For the second consecutive year, Factory Theatre is in the news. Last year it was the controversy around its leadership. That’s ancient history now.
This time it’s an announcement, that critics aren’t invited until the show has already been on for a few days. While the antagonism may be unintentional, what’s done is done. Here’s the text i saw quoted online:
Factory Theatre, with the unanimous support from this season’s partners, is attempting to redefine what “opening night” means by considering what the artists want from it, and what the audience deserves from it, not just what tradition dictates it should be.
Beginning with The Art of Building a Bunker, we have decided to offer working members of the media complimentary tickets to a media night on October 21 (three performances after opening night) and for the length of the run as long as tickets are available.
We wish to support and celebrate the work of our theatre creators by giving general audiences the first chance to respond to our shows and to be at the forefront of the conversation. Members of the media are also a part of this conversation, but it is that larger conversation we are striving to facilitate.
This is an experiment. It might fail, but it might serve the production, the artists, the community, and the conversation it inspires exactly the way we imagined.
We are seeking a new narrative. It’s time for change.
Welcome to Factory’s 45th Anniversary Season!
Factory’s 2014-2015 Season Partners
Perhaps the critics resent this. Is this part of the broader transformation of media that’s seeing newspapers and critics drifting towards the slowly circling vortex in the sink? Music criticism in this city has already been reduced almost to zero.
I suppose free publicity can be helpful. With this announcement Factory Theatre is once more at the centre of a controversy. I am more than a bit fascinated by the response, to be honest. If you google “factory theatre no critics” you’ll quickly find at least two articles suggesting that this pathway is a bad idea, including one from Glenn Sumi in NOW, who made these observations
There’s also the feeling that with Twitter and Facebook, everyone’s a critic.
But if the 1300 people I follow on Twitter are a good sample, very few Tweeters say anything very critical or substantive about something they’ve just seen (unless we’re talking about TV or blockbusters). There’s lots of cheerleading and selfies and, at worst, silence. Canadians, ya know: so polite.
I too noticed this. I went to Stratford, and wrote a couple of substantial reviews – of Crazy for You, and of Mother Courage—and saw the brilliant way Stratford uses social media, riding tweets from happy customers, which now serve as a new kind of critical conversation. Of course it’s not really much of a conversation, is it..? I can’t deny that I felt a bit jealous. I’m not saying I’m irrelevant, but I do see that the terrain is changing.
Factory Theatre may have miscalculated in not expecting a push back from the critics. Sumi thinks that the experiment sounds “arrogant”, with the reminder “Whatever happened to the expression:’Even bad press is better than no press‘ “?
No, the paperless office hasn’t happened, but “the press”? The theatre-going public –that literate, aging crowd– still reads newspapers. But are the press as important as they think they are?
We shall see.