Dept. of Disgruntled Thespians

Bravo Tim Klein! (Letters, June 8). While he is understandably angry that a critic promoted a mediocre play, it seems to me that critics in this town too often err on the other side. Chicago critics have been recklessly and ignorantly slamming Chicago theater artists for too long. Mr. Klein is correct in pointing out this city’s critics’ shameful lack of knowledge of theater history, theory, and practice. Actors get blamed for directors’ mistakes, directors get blamed for actors’ mistakes, and playwrights get blamed for everything. Add to the list of complaints:

Critics whose reviews are loaded with factual errors

Critics who mistake derivative work for “experimental” (and the reverse)

Critics who mistake sentimental moments in the theater for true emotion (and the reverse)

Critics whose only qualifications are that they were once a food critic or a dance critic or whatever

Critics who overhype a production, company, or talent to further their own careers

Critics who go to opening night parties to hit on company members

Critics who don’t actually like theater

To be a good critic is very hard. Maybe even an art in itself. My hope is that the next generation of critics will be better educated about theater. Many of us who are in the theater have actually studied theater criticism. It would be gratifying if critics would do us the same honor by learning the fundamentals of theater and play production. Perhaps then they will be able to offer insights that might actually teach and inspire theater artists, instead of frequently and cavalierly dismissing work to which artists devote tremendous time, energy, and heart.


A Chicago Theater Artist