Hello DARTcritics readers! Kristina here, reporting from St. Catharines as the In the Soil Arts Festival is full speed ahead in preparations. As Leah already...
20 February 2014: As part of their preparation for our colloquium, The Changing Face of Theatre Criticism in the Digital Age, the DARTcritics undertook research on a number of critics, bloggers, and others with an interest in their work, looking in particular at how online forms of communication (including social media) figure in their critical work. They will present their findings in a masterclass with Jill Dolan, Maddy Costa, and Andy Horwitz (Thursday, 20 February) and in a colloquium panel discussion on Saturday 22nd February at 10 am, and ask questions of many of their research subjects.
Here’s an overview of what they learned, and what they’ll ask:
MADDY COSTA is a theatre and arts critic based in London, UK, who writes about dance, music, theatre, literature, and even baked goods. She is critic in residence with Chris Goode and Company. Her blog is stateofdeliquescence.blogspot.ca.
She is very active on Twitter, with 1,561 followers. She does not appear to be on Facebook.
Costa is a former arts editor at The Guardian and writes about the arts regularly for that publication. Nine of the last 15 pieces she has written for The Guardian have been about recently released albums, while four have been about theatre.
Questions for Maddy Costa:
— How do you choose what to write about on your blog and what to write about for The Guardian? Do you pitch all the pieces you write to The Guardian?
— Are you happy with the level of exposure and readership your critical voice has via social media?
— How important to you, in all your critical work, is dialogue via Twitter and other social media?
JILL DOLAN is an academic and blogger based at Princeton University. Her outlets for her critical voice are academic publications (in print and online), her own blog, Facebook, and Twitter.
The Feminist Spectator blog launched on 25 August 2005. In it Dolan “ruminates on theatre, performance, film, and television, focusing on gender, sexuality, race, other identities and overlaps, and our common humanity.” She posts on average 3-4 times a month; in 2013 there were several months when there were no posts, and the maximum posts in any month was seven.
In the first week of February 2014, the Feminist Spectator blog had 1081 pageloads and 768 unique visits, including 695 first time visits.
Dolan won the 2011 George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism for her blog.
Dolan has 1,159 Facebook friends, and made 15 Facebook posts in January 2014. Her posts tend to be about theatre, performance, and gender, and about the representation of gender in the broader cultural sphere. There is considerable sharing, commenting, and tagging between Dolan and her Facebook friends.
Dolan has been on Twitter since March 2012 as @femspectator. Her activity on Twitter is limited: She has 284 followers, has Tweeted 147 times, and is following 53 people. On her blog she called Twitter “a format I find pithy but not really conducive to thoughtful and, I admit, generous commentary”
Questions for Jill Dolan:
— Would you describe your social networking activity as community building? As promotion? As itself a form of criticism?
— The professional theatre critical world is still dominated by white men. Do you feel the blogosphere (including social media) is allowing for a greater diversity of critical voices?
— Could you expand on your misgivings about Twitter?
ANDY HORWITZ is a theatre critic, producer and creative mogul in the world of online arts coverage, with over twenty years in his field. He is considered a pioneer of embedded criticism, and in 2007 piloted the creation of the independent online platform and community for arts discourse, Culturebot.org. He uses this platform along with live activities to explore aspects of marketing, arts administration, and creative strategy.
As director of Public Programs for the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council he programmed the River to River Festival in Lower Manhattan from 2011-2013, and he has also worked for Performance Space 122.
His uses of social media span from Culturebot and his personal blog Applied Creativity, to larger platforms like Facebook and Twitter where he shares news about upcoming productions and events as well as publishes critical writing.
Horwitz’s traffic across all of his online platforms ranges from 500-5000 unique visitors a day, averaging at about 25,000 per month.
Questions for Andy Horwitz:
— When you first began operating Culturebot as an independent platform in 2007, what were your thoughts on the existence of non-commercial theatre and arts websites? Were there many of quality, or was Culturebot a response to the need for quality arts coverage?
— In a recent e-mail, you said that “social media is good for promotion, bad for discourse.” Could you expand on this? How do you think social media hinders productive discourse?
— What would you say are the perks of operating through social media independently, as opposed to using it at the behest of an employer? Is it harder to operate with such a broad level of freedom, or do you prefer being able to write about what you want when you want?
— Gina Greco
ANDREW HAYDON is a theatre critic based in London, whose blog Postcards from the Gods (postcardsgods.blogspot.ca) has been online since 2007. He also writes for the online theatre magazine Exeunt. Before this he wrote for the online magazine Culture Wars and The Guardian. He travels extensively in Europe and write about European, particularly German, theatre frequently.
He is extremely active on social media. He has 1,308 Facebook friends and tends to post on Facebook multiple times daily, both creating his own posts and commenting on others.
He has Tweeted 33,600 times, has 3,019 Twitter followers, and follows 983 people.
He responded to the following questions in an Facebook message exchange:
Where do you feel your role is in the theatre criticism world?
These days it’s hard to say really. I mean, I started off “online” but writing for someone else (CultureWars), then I got a “blog” (and carried on with CultureWars), then I got “professional” work (and carried on with blog and CultureWars). Now CW is finished, I tend not to seek professional reviewing work, but I do write regularly for Exeunt and get paid for writing about theatre in magazine articles (more often in mainland Europe now) and books.
When you post do you hope to start a conversation with the public or do you have a more “take it or leave it” mentality?
I think mostly I think you just *are* part of a conversation. Even if it’s as small as someone just mulling over what you’ve written for a while. Mostly I actually do hate the idea that anyone could read what I say and believe every word and act accordingly. (Then, occasionally, I do wish that’s exactly what would happen, because I’m right J)
Would you consider yourself a brand?
Interesting. Well, I *hate* the word “brand”. I suppose I understand it as a concept, and I guess on Twitter there’s an element of that sort of thing. But mostly I hate the word and concept so much that I try not to think about it.
Since you are not directly connected with a professional outlet (such as Kelly Nestruck is with The Globe and Mail) do you feel you have to promote yourself as well as your work?
No. I don’t really like the idea of “personality” journalism, as such. Although, in a slightly stupid way, because I sometimes have a bit of a big mouth on Twitter (and make the odd joke here), I might have picked up the odd reader because I’m being excessively rude about something on Twitter — and very occasionally on the blog itself). Generally I try to be nice/responsible about people’s feelings, though. And hopefully I usually manage.
Could posting something to your personal Facebook damage your readership?
Dunno about *damage*. But, IDK, would anyone want to see anything personal from the guy whose reviews they read? But then, unless I’ve said they can read my wall they can, so that’s their look out and it’s on a pretty small scale. I mean, what sort of personal thing do you have in mind? (I doubt that there’s much “personal” that I’d post on here that I wouldn’t post on my blog. It’s more that I mostly use this to chat to friends and you don’t want everyone listening to you all making daft jokes…) I think if anything I’m much more likely to lose the odd industry friend because I had to be brutally honest (but hopefully never unkind) about their show.
— Kendra Neaves
J. KELLY NESTRUCK is the theatre critic for the Globe and Mail and has written for The Guardian. He studied Drama in the English department at McGill University and has an MA in Drama and Performance Studies from the University of Toronto.
Via The Globe and Mail his writing has the potential to reach 3.5 million people on a weekly basis.
Nestruck is extremely active on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. His Twitter statistics include:
Nestruck tweets mostly about theatre, but also on other areas of interest, most recently, the Olympic Winter Games. His Twitter and Facebook profiles make clear that he writes for the Globe and Mail.
Nestruck has 1,278 Facebook friends and his profile is fairly public. His posts are mostly about theatre (what he’s reviewed, upcoming shows he’s excited to see, asking his friends their opinions etc.) as well personal posts such as his problems with Breaking Bad, and his love for naps. His posts are mainly in English with a few in French.
My understanding of Nestruck’s use of social media is to connect to his audience, control what he puts out there and how the public views him, keep a pulse on how his audience consumes theatre and reviews, and to create opportunities to generate conversation about the arts.
Questions for Kelly Nestruck:
–Do you ever tweet a knee-jerk reaction to a production and then change your mind when writing your newspaper review
— Is social media helping turn theatre criticism into more of a conversation than it was previously?
— Are you at all restricted by the Globe and Mail in terms of what you can or cannot say on social media? Do you ever find that you censor yourself?
— Do you use several outlets (newsprint, Twitter, Facebook) as a response to how your audience consumes information? Or is it a personal preference?
— Tara Johnston
RICHARD OUZOUNIAN is the chief theatre critic for the Toronto Star and the Canadian theatre reporter and critic for Variety. He has a BA in English Literature from Fordham University and a MA in theatre and creative writing from the University of British Columbia. He has worked at many colleges and universities including George Brown College, Sheridan College, and Dalhousie University.
Ouzounian mostly writes about theatre, but also writes about films and actors. He has published a book of his celebrity interviews for the Toronto Star, Are You Trying To Seduce Me, Miss Turner? (McArthur and Company, 2004).
Ouzounian’s writing in the Toronto Star has the potential to be read by over one million readers. Toronto Life has referred him as “the city’s most influential critic”. He does not use social media.
He is also a playwright and lyricist; amongst his acclaimed productions are Dracula: A Chamber Musical, which played at Theatre Neptune in Nova Scotia and the Stratford Festival; and a musical version of Carol Shields’ Larry’s Party for Canadian Stage in Toronto. A revival of his adaptation of Dickens’ Great Expectations opens on 21 February, 2014 at Theatre Orangeville.
Questions for Richard Ouzounian:
— I posted a question about you and your critical influence on the social media site reddit.com. An anonymous redditor replied that you have a populist readership — that many of your readers don’t consider themselves theatregoers. Do you agree with this person’s statement? Who do you understand to be your readership?
— There are so many social media sites, including, Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and Instagram. I believe that you could reach an incredible following by just joining one site. What is your reasoning behind not participating in social media?
— Our world is ever-changing and technologies are evolving all the time. How do you think social media is affecting theatre criticism?
— Angelia Colosimo
HOLGER SYME is the Chair of the Department of English and Drama at the University of Toronto Mississauga and an associate professor of English.
A graduate of Oxford and Harvard Universities, Syme enjoys the works of Shakespeare and German theatre, and is an avid user of social networks. Syme has his own website – vizify.com/holger-syme – which links to his personal Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and blog pages.
Syme is very active on both major platforms on social media:
Following 864 people
Syme connects on social media mostly about theatre he’s seen, upcoming shows he’s excited to see, asking for his friends’ opinions on theatre, as well personal posts such as pictures of his cute dog.
Questions for Holger Syme:
— You have a lot of responsibilities at the University of Toronto; how do you find the time for all the social networking you do?
— Does the University of Toronto approve of all the social networking you commit to?
— Would you call yourself a blogger? A critic?
— Michael Caccamo
Yazbeck is Director of Public Relations at the Shaw Festival. She has an advanced diploma in Technical Theatre Arts from Niagara College, and a graduate certificate in Public Relations from Humber College. This is her 28th season at Shaw. She is a social media user (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin) both personally and professionally.
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