We’re noting a curious shrinkage of theatre coverage, even while the number of plays produced in our area and around the country and audience attendance continues to rise. Variety, which was founded as the news organ for ‘legit’ theatre, no longer highlights theatre in their navigation bar. With the retirement of John Lahr, the New Yorker replaced theatre with movies on its coveted next to the last page. Locally, the Washington Examiner and the Washington Times both dismissed their critics. The Washingtonian, we’ve noticed, has been cutting back on theatre coverage in favor of television and movie reviews.
Today, we are announcing that one of the few websites devoted to theatre in our region has closed. ShowBizRadio, a nine-year-old website devoted to reviewing professional, community and high school theater in the DC area and Richmond, VA , has discontinued coverage.
Co-publishers Michael and Laura Clark, who moved to Roanoke, VA last Fall, found it was impossible to remain relevant while living remotely. “… it’s been difficult staying connected. Theater is about the people, and learning about productions via email and Facebook doesn’t provide an adequate bond between us as editors and the theaters,” the Clarks said in a statement published on their site.
Michael Clark reports that he and his wife are enjoying retirement; among the pleasures, Michael is training to become an Emergency Medical Technician. We asked for his perspective, looking back on the past nine years. He responded this morning:
“What’s changed in DC area theater since we launched ShowBizRadio in 2005?
“The biggest change I see is that there are so many more new tiny theater companies. And I’m not sure that is a good thing. A bunch of people get together, share their frustrations at never being cast, so they start their own company. Frequently and unfortunately, it’s kind of obvious why they were never cast. Actors don’t always make good directors. The two roles require different skill sets. To a point, I blame Capital Fringe for the phenomenon of anyone thinking they can make a go of creating their own theater company.
“Thoughts on audiences:
(1) Don’t give a standing ovation unless most of the production was phenomenal. Every show doesn’t deserve a standing ovation. (2) Turn off your stupid phone. Don’t answer it, don’t text, don’t use it as a watch during the show. (3) Support your local community theater, don’t only go to the big name theaters. For the price of parking and a meal downtown, you can get season tickets at a local community theater, and have a pretty good experience.
“I still believe that theater (and more broadly, the Arts in general) has a place in our school systems. Theater helps students learn skills that can applied to any field they go into after high school. I myself learned about stage management while shadowing a production. I ended up stage managing several productions, and now am using many of those skills (organization, communication, planning, teaching) in my new job at the local rescue squad as an EMT (emergency medical technician).
The ShowBizRadio site reports that since 2005, it has published over 1500 reviews; including 450 reviews of high school productions through the Cappies program [ for high school age writers]. “We have been a supporter of the Cappies since 2007,” the Clarks said. “By supporting local high school theater, we’ve been a part of building the love of theater in the next generation of actors, designers and technicians.” The Clarks urged their readers to continue to support high school productions.
The DC area ShowBizRadio site will remain online but will not be updated. The Richmond site will similarly go inactive once a few outstanding reviews are posted.