So You’re Going to Write A Review

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Ain’t it a fine life writing theatre reviews? Image via BroadwayBox.

My classmates and I are attending a play (Reservations by Theatre Projects Manitoba) this week, and I can tell that some of them are feeling unsure about how to approach this assignment. Well, have no fear. Your local CreComm theatre reviewer is here.

Heed this advice, and I promise for a fulfilling, wonderful theatre experience without stress.

Do Your Research
For any play/musical you see, you should do your research first. Is this an original production? If not, who’s done it before? How old is it? Who wrote it? What’s their story? Answering these questions will help you give some context to what you’re going to see. Personally, it helps me if I already know the story – that way, I can pay attention to the actors, the sets, the book (a.k.a. the script), and how the story gets told, rather than the story arc itself. Find out if there’s an intermission and plan your bathroom breaks accordingly.

You should also do some research on the theatre – what are you allowed to bring? Should you expect a bag check? Some theatres are okay if you bring water in, but most have a no-food policy.

Take Notes
Bring a small notebook and a writing utensil of your choice (mechanical pencil is mine – self-sharpening and never breaks or dries out) and take notes during the show. Take notes on the normal things (the visuals, the acting, the story), but also write down how you feel. If the show makes you angry or disgusted or joyful, that’s influencing what you think of it, and you should write about it. Theatre is art, and art is created to move people.

I promise – you won’t remember everything if you don’t have notes. It’s going to be dark and you won’t be able to read everything you write down, but it’ll be something. Don’t rely on your memory, and do not record the show. Not only is it rude, but it’s illegal.

Be Respectful
Let’s make this clear: the theatre is not the movies. Do not bring your own snacks. Don’t ever put your feet up on the seat in front of you. Don’t make comments to your friend (or the stranger) beside you. And for the love of God, stay off your cell phone. Turn it off, or put it in your purse. Separate it from you completely. Something I’m working on in my life is to be more present, and that’s especially important in theatre. Actively listen. Actors can see if you’re engaged in the story and it’ll make all the difference.

The one etiquette thing that drives me up the wall is people (usually, men) who don’t want to be there and don’t even try to have a good time. When I saw the Les Mis tour a few years ago, there was a man who was unhappily sighing throughout the whole thing. Dude, these seats were $90. If you didn’t wanna go, don’t go. If you have to go for some reason, suck it up and enjoy it because hating your life for the next two hours isn’t going to do anybody any good.

If you have the opportunity to, ask the actors and creative team how they feel about their respective roles. How did they research it? How do they approach it each night? Ask them specific questions about the show if you’re confused. They’d be happy to help out someone who paid attention to their hard work.

If you have more tips, leave me a comment and let me know what your thoughts are! I hope this was helpful. Best of luck, first-year CreComm.

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