita

Verona, WI

#18 Aug 21, 2008
And, of course, I destroy ALL my credibility by reposting. Can anyone delete those copies? That looks really lame.
Wendall Mars

Phoenix, AZ

#19 Aug 28, 2008
Lindsey Christians says in her introduction that she wants to emulate Claudia Cassidy in being "knowledgable, fair and invested in the arts scene". Cassidy would have laughed her ass off at how lame Christians' reviews have been thus far. UW Madison must have a terrible Masters Research program if she is an example of what they're turning out.

Since: Jun 08

Madison, WI

#20 Aug 28, 2008
Rob Matsushita wrote:
And, of course, I destroy ALL my credibility by reposting. Can anyone delete those copies? That looks really lame.
I can, but it's going to cost you.

Since: Oct 07

Madison, WI

#21 Aug 28, 2008
Rob Matsushita wrote:
And, of course, I destroy ALL my credibility by reposting. Can anyone delete those copies? That looks really lame.
I tried 'killing' it, but it's still there. Maybe it will go away eventually. Maybe I'm killing it slowly.

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