A Reflection on Reviewing: One Year on Both Sides of the Curtain
One year ago today, I made my first post on Both Sides of the Curtain, launching a website with nothing more than a love for theatre, a lot of spare time, and my mom for an audience and editor. I never really expected anything to come from it, I thought it would just be a place for me to contain my inner fangirl without annoying people on social media. I am so grateful that you all have decided not only to read my blog, but to join me on this journey.
I was lucky enough to get my first contract right out of theatre school, but once it ended and I returned to the daily grind of a side hustle, submissions and the rare audition, I quickly realized that I was in need of another creative outlet.
Writing has always been one of my favourite pastimes, so I tried to pick up the habit of writing again. With the will to write, came the writers block: What the heck am I supposed to write about?
People always tell you to “write what you know”, and I quickly realized that I don’t know anything worth writing about… What do they want, a list? I turned this phrase over and over in my head, hoping to generate some sort of inspiration, and it suddenly arrived.
Write what you love.
Seems simple, right? To write about something that you’re passionate about.
And there’s nothing I love more than theatre.
That is the mindset that led me to start this blog.
You might ask, why put this into blog format? And part of me is still asking myself that question.
I think part of the choice stems from the thespian in me, I love to talk, and in a way, blogging and social media in general is like constantly being onstage.
From the beginning, Both Sides of the Curtain has been a passion project, and that is so central to everything I am trying to present on this site. Everything I share or post comes back to my passion for live theatre, and the desire to share it with others.
I know I am just another person on the internet with an opinion. Anyone with internet access can share their opinions online, and more often than not, they can be negative and leave everyone feeling rumpled. I saw creating a blog as an opportunity to bring a positive voice to the table. To fearlessly express my adoration for theatre on a forum which would hopefully attract like-minded people without spamming my friend’s timelines. Sharing my love for theatre in a blog format has not only provided me with a space dedicated to celebrating theatre, but has opened so many doors for me. I have been able to start conversations, forge connections, and create a space where I can not only share my own experiences, but the experiences of others.
Including formal “reviews” on BSOTC wasn’t part of the initial plan. I am a huge softie, and as noted before, a card-carrying Theatre Geek, it’s very rare for me to see something onstage that I DON’T like. I still wanted to discuss the shows I was seeing, but was uncomfortable with using the term “review” to describe something as simple as me gushing about them. I looked up a template and decided to give reviewing a try, and have learned a lot while streamlining my process.
I think a key piece in my hesitation to explore this style of writing was a touch of ‘Imposter Syndrome’. My own inner critic kept asking well, what qualifies you to review theatre? Personally, I don’t think you have to be qualified in any way to like something and boldly state why you like it. But, to silence those doubts, I reminded myself that I have been fortunate to see many shows, have a degree in musical theatre, and am able to express my opinions in a thoughtful and positive way. I am also aware of my strengths and weaknesses; for example, I would love to gain some more insight into the technical aspects of theatre so I can say something other than “Wow!”
My biggest struggle is, and has always been, the conflict of ‘Structure vs Heart’.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that I love 98% of every show I have the opportunity to see, and that makes it extremely difficult to write concisely. I could list every single wonderful detail of every show and performance, but if I were to reveal all that here, it defeats the purpose of seeing the show. I also do not have unlimited time. It always stings a little, trying to pick a few highlights to share, meaning other wonderful moments may get left behind.
Ultimately, as a society, we are so quick to criticize; but there’s so much amazing theatre out there. I want to be a positive voice, celebrating everything it takes to bring a production to life.
The best reviews, in my opinion, are not the ones with high praise, or the ones which tear a show apart. The very best reviews read like an invitation to see the show, a promise of something special. If sharing what I love about a performance or production inspires someone else to go and see it, I would call this whole site a success!
Like any art form, theatre is subjective. No two people are going to walk out of a show having the exact same experiences. We all have different tastes, preferences, and life experience that we carry with us into everything we see. Therefore, I am of the opinion that ‘good’ or ‘bad’ rarely exist in reviewing theatre. There is simply too much room for humanity. When writing a review of a show, I have started asking myself “Does this show accomplish what it set out to do?” and consider the vision, audience, and the overall vibe in the theatre. Director’s Notes are a huge part of my process, and ultimately, a really interesting read.
If there is one thing I can recommend, it’s taking the time to read the Director’s Note in your program after seeing a performance, they’re always full of wonderful tidbits!
Speaking of recommendations - Go, go, go, GO support the arts and live theatre this year. It doesn’t always have to be big, commercial, or expensive. Take the time to celebrate local theatre and thank me later.
Both Sides of the Curtain has been a wonderful experience where I have learned more about the theatre world, how to refine my technique as a writer, analytical thinking, and how to communicate pleasantly while being concise.
I am so excited to continue working on this platform as we move into 2020. In the new year, I plan to share more about my own theatre journey, provide a steadier stream of content, and invite more special guests to join us!
As always, I value your feedback! Please feel free to reach out to me if there is something you would like to see on the blog. I only ask that comments and concerns be sent to me via the website or our social media pages instead of on my personal accounts.
Before signing off, I just have a lot of gratitude to get off my chest!
Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me on this endeavor, even just taking the time to read a piece means the world to me.
To my friends and family, who provide feedback, edit, and listen to me ramble; you guys are the best!
A huge shoutout goes to my dear friend Crissy, who has been amazing at walking me through the basics of website design, and providing many of the graphics on the site!
I would like to include a special shoutout to my very special guests. Having three industry professionals who I admire greatly on the site has been absolutely incredible, and I am so grateful for your faith in me and BSOTC!
Harper Miles, Matt Lacas, and Lulu Lloyd - Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us!
I would also like to extend a big thank you to Camille Blott, a friend and fellow thespian, who joined us earlier this year to share the secret to her ‘success mindset’. I have always wanted to invite a Guest Writer onto the blog, as well as showcase the experiences of artists emerging into the industry, and she was a perfect fit. Thank you for jumping into this new experience with me!
Sharing stories and successes is an essential piece of my philosophy for this site, so I would once again like to extend an invitation to all of you. If you have a show to promote, a story to share, or even thoughts on a show you have seen, please do not hesitate to reach out!