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Bossy pants – Everyone’s a critic

There are people who lead modest quiet virtuous lives and there are people who are obsessively devoted to the maintenance of their own prestige and influence.
And then there is everybody else, drawn to power like bees to a blossom, or moths to a flame.

– The New York Times’ A.O. Scott commenting on the “journalists” in the film the Sweet Smell of Success

In June I wrote an article on Huffington Post about the role of social media in transforming the relationship between artists, audiences and professional critics.

So far it’s been a banner year for this at the Stratford Festival.

First Lynn Slotkin, an established critic, and The Stratford Festival get into a tussle. It began with a piece on Slotkin’s blog questioning Des McAnuff’s tenure as Artistic Director.

The Festival revoked Slotkin’s media tickets, but then changed its position. The emails are online now, and one statement from the Festival that caught my eye was this:

“Upon reflection, we realize that critical debate is an essential part of any vibrant theatrical culture and that we should continue to provide you with reviewer’s tickets.”

“Upon reflection”?

More recently, on July 13, 2012, playwright, actor, and director Morris Panych published a “comment” in reply to The Globe and Mail’s two star review of Panych’s Wanderlust, a new play that debuted at Stratford.

Panych responds to J. Kelly Nestruck’s review with a comment critical of more than Nestruck’s review. Panych had a lot to say about the shorts Nestruck wore to the premiere performance, adding that during the standing ovation Nestruck “sat, calves exposed.”

I must admit that, as a pant-wearing sideline sitter, I enjoy reading these interactions. As I wrote in the Huffington Post. piece, social media can provide a space for meaningful, public discussions about art.

Another critic, Pat Donnelly from the Montreal Gazette joined the discussion. She noted that artists and crtics see things differently because they do different jobs: “Is it easier to bake the perfect apple pie or to sample as many of them as possible in search of the best one?”

If you believe that things tend to happen in 3s, we can expect another Stratford production to act a catalyst for some passionate & pungent writing from critcs and artists. In the meantime, there’s always Mackendrick’s “Sweet Smell of Success,” one of my favourite films. The video above includes narration from A. O. Scott, film critic with the New York Times.

Below is a cartoon from Ken MacDonald, @kennyrory, of J. Kelly Nestruck in his shorts.

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Bossy pants – Everyone’s a critic

Keith Tomasek

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