Brustein, Robert, Kovach, Bill, Nieman Reports
Following are excerpts from the conference, Critics and Criticism, organized by Robert Brustein Artistic Director of the American Repertory Theatre, and Bill Kovach, Curator of the Nieman Foundation and supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
For more years than I care to count, the critic and the artist have circled each other warily, staring into each other's eyes with coldness and suspicion, in a manner usually associated with the mongoose and the snake. Drama critics tend to regard playwrights, actors, directors and designers as thin-skinned egotists who respond only to ecstatic and unqualified praise, while theater people tend to think critics lack any understanding of their process, preferring to treat them as sacrificial animals to be lacerated in public for the sake of a glib phrase or an easy witticism. Many theater artists are so alienated from the critical process that they profess not to read reviews any more. Almost all will deny that criticism ever played any part in the development of their art.
This conference, then, is an opportunity to bring these two warring factions together, to explore the ways they can inform each other without sacrifice of detachment or autonomy. Creative artists have much to learn from informed writers about the nature of plays and the nature of theatrical roles. By the same token, critics have much to learn from artists about new directions in theater and the need to loosen up preconceived ideas.
We are meeting in a time of a communications crisis. In part it is a crisis brought on by the end of the "Cold War"--that prism through which or around which we looked at the world.
Now it seems no government knows how to respond to Serbia, Bosnia or Herzegovina outside that framework. …