What should theatre blogs write about – discussions abound

By Megan Mooney

So, apparently the hot topic of the day (um, in the theatre blogging community, which is, admittedly, a pretty small percentage of the population) seems to be musing about what topics should be covered by theatre blogs.

My foray into the discussion came from Theatre is Territory, with the piece Content conundrum.  Basically it gives an overview of the discussions that have been happening and asks "Is there not enough content about the actual content of theatre online?"

The post has generated a number of comments.  My favourite comment so far is by Philip Akin (from Obsidian Theatre)

Ahem….I think that to actually have a discussion on content that it would be necessary for people to actually see some plays.
Funny, the number of people I talk to who haven’t seen jack and yet are all in the theatre community.

Philip

I’m not sure why I liked it so much, but I did.  I guess partially because it kind of speaks to me about the fact that, it doesn’t matter what we write about, it’s not going to be perfect for everyone.  Don’t worry, I’m not on drugs, I don’t think that’s what he’s trying to say, it just, for some reason, is what it triggered for me.

Unfortunately the comments seem to be dominated by someone who is not willing to identify themselves generally just shitting on things.  S/he takes MK Piatkowski (from One Big Umbrella) to task over liking Drawer Boy, but does it in a clearly antagonistic way.  A way that feels clearly like attacking.  Which is a shame, because for me, that kind of makes it completely invalidate Anon’s point, which may, or may not, have been an interesting one – but, since it was presented in such and assholian way, it kind of got lost amongst the thoughts of ‘oh come on, seriously, isn’t attacking tiresome’ it’s hard to know.  This is, of course, the danger of the internet.  There are people who seem to think that attacking someone’s views instead of disagreeing with them is the same as useful discourse.  It really isn’t, but, you know, that’s the internet for you…

Anyway, enough of that, I’m sure you’re all dying to know what I think about this, so here goes.

Honestly, I kind of have an unpopular view that there is no rule about what we should or should not do when it comes to the arts, including writing about the arts.

I was having a discussion with a friend the other day about theatre and he asked "what does theatre have to do".  I said, theatre doesn’t have to do anything.  It can do whatever it wants.  It can be a light fluffy thing that makes no mark on people, but provides them with fun distraction for a period of time, or it can be some intense thing that makes people re-evaluate their life.  Both are valid.  He didn’t agree.  Which is fair, and he made some good points about theatre should offer the audience something they can’t get anywhere but from a piece of theatre.  I respect his opinion, and I certainly have no need to try and change his opinion, but I suspect it’s a far more common opinion than mine.

So, if that’s how I feel about actual theatre, I suspect you can imagine what I feel about theatre writing.  The content of theatre writing is entirely up to the author.  There is no "people should be writing about…", there’s just "people are writing about…"  There is certainly room for people to say that they wish there was more writing about content, and there sure as hell is room for those people to take up (figurative) pen and talk about content, and, there is also room for an author to read that comment and decide they would like to write more on content because it’s what their audience wants.  But when it comes down to the should or should nots, then I get a bit antsy.

Now, there are of course exceptions to this rule.  Basically the same exceptions that rule freedom of speech.  If what you feel like writing is hateful or meant to incite violence, then yeah, that’s a should not.  Also, if you’re say, writing a text book, maybe there are some ‘shoulds’ in there.  But if you’re just noodling away at your blog, well, it’s YOUR blog and you can write whatever you damn well please.  If it’s trends, content, reviews, process exploration, what you bought at the grocery store last night, it doesn’t matter, it’s all valid.  If people aren’t interested, they just won’t read it.  Simple as that.

So, there is my stance on it.  It might sound like standing on the fence because I’m not saying whether it should or should not be a certain way, but I’m pretty passionate about this particular fence-sitting position.

7 thoughts on “What should theatre blogs write about – discussions abound”

  1. Hmm.
    It’s hard to argue with your points because, from what I can tell, I think you’re for theatre-with-no-limits.

    i.e. Nobody can tell theatre what to do; nobody is the boss of theatre.

    But I think its healthy to talk about shoulds and shouldn’ts when it comes to theatre — healthy for theatre, that is. It reflects passion. It reflects direction.

    Besides, isn’t conflict the heart of drama?

    Of course theatre and theatre-artists will do what they want to. Whether or not somebody is dictating shoulds and shouldn’ts, there are lots of examples of artists that thrive going against the grain. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have opinions about it.

    For the sake of better art.

    Besides, I think your blogs sidebar and subtitle undercuts this blog entry a bit. It seems to me that you believe that theatre should be accessible, or at least feel accessible. That it shouldn’t be elitist or make an audience feel that it’s beyond them. That it should be engaged.

    I agree.

  2. @Aaron – “I think your blogs sidebar and subtitle undercuts this blog entry a bit. It seems to me that you believe that theatre should be accessible, or at least feel accessible. That it shouldn’t be elitist or make an audience feel that it’s beyond them. That it should be engaged.”

    Hmmm. That’s a damn good point. Except, it isn’t that I think theatre should be different. It’s that I think that there should (damn, there’s that word again) be more information that is accessible to the public and friendly to non-theatre folks. Which is why that’s how I focus my blog. But I don’t think anyone else *should* focus their writing in that way. I mean, I love it when they do, and I think it’s exciting, but it’s not a requirement or duty or something, you know?

  3. Why not?

    I mean, we’ve already established that artists will do what they want, so I suppose it doesn’t matter what anybody says. But why not set expectations? Why not demand better?

    “Requirement” and “duty” may not be the sexiest words when talking about creativity. I like “accountability” better.

    Listen. I dig theatre. But I also recognize that it really is a pain in the *** to get to. It’s really hard to get involved. And it’s hard to get motivated to go. Because it demands from an audience. It demands patience. It demands listening. In Canada, it demands braving snow & ice to get to it, and, more often than not, it demands either being too cold or too hot while you’re watching it.

    Why should we – artists and audiences alike – not demand certain things in return? Same with critiscim… which is really what we’re talking about when talk about theatre blogs

    People lament that there are no more theatre “critics,” only reviewers nowadays, as say, G. B. Shaw was a critic. With the advent of blogging, now we have hundreds of mini-Shaws critiquing theatre, but not just in terms of individual shows. We’re also talking about the big picture. (The quality of the criticism that’s out there, however, is another issue entirely.)

    Theatre blogs reflect btoh the dedication and the passion of the theatre community, both audience and artists. Why cut them off at the knees? Just because theatre can do anything doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be accountable. It “should” be doing something. And the community “should” be able to tell it what it “should” be doing.

  4. @Aaron – first, and of course, most importantly, feel free to use the word ass on my blog if you so desire. *grin*

    I see what you’re saying, and I guess the truth is people can tell me what I ‘should’ be doing, or what my level of accountability is until they are blue in the face, you’re right, I’m going to do my own thing. Well, when I can. I have Mooney on Theatre where I do whatever the fuck I want. I also write for blogTO where I have editorial guidelines I have to follow, and I’m totally fine with that. I found them too limiting for my taste, so that’s why I started MoT. But I still enjoy writing for them, so I just write to two different standards, one is my standard and the other is the editorial standard of blogTO.

    I’m someone who is just fine with reviewers instead of critics. That’s what I do. My philosophy is that I hopefully give people enough information that they know whether or not it’s the kind of thing they will like. Tastes are individual. I don’t feel comfortable speaking in absolutes for that very reason.

    That doesn’t for a second mean I condemn someone who provides an honest to goodness critique of something. And, I am happy to do that in person. It makes me feel like I’m back in school. It’s just not the goal of *my* writing.

    I guess my thing still goes back to we can ask for whatever we want, we can say we wished there was more content-based stuff, we can say that we wish someone would be easier on someone, or harsher on someone. All of that is just fine. It’s the implication that to be valid you need to follow certain rules that gets me. Who makes up those rules? Valid to whom? That kind of thing.

    And, I think that it’s all the ‘shoulds’ that cut people off at the knees, not leaving it open. By leaving it open someone can decide that if their audience really wants things in a different direction, then they can go in that direction, or, they can decided, screw this audience, i want to do it this way, they can take it or leave it.

  5. heh, good point.

    honestly, at this point i think maybe we’re just circling around semantics. I’m saying that I think discourse is important, but I’m being pedantic about the language we use.

    But the bottom line is people will still do what they want.

    Speaking of things I “should” be doing, I am rapidly approaching a deadline for a review that I’m only half done, so I really “should” bugger off an finish that up…

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