I’m nobody! Who are you?

11.14.11 | 3 Comments

CATEGORIES advocacy, community, conversation starter

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.
How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!
~Emily Dickinson

I am Michael Kaiser’s nightmare.

I don’t have an MA, MFA, BFA, JD, MD, DDS, P.E. CPA, MSCE, or HVAC.

And yet I have opinions.

Opinions unformed by the cultural canon Mr. Kaiser has professed in the past. The Canon of his Youth. Not just a dead white male canon, but the dead white male canon of his specific formative years.

Opinions I foist on a range of professional, semi-professional, and amateur theatre makers as though I had some right to their ears.

Opinions shared as though, uninformed as they are by Higher Higher Education, I feel them to be correct and will sometimes publicly defend them, even when attacked by ‘names’, or the statused.

And isn’t that the magic of now?
I get to share my opinions freely without land or title, and Michael Kaiser gets to blandly disapprove of the notion of me.

The ‘democratization of the press’ isn’t democratization of publication, push-button publication has been available for two decades. The revolution is squarely in the democratization of audience attention.

Mr. Kaiser is correct in that we need professional reporting on and contextualization of our field. He is desperately wrong in that more sources, more voices increase, not decrease, the the clarity of the picture we get. Even ‘biased’ sources, or unprofessional sources increase the quality of the picture we get from any given event or production. Because we’re smart people who can read and think critically and detect biases. 

I need your help to make sure Mr. Kaiser stays wrong. You may have a proper alphabet listed after your name on the stationary, you may not, but it’s your theatre citizenship that’s going to make the most impact on a community and make sure that the Commons is heard from. Promise. If you don’t want money/resources to be the primary determiner of who gets to speak? Engage.

Keep Reading
Read as much as you can. Old school print criticism. Blogs. Long form, short form. Read things that challenge you, read things that make you feel better. But Read.

Keep Reading Critically
The fact that someone agrees with you doesn’t make them a good writer. More importantly? Someone agreeing with you doesn’t make either of you right. You know what good writing is which means you know what bad writing is. Stop rewarding bad writing just because you agree with it. And then think about what it is you have read. Is it affecting your thinking at all? How?

Keep Writing
You have opinions about things in your world /country / region / city / town / village/ hamlet / Prince William Sound and your opinions matter. Respond to these things simply to have a record for yourself of having felt and thought that way, but also? You never ever know who’s reading.

Keep Writing Better Every Day 
I know you thought your English teacher was shining you on when she said you needed writing in every facet of your life. She wasn’t. Write as much as you can and grant writing will get easier. Newsletters will get easier. E-blasts will get easier. I couldn’t locate the writing muscle for you on a chart but it is real, and it needs exercise. 

See Theatre
You can’t know what you’re talking about unless you are participating. This is part of participating.

Remember, that microphone is live.
I have people approach me from time to time to raise issues for them. While I am often glad to, the thing is? Their voice will never get stronger if they borrow mine. Your blog, your Twitter account, your YouTube channel is no better or worse positioned than anyone else’s. Create content people want to amplify and others come find the source.

The magic of now is exactly that everyone is a critic. Everyone has a voice. We’re all nobodies together and the words can speak for themselves. More. And better. And More.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Travis Bedard

Travis Bedard

A long time theatre blogger, Travis is the Artistic Director of Cambiare Productions and a contributing writer to 2amTheatre.com. Travis holds a degree in Theatre (Secondary Education) from the University of New Hampshire and is currently posted in scenic St. Paul Minnesota..
Travis Bedard

Latest posts by Travis Bedard (see all)

Send to Kindle
  • I do think that professional critics, knowledgeable amateurs and just plain fans all have a role in the discussion.

    But like said today on Twitter, the professional critic is unique in several ways: As someone who makes a living from it, he or she has the time to be more thorough, develop an expertise. Also, you expect a professional critic to be free of vested interests, of ties to a producer or theatre or performer. A professional critic is usually working for a larger organization that provides a buffer and has a code of conduct. You expect a critic for a mainstream publication will have the independence to write what he or she wants. They only have to answer to their boss.

    I’m not actually sure we can all detect biases. I’m pretty sure that critics for mainstream publications keep a professional distance from the shows and performers they cover. On the other hand, if someone writes a blog post praising a show, how do I know they haven’t invested in it or that the playwright is their cousin?

  • The professional critic is absolutely unique and I love them. The sticking point for me (specifically in what Mr. Kaiser has outlines) is that their uniqueness trumps mine. They bring (ostensible) professional writing skills, long history with the subject and professional remove. 

    I bring my 20 years of making and producing theatre and my evangelical zeal for the local. The long time dedicated non-professional audience member brings their particular history and taste and dedication of long association. A playwright brings something, a dancer, a sculptor, a lighting designer. Declaring one more special than the other is a road I hesitate to travel. There was a time when credentials and professionalism mattered more to me, but that’ s gotten lost as I’ve discovered more and more that credentialing is largely a mechanism to maintain the status quo. 
    As for detecting biases… if you can’t detect a bias then it may not matter. Most “family and friends” comments and reviews stand out pretty hard. 

    Now as you pointed out on Twitter, the spot on the cultural watchtower in the MSM the hold is vital. But there’s nothing saving that position for them in my abdicating my pulpit.  

  • Tmalloy04

    Professional critics are SUPPOSED to keep their distance, but for years, the Washington Post reviewers promoted the work of their friends, and pushed only certain styles of theatre (avant gard and political) to the detriment of other styles.  Our current critic is much better, but Lloyd Rose and David Richards’ damage lingers on.