Category Archives: ramblings

Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion.

Random musings at 3:14 a.m….never really a good idea, i guess. Unfortunately I’m completely wired: chalk the dearth of recent blog posts up to the opening of my own show: Preparations for Departure, created by Matchbox Theater Company, a 6 person theatrical collaborative formed just a few months ago. It has been a wild, wild, (mostly sleepless) ride, and we are now 3 performances into our 7 performance run.

Anyway, I had a really interesting experience tonight, and it made me think of what I’m doing with TheaterJunkie. Basically, my goal for this blog is to see shows, write about my reactions. Never before have I ever questioned the validity of having real (often negative) reactions to pieces of theater– That is, until today, when, for the first time, I was on the receiving end of one of those pseudo negative reactions.

Preparations for Departure has been nothing but a labor of love. I’ve never been so intimately involved in a show, not even when I wrote my thesis production, Pop Out, at the beginning of my senior year. The 6 of us have been involved in this show in every capacity, as writers, performers, producers, crew, designers, technicians: you name it. (PS – you can follow our progress at http://matchboxtheater.wordpress.com !). Sure, I’ve done theater in college. But never like this. And sure, I’ve received “bad press” in college (a couple of iffy reviews in the school newspaper, gossip, opinions shared in the cafeteria…). But never like this.

Browsing through twitterfest, the Philadelphia LiveArts/Fringe festivals collection of 10 or so tweeters who see fringe shows and write blurbs with their opinions, I came across this doozie:

“Preparations for departure: maybe overresearched. Love to see what those actors could do with something less pageanty.”

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. My first official bad press.

And, let’s put all our cards on the table: it’s really not even that bad. I mean, it sounds like she was into us as actors, at least. No mention of wanting to throw fruit. She didn’t walk out… Regardless, though, when I read this little blurb, my jaw dropped and my stomach sunk: a rush like I haven’t gotten since I rode my last rollercoaster during our Senior Week trip to six flags. I a little bit wanted to vomit, and I a little bit want to find this elusive tweeter and punch her in the face. What the fuck does she know?

However, I keep telling myself this is just an instinctive reaction. It’s ridiculous for me to be blowing up like this. For so many reasons. Just a few of them are:

1) Two months ago, I started a BLOG whose sole purpose was to critique theater. And I’ve done way worse than “overresearched” and “pageanty”.
2) I am completely and absolutely positive that the bulk of the people who see my work do not react to it as favorably as I would like. It’s insanity to assume that mystery tweeter was the first person ever to have a not-glowing opinion about something I created. So, what: just because hers is out in the open I’m going to have a conniption fit?
3) Theater=reviews. One cannot exist without the other. Every brilliant theater maker in the WORLD has had to deal with bad, lukewarm, horrible, you-name-it reviews.
4) Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion.

So sitting here at my computer, just twenty minutes ago, I attempted to reason with myself. Calm down, Bear, I said: not a big deal. Happens all the time. Look at you, in the big leagues now: a twitter review. 150 characters or less: you know it’s legit. Don’t let it get to you.

But then, it all came rushing back to me: the sleepless nights as we worked beyond the limits of our capacities preparing our set. My hundreds of pages and hours of writing. The tears shed in frustration. The financial hit that we’re all taking to make this production. The essentially three months of my life that I have committed, heart and soul to a project that, unavoidably, I have come to love like a family member. The image of the six of us, everyone in tears, holding hands before our first performance, unable to do more than just look each other in the eye, amazed by our own dedication to something so delicate and beautiful.

So whatever. My delicate and beautiful is someone else’s overresearched and pageanty. Life is about opinions. Hopefully there’s at least someone who found what we found in it. I’ll move on. Grow a thicker skin. Learn to really appreciate the compliments, and separate the fakeness from the sincerity.

But regardless, it felt important to post this. Because before I rush back into the crowd of critics, I want to send a shout out to anyone who’s ever made themselves vulnerable and shared their art with a crowd of strangers. Because that is love, no matter what people’s opinions on it. And as I go forth and continue to hypocritically blog about my own insignificant opinions re: other people’s work, I’m going to do it with a little more care than before. Because really: anyone can be a critic. It takes a whole lot more to be an artist.

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Introduction: Hi!

Although I like my TV bad (as in, “Food Network Caters Your Wedding”/”True Life: I hate my big boobs”/”Groomer Has It” bad), I like my theater GOOD. As in, change-your-life kind of good. As our entertainment options get more and more easily, “pre-packaged” accessible, I’ll admit that it requires substantially more “effort” to get off one’s butt to spend the time and money required to see live theater. And yet some of us manage to do it.

My hope is that this blog encourages me to continue my life long quest to continually seek out and see new and exciting theatrical projects. True, I don’t need too much encouragement, but the fact remains that it’s a whole lot easier to see shows when a) they’re consistently offered to you for free and within a 5 minute walk of where you live (the case when I was in college) or b) you’re studying abroad in Avignon, France, in the midst of the largest theater festival in the world (the case when, well, I was studying abroad in Avignon, France). This blog, then, is not only an opportunity for me to share my (admittedly) subjective opinions with my (hopefully) faithful readership, it’s also a theater watching contract with myself.

Before I continue, I must of course concede the innate hypocrisy of this blog. When I read a New York Times Review and find that my opinion agrees perfectly with Mr. Brantley’s, I tend to get pretty smug. However, if I find that my opinion differs from the reviewers, I am instantly filled with at least some level of nauseatingly pretentious superiority. Who am I to receive my opinions from some self-designated “expert”? My opinions are my own, thank you very much! (I really am a snob). So for me to blog about shows I’ve seen and offer my opinions to you seems…well…kinda like a dick move. I will take this moment to establish, then, that I offer my opinions not to supplant your own, but merely as the reflections of someone who really – REALLY – loves theater and just can’t keep it to herself. One of my favorite things about theater is that everyone’s experience is his or her own – there is no such thing as an “objective” review of a performance. That I believe.

Thus, I unapologetically present to you then my *extremely* subjective opinions. I’ll try to blog every time I’ve seen something new, and I’ll try to keep this project up. My hope is that you share with me (as comments!) your own reflections and reactions – to the shows, to my thoughts, to whatever.

Love,

Jessie

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