Traitor. Vindictive backstabber. Hypocritical conspirator. These are only a few of the names that I’ve been called when I reveal to a fellow actor that I am a critic. Their once glowing impression of me suddenly becomes odious and repugnant, causing them to scatter in all directions as if I reek of week old rotten eggs. What many people fail to realize is that as an actor-critic, my job revolves around supporting my fellow performers, not mutilating them; instead of dismantling a show, I aspire to help it transcend whatever elements are holding it back.
As someone who has been trained in the performing arts from a young age, I consider myself to be mildly cultured in the mechanics of acting; you don’t need to be a child prodigy to be able to discern the difference between good and bad acting. When I attend a show that I’m critiquing, I hone my focus on what I believe is and is not working in an actor’s performance. I don’t sit in the audience laughing maniacally as I watch an actor stutter on a line, quickly jotting down a review that will simultaneously decimate their career and quench my thirst for thespian tears. No, I seek to communicate and justify constructive criticisms that stem from a genuine place of compassion, providing the same respect and courtesy I would desire as a performer.
In the words of John Steinbeck, “the theatre is the only institution in the world which has been dying for four thousand years and has never succumbed.” Our field has been fading for years and I challenge every cantankerous critic and self-pitying actor to swallow the nails of their pride and devote themselves to sustaining the longevity of theatre instead of attacking each other in an attempt to boost their own ego.