The Washington area is leading the way to Democracy. Don’t worry. You didn’t click from theatrewashington.org to some other website. I’m talking about theatre criticism.
For many years, members of the Washington area theatre community would lament over the power of the lead critic for The Washington Post to make or break a show. Peter Marks, the current incumbent, hasn’t always agreed with that assertion. In a 2006 interview for Washington Theatre Review, when asked about the power of the Post, Marks said, “So this idea that people respond to a review and buy tickets—it’s very abstract to me. I also truly think it is overstated.” Now, he is acting on this belief by engaging in discourse regarding theatre opinion via Twitter and other social media.
On Saturday, November 19, Arena Stage hosted a discussion between Marks and Howard Sherman (an arts management consultant and former executive director of the American Theatre Wing) entitled, “Theater Beyond Twitter.” The 80 minute discussion focused on various exchanges of opinion via Twitter over the past few months between Marks and Sherman. The discussion addressed many interesting topics. Click here to watch it in its entirety.
Marks genuinely encouraged an ongoing discourse about theatre opinion on Twitter. Critics are often thought of as relishing the power conveyed by a one-way information flow. However, when Sherman praised the “democratization of opinion” produced by Twitter and other forms of social media, Marks agreed and bemoaned the fact that more area Artistic Directors and audience members aren’t actively engaged in Twitter conversations with him. He’s game and his Tweeting debates with Sherman that led up to Saturday’s panel discussion show Marks means what he says.
We at theatreWashington certainly embrace the democratization of theatre opinion. On the production page on theatrewashington.org for every show currently playing, we encourage you to post your own review. Word of mouth is the most powerful tool to support and advance the theatre. If opinions aren’t verbalized, then only the few voices that are doing the talking will be the ones that will be heard.
Marks’ mentor in embracing Twitter was our theatreWashington colleague, Alli Houseworth, who preaches the gospel about the virtues of the interactivity of social media and its commensurate benefits – one of which is such productive and informative dialogues about all things related to theatre led by an esteemed critic like Peter Marks.