Me on blogs ~ theatre notes

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Me on blogs

It probably won't tell a lot of you anything you don't know: but all the same, Alison's Arts Blog Primer has been given front page primacy on this week's Arts Hub. Which is kinda nice.


Paul Martin said...

Alison, I followed the link from Esoteric Rabbit to ArtsHub and was reading with great interest your article on blogs. I was surprised to suddenly see my name and link to my blog there; thanks for the plug.

I was having a conversation with a film reviewer from a radio station at a media screening. I was telling her that I write on my blog. So far, I haven't found any other bloggers at media previews. I was saying that I find the most interesting writing about film in blogs. There's three main reasons that come to mind.

(1) Online writers have no word limitations. An Age reviewer was telling me that long reviews are 800 words and standard ones are 3-400 words. I find 600 words is sufficient for a short review and have written up to 2,200 words. I'm currently researching for an article that I expect to be between 2,000 and 10,000 words (perhaps in instalments).

(2) Online writers don't have the same censorship issues (fear of offending advertisers or readers). It tends to be more frank and honest. They're also limited to writing (mostly) about new releases, rather than something more interesting that may be an old film.

(3) Perhaps most significant is the ability to engage in dialogue. The discussion affords opportunity to extract deeper and deeper meaning. Several times I've read stuff online (say The Age) and been disappointed that there's no link to add a comment. I find mainstream media vastly inferior in this respect.

The end result of the above is that most writing about films in mainstream media are really just consumer guides rather than intelligent discussion or critique. I'm sure I'm not saying anything you're not aware of, and your article was nicely expressed. Just thought I'd add my own 2c worth. ;)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link, Alison, I really appreciate it. (And I'm glad you like the recipes.)

Anonymous said...

Same here, Alison -- many thanks (especially for referring to me as a "playwright," instead of a critic or blogger or theorist, it doesn't happen often).

And just to add to what Paul said above (and underscore what you wrote): another virtue of the blogosphere is that it's brought down geographical barriers, in much the same way that the Internet itself did when it began to develop and grow in the 1980s. When Stuck Pigs Squealing visited New York last year during its collaboration with The Debate Society, Banana Bag & Bodice and the Ontological-Hysteric (a collaboration that would have been well-nigh impossible twenty years ago), readers and writers on both sides of the Pacific were able to discuss the show, to draw interest around it. Writers and bloggers, especially, with interest in more avant-garde or marginalized theatre artists like Howard Barker, or Jan Fabre, or Martin Crimp were now able to make contact -- to find a commonality which may have been lacking in their own theatre cultures and communities.

Anonymous said...

And my thanks, Alison, as well.

Also very much in tune with George and Paul's sentiments - the blogosphere has all but vanquished that isolation which often comes from not having the company with whom to discuss much that I've seen people have the liberty to wrestle with around blogging traps.

Often the issue, I think, with the work that we do is that so much of it is based on subjectivity and by its very nature needs to be rigorously opened to discussion. Yet similarly, by its nature, its subjective response is always going to be, in a multitude of ways, biased and difficult to navigate. Approaching dialogue becomes sticky, everyone starts to tiptoe around, and things real, rarely get voiced.

It's one thing to discover/create a forum for this kind of voice, but it's another again to allow its evolution to inform the nature in which we practice 'off-line'. Since blogging, I've noticed my own approach to creating work has been far less shackled and much more democratic - in a sense, this has been largely because I don't feel like 'the only one out there' asking these questions. Of course I'm not. Never was. But this form has sampled a tiny fraction of the thousands of us who've at some time felt similarly.

Blogs have also gotten people in foyers talking. Not that people in foyers have ever needed an excuse to talk, but it's been an utter delight to hear a great deal of banter about "the latest at Alison's", or "Did you read Danny Episode's review of...?", et cetera.

The brilliance of arts blogs, I think, is their open-slatedness. The potential that exists for them to evolve in any direction, which includes the potential for us to see them as an incredibly important form of expression, not just in terms of artistic practice/theory, et al, but also as a clear, unfettered voice in a very powerful and present world of fois-gras media saturation.

Alison Croggon said...

Thanks everyone for all those interesting comments - yes, I think all those points are true, and it's exciting to have a genuinely accessible public and (as Ben has it) diablogic (close to diabolic! all those daemons!) space that hasn't the limitations of newspapers or other msm. Though that has its downside as well, like everything on the internet.

I'm also very aware that there are so many other blogs I would have liked to have mentioned...! A big oversight was Supernaut, and there's so many others. But there we are.

Nicholas Pickard said...

Thanks as well Alison. Your support is helping so much in getting this Sydney thing going...

It's funny, I went to an opening last night, as the only blog reviewer.

After my various complaints about mainstream reviews, one reviewer who was there last night - it was like water off a ducks back. The other, who is usually very friendly to me, gave me the cold shoulder.

A critique of critics sometimes doesnt go down too well. Ironic.

Alison Croggon said...

No, sometimes it really doesn't go down well, and I've had my share of snubs from miffed colleagues, although there are other people I've been rude about who continue to be the soul of courtesy. ("It's business, it's not personal").

Statler said...

Hi Alison, found you through the Encore website...
It’s great to see such a considered view on the role/impact of blogs in the world of theatre and beyond. I’ve found myself somewhat unusual in that I have no involvement in theatre other than as a genuine real live money-paying audience member. There were a couple of linked factors that motivated my blogging partner and I to start posting reviews of the shows we had seen in Glasgow and central Scotland. Many shows here have short runs and tour a number of Scottish cities so there is little time for reviews to be published in the mainstream media before the show has moved on. As a result there are only 3 or 4 regular professional reviewers that seemed to be responsible for 90% of comments and criticism of shows. It was difficult to accept that such a small number of people had such a controlling influence. We also found that many shows simply didn’t merit the attention of professional reviewers at all - small scale productions, student and youth theatre, and a well developed amateur/community theatre scene. For many of these productions a huge portion of their audiences come from friends/family so it can actually be very difficult for them to get genuinely independent feedback. Last year we had been seeing a lot of shows and felt we were in a position to maybe add a different view of things.

We don’t have any professional grounding so we aren’t in a position to provide in depth analysis on the text and histories of productions. It’s often more of an emotional response to a piece rather than an deep intellectual study but my take on it is that we are much more representative of the typical theatregoer than the professional reviewer can ever be.

The bigger concern for us has been the fact that our reviews tend to be generally more positive than those in the press and we recently felt the need to address this specifically. As people who choose to see a performance (and pay to see it!) we do a bit of research before booking tickets - either into the piece, the cast or the company, and we only see things that we think we’ll like. We certainly don’t spend money on shows it’s unlikely we’ll enjoy. Again, I feel this is a positive factor - much better than a press reviewer who has been sent by an editor to review a production he/she really doesn’t want to see, and then has to try to be objective about it.

View From The Stalls isn’t yet at the stage where we get much discussion amongst people who have seen the shows (other than some nice comments from some of those reviewed) but that’s definitely what I hope for. Sadly I doubt my site will ever be in a position to fill the vacancy, but what the theatre world really needs is it’s own version of

Alison Croggon said...

Hi there Statler - and thanks for alerting me to your most interesting blog. And absolutely, one of the valuable things about blogs is the space it offers for the interested enthusiast. Which is, to be frank, exactly what I am.

Interesting post on the positive reviews: I got a little shirty once when my esteemed colleague Mr Boyd joshingly claimed I was only writing nice things about shows. (Moi? I thought I was Queen Bitch). But there's a similar bias here: I get free tix, but many more invites that I can handle (the blog is an individual enterprise, and can't aim to be comprehensive - I try to make up for that with some kind of depth). But my position isn't so far from yours - given a choice made with limited time, and that there's no editor doling out my tasks, I'll see things that I think will interest me. (That doesn't necessarily mean that anything I don't see doesn't interest me, btw - I have to make some hard choices at the moment, and sometimes I'm forced to miss things that I really regret). I guess my personal tastes as an audience member are written all over this blog. But again, that's what blogging is all about.

Anonymous said...

Hoorah, diablogue (and it's new derivative diablogic) enters the blogosphere. God so much postmodern wordplay.

I add my voice to the chorus of thanks (though not for plugging my blog as I don't have one, but perhaps for helping my reputation as a linguistic genius, which I've been cultivating for some years now). Congrats on the write-up.

And yes Supernaut was an oversight, but hey I wouldn't even know about it if it wasn't for your blog. "the latest at Alison's" - !! I mean can you believe people are having conversations in theatre foyers about your blog? But they are. I know because I have them with people. Your review of Brian's Skryker was not only awesome and accurate, but retains a certain status in VCA lore. It all goes to show that... well, I dunno, you're making a difference or something? Something like that.

RATHER looking forward to seeing 'Grace', if for no other reason than I worship Mullins and Lipson from afar. And because I have a feeling I might disagree with you. And they always seem to be the most interesting dia(b)logues (note postmodern bracketing of optional letter/word).


Alison Croggon said...

We love postmodern word slippage here, Ben. And thanks, though of course then I worry about my brain imploding as I struggle with my constant demon, Overcommittment. I count on y'all to set me straight should I slide messily off the rocks.

Meanwhile, I'd be most interested in your (or anyone else's) response to Grace, so make sure you post it. It was an odd one for me. (And let it be known, I too worship at the shrine of Mullins/Lipson...)

genevieve said...

Oh, Alison, please don't slide off the rocks.
I had your tag cloud captured as a page to show off at a library conference the other week (unfortunately I didn't get it up, but it was ready to roll). It's easily the most beautiful one I've ever seen.

But I do understand the overcommitment issue - watching the books pages in the papers dwindle has me feeling I should be asking for copies from small Oz publishers to review - and I'd never find the time. Yet who is going to do it if they continue to cut their reviewing space?
Your article is terrific and I will blog it shortly.