There is a major virus going around our community. It destroys art. You know it just as well as I do, I'm sure. We deal with it on a daily basis - from our news to our friends to ourselves. What's it called? Criticism.
Recently, I became aware of this doppelganger website, whose sole purpose seems to revolve around slamming The Seeing Place Theater. Through some research, we learned that the website was created last April, has recently been put online, and the creator spent extra money to disguise his/her identity. The web address is www.theseeingplacetheatre.com, and the site itself seems to pose as our theater, while also commenting on the quality of our work. They even reword one of our old slogans, "Known for fly-on-the-wall theater." Screenshots are below.
After the site was online for several months with no revisions, we noticed an update this morning (see below) to reflect the fact that Three Sisters is now closed and offers some explanation as to why our reviews were so good. (Apparently, we wrote them ourselves.)
This is not the only instance of public negativity against The Seeing Place. There is a user named "theatrelov" on TheaterMania, who reviewed Look Back in Anger and Closer and slammed both shows. Who knows if that person even came to both. This person literally wrote "the worst piece of theater I've ever seen" on both shows. On the latest one, it said, "If I could give this zero stars, I would." Given that their first review stated, "Never again!", one would think that this person wouldn't have wasted the second visit to one of our shows. Either way, I would not be surprised if this person is connected to the defamatory website.
Since we've exposed this whole situation, we've now received our first and only bad review for Three Sisters on TheaterMania. Unlike previous reviews, this one makes sure to point out enough things so that there is no question as to whether or not the person was at Three Sisters - there just isn't a whole lot of substantive information to the review. It's just a paragraph of negativity...which brings me to my next point...
I've always believed that if people feel the need to tear you down, you've achieved at least some height. So, in a way, it's exciting that we matter this much to people, and that our work is important enough to receive such attention. At the same time, theatre needs a much more supportive community. I can't stand it when people say things like, "That show was terrible. I was so bored." About ANY show. What an uncreative state of mind! In my opinion, we should, instead, focus on what is working, and what might be done to address what isn't.
Unfortunately, we learn these kinds of habits from reviewers. We seem to have gotten away from the idea of reviewers as liaisons to the public, matching the right audience to the right artistic experience. My favorite review EVER was written by Kenneth Tynan and went something like, "Albert Finney did a wonderful job in the role of the man that Hamlet would have loved to have been." How wonderful is that? There's no need for the reviewer to discredit the artist when the disagreement is over interpretation. Another review said something along the lines of, "If your idea of Falstaff is Fatty Arbuncle mixed with Charlie Chaplin, then you'll love this rendition." It seems to me that if a review serves to turn people away from the theatre, then it has betrayed its function to support the arts.
I've never known a person not to give their best when they walk out onto a stage. Even in my own reactions after shows, I try to keep in mind that these people have just shared a great deal with me in the scariest art form ever - because when people don't like my guitar playing, then maybe they prefer jazz music, but when they don't like my acting, it seems like they don't like me. The canvas and the painter cannot be so easily separated onstage.
So, when I read these kinds of reviews and see these kinds of websites that seem only to destroy, I try to keep in mind that we have also gotten a great amount of positive response, and that some people feel threatened by things they don't understand. Any act of destruction comes from a place of insecurity. And that when you really put yourself out there in your art, not everyone will like it. The Seeing Place pushes a lot of buttons. We're not trying to be regurgitated Broadway. We're trailblazing. We're trying to do something that isn't attempted very frequently. We're trying to do something that even The Group Theatre couldn't sustain for very long. It's a difficult road.
Thanks for reading. What are your thoughts?