New York Times Critic Watch Project
Though we've been a bit quiet here at NYTCriticWatch, we are working through our many responses to understand the patterns. If you haven't yet taken the survey, we'd love to have you. It's quick, it's important, and it's fun (we think so). Lend us your opinion!
Since we tend to ponder modern criticism here at NYTCriticWatch, we've been thinking: in the best world of American theater, should critics attend talk-backs, read playwright interviews, or otherwise engage with the writer and her body of work to better grasp the goals of her play before critiquing it? Would it not serve audiences to include in critics' coverage the playwright's intentions, where the play comes from, what the playwright thinks the play is about? This would converge with the critic's personal reaction and experience in the performance. Does this already happen with criticism of new plays? Do critics engage with writers before reviewing their new plays? Would playwrights wish to be asked these background questions by critics? Or are we crazy and a new play should be experienced without any landscape or history? We understand how little time critics are given to see and review plays. This comes from the hypothetical best world where time and word count are unlimited. What would it do to criticism? Would it be better to, in the way we understand—say—Arthur Miller's work and life, go in to a new play by a truly unknown writer having heard her point of view about her new play?