Bogner takes the Times to task for using a bad metaphor.
By Ryan Bogner (Producer, Wingnut)
When journalists talk about Theater they often feel the need to compare its quirks and practices to other entertainment mediums that are more mainstream. The default is usually Hollywood and the motion picture and Television Industires...which, due to the massive differences in the process of the creation and exhibition of Live Theater and Film, is often terribly unhelpful.
Take for example this recent blog post by New York Times ecomonics reporter and theater crtic Catherine Rampell where she questions the moratorium on reviews being printed until after the opening night of Broadway shows.
The basic thesis of the artice is Ms Rampell questioning why this moratorium is in place when the reviewers often review a performanice before opening night. Why shouldn't they just be able to publish after the performance they saw?
A couple of giants of the Producing world, Manny Azenburg and Roger Berlind, make the arguments for why it should stay in place (a position on which I happen to agree) and are far more insightful and qualified to do so than I, so there's no need for me to defend that position here.
But what I DO want to address is Ms. Rampell's comparason of Broadway to Television and Film and the example from those mediums she uses to justify her argument.
According to Rampell: "Already the review embargo structures seem to be breaking down for other forms of entertainment. Movies and TV shows have traditionally enforced review embargoes, but according to a recent Variety article, some TV shows are now embracing earlier coverage."
I'm sure that statement is accurate, but its also completely and utterly irrelevant, because Rampell is comparing proverbial apples to oranges.
"Entertainment" is often used as a catch-all phrase for the Film and Television industries, and theater gets lumped in with them when in reality it has far more in common with live sporting events and concerts in how it is consumed by an audience.
TV and FIlm are recorded mediums, Theater is live. Using film as a touchstone for industry practices in theater would be like using the recording industry as a touchstone for how the Boston Pops should operate.
Once TV shows and Movies are in the can they're done and preserved, and in the 21st century distributed to anyone with an internet connection and a screen. A Broadway show is going to be a bit different on any night you see it and once it closes its gone forever.
If we must make the requisite comparison to Television and Movies to discuss this issue than if anything it should be this:
Filmmakers and Film Producers have control over what the finished cut of their film or episode is and when bring it out of the editing room. They get to decide when and where and how it will be screened for the public. Previews are part the editing process in the theater, as integral and important to the process as the closed door rehearsal period that proceeds it. Saying a review should be able to be posted before a show is open is like saying a critic should be able to review a film at a screening of an early cut in the editing room.
If it were up to me we'd just ditch using Television and Film as a metaphor when we are talking about theater altogether, beacuse the reality is that they only have two things in common.
We use actors and we tell stories. The similarities in the process of creation and exhibition end there.
RYAN BOGNER is a New York based Theater Producer. He has produced Yeast Nation, Here Lies Love, Hurricane and Hey, You Know What Movie Would Make a Good Musical? among others, and is working towards an MFA in Theater Management and Producing at Columbia University. www.heyyouknowwhatproductions.com