Thoughts on Judging from Martin Denton

Dear IT Awards Judges,

The IT Awards asked me if I could share some of my philosophy about reviewing Off-Off-Broadway productions with you. I see hundreds of Off-Off-Broadway shows every year, and I try hard always to provide audiences and the artists involved with constructive, useful feedback about the work. I think that over the eight years that I’ve been doing this steadily, I have learned some things about the process that may be helpful to you.

The most important thing I can say is this: No matter how terrible or misguided or perverse a show seems to be, always remember: they didn’t do it just to annoy you. Anyone who works in Off-Off-Broadway knows how hard it is to get a show up—any show. Almost everyone involved is doing the work for no money, and finding time to do it around day jobs and other responsibilities. They’re running on passion—that’s why I love OOB so much. These artists are compelled to tell us something. Try to figure out what it is. Give them room to say it.

I try to come to every production I see with an open mind and an open heart, ready to hear what the artists want to tell me. Sometimes it’s hard to do that, which is why I will cancel a show if I’m very sick or very busy or very distracted by some personal issue (which, luckily, doesn’t happen very often). It’s also why I always try to see new work (new to me, that is) rather than new productions of plays or musicals I am very familiar with.

I never take notes. I try to tune in to what’s happening in the room—in the audience as well as on stage. Someone once told me that theatre is where a whole bunch of people sit in the dark and a few of them act silly; the trick is to figure out why. I think that’s exactly what the job of a reviewer is—(a) have the experience, and then (b) to report honestly and articulately about it.

I think that my job as a theatre reviewer is a privilege and also a very great responsibility. At the same time, I think it’s fun and I try not to take it too seriously—ever.

I hope this is of some value. Anybody who ever wants to talk about reviewing theatre with me has a standing invitation to do so—email me at mdd@nytheatre.com.

Best regards,

Martin

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