Friday, March 18, 2011

In Defense of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark During the Week of Its Cancelled 2010/2011 Opening

As someone who 1) saw the very first preview performance of Spider-Man, 2) freelances for a Broadway-themed website, and 3) understands the ins and outs of putting up a show (much less a titanic $65 million dollar show), two contradicting chords struck me when a Major Local Newspaper published this little article.
Another day, another Spider-Man Turn off the Dark opening date on Broadway: this time it's June 14, the show announced late Friday.
The show, therefore, will not be eligible for the 2011 Tony Awards.
Shows between those dates are to be nixed for the much-discussed retooling by the new creative team. Most major critics have already reviewed the show.
I wrote this as a retort to the piece:
"Another day, another Spider-Man Turn off the Dark opening date on Broadway ... Most major critics have already reviewed the show."
The question is, why have they reviewed it? Even you, the head theatre critic for one of the biggest papers in the country, broke polite protocol and reviewed Spider-Man before the production team's set press opening. While I do not know if you paid for the performance you saw, 'why?' remains my big question to those professionals who paid for their tickets and, conversely, were paid to share their opinion to the masses via their occupational outlet despite an official invitation to do so. I can understand an unpaid blogger or message boarder posting their 2 cents, but not those working for major publications.
And this is all coming from a working Chicago theatre artist who sat through the production's first preview performance back in November, fully knowing a good amount of work needed to be done to help the show along despite several innovative advances and moments of beautiful imagery.
Nothing substantial became of my reply, but the whole situation floors me. It's easy to criticize Spider-Man's production team (and that's coming from someone who blogs!) for taking so long to solidify the show, but what seems to be missing from major critics' evaluations is the considerate understanding behind such an enormous endeavor. Plus, there's a respect level being ignored by those writers. If a production has not formally invited the press (read: comped them in) to come review a set, solid, final version, why should a paid writer formally decree their opinions of a show which, in the eyes of those creating the piece, remains incomplete? Who are they to say it's unfixable before the writers and designers put down their pens?

Sure, I did a phone interview with the gentlemen of Stop Podcasting Yourself about my experience at the first preview, but that's all it was: a retelling of my experience. I fully acknowledged it was a preview performance, as well as simply recounted the technical difficulties we sat through. They did not pay me. I didn't lambaste anyone. Yes, the reviews are out in the ether for anyone to read, but just as Spider-Man's marketing team needed to fully disclose their preview status for clarity purposes, early reviewers need to do the same. Stating and sharing opinions without proper disclosure ("This is an unfinished project")  is an egregious misrepresentation. I'm rambling now, but as a writer, a theatre-goer, and someone who's created anything before (and let's face it, most of us are), I'm baffled by the critics' decision to determine when something they have no creative investment in is ready to be screened and reviewed.

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