I was destined to be an English teacher, until I saw my first musical – Noel Coward’s Sail Away at the Colonial Theatre in Boston with Elaine Stritch as the shipboard activities director. My ship changed course that night and I enrolled as a Theatre Major at Emerson College. I wanted to be a producer.
What work did you do in theatre before you came to DCTS?
In Chicago, through my company, Women in Music, I produced concerts, festivals, and some original shows – like Fanny’s Follies, an all-woman tribute to Fanny Brice and a small musical about a night with Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday.
After moving to the DC area in 1995, I did some marketing for a community theatre, Port Tobacco Players, and was a WATCH judge. I then ran Brian’s Theatre News for Brian Dragonuk’s popular E-list.
I’ve had a chance to produce two shows for Capital Fringe: James Beard’s Mama, Don’t Let You Cowboys Grow Up to be Actors, and Queen on the Bohemian Dream, a tribute to one of the best lyricists on the planet, Fran Landesman.
How did you come to join DCTS?
For nearly a year, I’d been talking with Carolyn Griffin at MetroStage and Jeremy Skidmore at Theater Alliance about creating a theatre site that would do for Washington theatre what Theatermania does for New York theatre. One night in MetroStage’s lobby, I heard a voice that I knew was just right for the backstage interviews I’d been planning. It turned out to belong to Joel Markowitz, and he said “Yes!” to what was still nothing but an idea.
I went to Journeymen Theater’s Experiment with an Air Pump, and Deborah Kirby introduced me to Ronnie Ruff, who was looking for a reviewer for his website, DC Theatre Reviews. We went for coffee after, and luckily, we picked an all-night House of Pancakes, because we didn’t stop talking about til 4am. It’s a night I will never forget. DC Theatre Reviews was a few months old, then. My husband Tim (Treanor) ended up writing his first review of that Journeymen show. I started helping Ronnie however I could, and before long, our ideas for the site merged. Joel Markowitz came on board, and helped recruit more writers.
When you joined DCTS, what did you want to accomplish?
I wanted a site that would serve as a gateway to all the professional productions in the area, build audiences for the theatres, get people to see new companies, and so on, and do it in an exciting way.
Do you feel you’ve accomplished what you set out to do?
Partly, but my vision was so limited back then. My plans now are much grander.
Tell us more.
I want us to become more visual, more interactive. I keep thinking of us as a virtual theatre lobby where you go to buy tickets, see performance previews, catch up on news, make friends, talk with creators, with entrances off that lobby to every theatre including one marked DCTS where you could hear or see our original works.
To do this, I’d like to bring more creative artists onto the site. And raise the money to do it, of course.
I have short term goals – improved listing and news services, video segments, paid staff, etc. It’s all just a question of finding the financial support. I’m working on it.
So could you describe what you do?
Most days, I have a great time. I get to take the first look and listen to all the content from our writers, edit and post them, read all the reviews in town, and post them, communicate with theatres and site visitors, keep the listings up to date, and dream up new projects for everyone.
How much time do you put in?
A lot. Anyone want to help?
DCTS has had forty reviewers for its 1,000 reviews. What do you look for in a reviewer?
Forty! That number includes our summer Fringe crews. I look for good, perceptive writers with distinctive voices, who love theatre, and are willing to make the tough critical calls.
What do you look for in a review?
I appreciate a review that is truthful, that sweeps me into the show, that is well written, informative and thoughtful.
Who not presently on DCTS staff do you admire as a reviewer?
I know all the reviewers in town. Name my favorite? Not bloody likely. But there is a clue to your question on Their Reviews almost every week.
What happens when a reviewer sees a bad show? What do you expect him or her to write?
First, I don’t know what a bad show is. Could be a weak play, or a production that doesn’t gel in time to open, poor casting choices, etc. I know it’s hard to cover a show which the reviewer just didn’t like, but I expect the writers to be able to defend their judgments, whatever they are.
You presently cover just professional theater. Do you see a day when you might cover community theater as well?
I do. Right now, Joel sees a lot of community theatre, and reports on it in his column Theatre Schmooze. We’ve been talking for some time about how you apply the tough critical standards we hold for professional theatre to community theatre. When we work it out, and find the right people to cover it, we’ll include community and college theatre.
Where do you see theater reviewing in the next five years or so?
Frankly, as print outlets constrict, I fear for the future of the long form review. The form, and the people we now have writing in it, are critically needed, I think, not just to help people make buying decisions, but to lay down the historical record. You just can’t do that in one or two paragraphs. I’d like to think that, through our reviews, features and interviews, and our readers’ comments, we are creating snapshots for future generations of what was produced here, who created it and who performed it.
But thinking further out for DCTS …
A few years ago, I had a slogan on the site “More voices. More choices.” That’s what I hope for the future of theater in DC. Our job will be to capture it, and communicate it.
What will the ten thousandth review be like?
It will be excellent. And I’ll bet it will be for a company whose artistic director hasn’t been born yet.
Would you like to send a personal note to Lorraine?