Thursday, June 14, 2007

It is fun to have fun, but you have to know how

Busy week, and I'm only now getting around to reading what other people had to say about the Tonys. David Marchese, Salon's associate music editor, linked here from his "Audiofile" column earlier this week, sending lots of traffic my way. Naturally, I appreciate the attention (and the fact that he "sort of agrees" with me about Colapinto's article). From what I've seen, Marchese is good at his job, and his piece about the Tonys is as well-written as his other stuff. So I certainly don't mean it personally -- I'm not spoiling for a fight -- when I say it sounds to me like he was the wrong man for the job. Salon doesn't seem to have a theatre editor, or even an arts editor who reviews the occasional Broadway show, so I don't really know why they had anyone at all covering the Tonys. But they sent a music editor, and, like any quick-witted writer faced with a subject he doesn't know well, Marchese wrote a light and dismissive piece about how said subject isn't worth paying attention to anyway. Turning your ignorance into a virtue is a useful critic's trick, if you can pull it off; I've done it myself on occasion, so I can't blame Marchese for trying. But in this case -- as someone who takes the Tonys much too seriously -- I feel compelled to object.

Marchese complains of being bored in the press room:
It wasn't long before people whose names and faces I didn't recognize from shows I haven't seen went back to talking about why their production was a life-changing experience and the epic struggle to have it produced. By the time Spring Awakening capped the evening with its win for best musical ('This is the thing that's everyone talking about?' I heard a waiter mutter backstage during an on-air performance by the show's cast), I was only half paying attention.
I'd probably write a very similar report if Salon (or any other publication) sent me to cover the World Series, or the U.S. Open, or the World Cup -- I'd watch the star athletes thinking, "This is what everyone's talking about?" And later, in the press room, my mind would wander as I listened to athletes I didn't recognize talk about sports I don't watch. And that is why I should not be called on to cover a major sporting event, at least not without some gimmicky "novice's view" frame (like that nonreligious guy who's "blogging the Bible" over at Slate).

Are the Tony Awards meant to entertain a generally disinterested audience? That may be a goal of the telecast, but it certainly doesn't apply to the press room. I don't appreciate the implication that, because Marchese and the anonymous waiter were less than captivated, the Tonys (and the shows honored with awards) must therefore be lame. No editor worth his or her salt would allow me to interpret my own lack of interest in sports as evidence that no one could or should be interested in the outcome of the World Series. Why should it be different for theatre?

Of course, it's hard to separate my indignation on behalf of the theatre from my writerly jealousy -- what I wouldn't give to be in the Tonys press room, even as a waiter! So it irks me on a personal level to know that another writer was extended that privilege and viewed it as a chore. But on a more objective level, I take issue with Salon's editorial carelessness -- a carelessness that extends to the online presentation of the article, by the way; witness the mispunctuated quotation from the waiter, which I copied-and-pasted above, and the misspelling of Donny Osmond's first name (don't tell me you've never visited!). But the readers have already objected at length, so I'll just end by saying to the folks at Salon: if you're ever looking for someone to cover theatre seriously, you know where to find me!

No comments: