In a suburb west of the capital city, in a surprisingly mediocre venue - one much too wide for its depth, and one with poor acoustics, a poor PA system, and lousy external signage - an important - nay, historic - theatrical event took place that merits extraordinary coverage. Alas, there will be no review, for the thespians' labor union, Actors Equity Association, in conjunction with the local presenters and production partners, banned reviews as a condition of the licensing agreement. Now I suppose there are a few theatre critics in our nation who are also AEA members, but none of CVNC's writers is, and we certainly don't work for or owe any particular obligation to the AEA. On the other hand, we do enjoy working relationships with most of the theatre companies in the state, so when we were informed by the presenter of this event in that nearby burg that there was to be no coverage, we decided to listen.
But it got me to thinking. Years ago, when we made our first trip to that grand and glorious hatchery for chamber music known as the Marlboro Festival, we were told on arrival, "No reviews." This seemed - and still seems - preposterous, given that all members of the faculty at that place were (and are) world-class artists, and all the budding young players are world-class musician wannabes with far better than average prospects for achieving their professional ambitions. So what was the management of Marlboro thinking? Was the intent to protect the young ones from the (sometimes) barbed tongues and harsh rhetoric of professional critics? Pity those poor innocents when they finally make it to the Big City….
And in fact, doesn't the notion of banning reviews smack in no small way of censorship? A recent example comes to mind: the action of the esteemed & illustrious Supremes (and we don't mean the vocal ensemble) in banning televised coverage of the important California "Prop 8" trial in which attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies, opponents in Bush v. Gore, joined hands to challenge the "anti-gay-marriage" law that stripped the rights of thousands of state citizens who were already legally married... - before such unions became illegal.
Anyway, here's the bottom line on press coverage from my perspective, as a critic and journalist: if you advertise a performance or a reading or whatever you wish to call it, and if that performance is open to the public, then it ought to be subject to review. Period.
Mention of Prop 8 two paragraphs ago wasn't purely coincidental, for the subject of this non-review is a play based on California court action attendant thereunto. But reviews are banned. So we'll leave it there…, meanwhile encouraging FaceBook readers to go "friend" the leading theatre companies in the Triangle (you know who they are) in order to find out that, for the first time ever, the artistic leaders of nearly all these outfits, some but not all of whom are AEAers - plus a batch of distinguished guests - got together on one stage at the same time to do this amazing thing.
Since this is a non-review, let's simply say the reading was ok, and the large (but not capacity) crowd stood at the end to render its altogether favorable verdict (no pun intended). We'd love to be able to say more, for the show was both relevant and timely. It will be interesting to see how all this plays out (no pun…) in this vale of humility between the two mountains of conceit known as Virginia and South Carolina, where dimwits are, as here, in charge of state politics. God bless us & bind us - and protect us from Amendment One. (Did I mention Amendment One? If approved, it will strip away from our citizens domestic partnership rights and other protections and benefits that are at the moment legal here….)
There are additional performances - make that "readings" - planned for NC, including one in Charlotte (for which admission is being charged…, making it even more of a mainstream event than the one we are not discussing here). For details, see our calendar (unless we decide not to list these things, since they have been "closed," as it were, by AEA…).
PS To see video of the LA edition of the show that we are not reviewing here, visit http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/04/prop-8-play-youtube_n_1319379.html. We don't know if it was reviewed out there, but you can hardly make wiser use of the next hour and a half of your time.