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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Letter to the editor: Clarification of a theatrical review

Published: March 16, 2007
Section: Opinions

I would like to take this opportunity to clarify both the expected content and purpose of a theatrical review. A reviews purpose in the professional world of theater and journalism is to inform the public as to whether or not a particular show is worth seeing. A review of a theatrical production speaks to the designers work, the performance of the actors, the direction of the show (including the directors artistic vision when evident), and occasionally comments on the script. Because the shows that campus publications review are published post-mortem, it surely puts the reviewer in an uncertain position when writing their article.

In light of the reviews that we have seen at Brandeis this year, I would like to make it clear that it is not the function of a theatrical review, unless that review pertains to the premiere of the show, to heavily and near exclusively critique the script of a play. This is especially true when one does not hold a terminal degree in dramatic literature and theory. It is journalistically negligent to analyze a text, however keen the analysis may or may not be, in lieu of the aforementioned components of a review and attempt to pass it off as descriptive of, or recounting a performance. This is not to say that past reviews have been holistically off base;

there are some in the Brandeis community that write excellent reviews. It is also worth noting that I am not suggesting that reviews must praise every show that appears on campus as brilliant, but I would ask on behalf of the Brandeis theater community that the reviewers take the time to find out what it is they should be writing about before they set pen to page.

Josh Mervis 08
Artistic Director, The Free Play Theatre Cooperative