Over the long weekend I was invited to speak on a panel at Crack Theatre Festival called I started a blog… now I’m a Critic with blogging critics Jane Howard, Skye Gellmann and Augusta Supple, as well as Concrete Playground editor and reviewer Rima Sabina Aouf. It was a very interesting and wide ranging discussion but one of the key issues that came out of it was that there isn’t a clear pathway into being a theatre critic.
So, from the perspective of a publicist, here are some tips on how to get started:
See, see, see – watch as much theatre as you can, big, small, independent, mainstage, community, amateur, you’ll learn from everything.
Write, write, write – even if you’re just showing it to your Mum or your mates, the only way to get better at writing is to write. It’s really important to find your voice as a critic, and that takes practice.
Read, read, read – find as much criticism as you can, not just theatre but all sorts of arts criticism. Follow people whose work you admire, read them voraciously.
Get social – hit up Facebook and Twitter with brief responses to things you see. Start conversations with other theatre goers and critics. We’ve made a list of Sydney Theatre Critics on Twitter (tweet us @belvoirst if you are not on the list but should be).
Comment – most theatre blogs, online publications and newspapers online which review theatre have comment sections, start writing comments on reviews, offer some of your own thoughts, agree or disagree with the critic. Be bold and give your opinion, but don’t be a dick.
Ask for a shot – online arts publications put up call-outs from time-to-time looking for new people to write theatre criticism for them. Once you’ve got some practice under your belt, put your hand up. Or just get in touch with them with some samples of your work to keep on file in case a position comes up. Most of these publications have a relationship with the mainstage and independent companies so it’s a good way to get your work known.
Start a blog – it’s good to have all your work in one place to refer people to, but don’t expect to be drowning in traffic and schmoozed by theatre companies right away, it takes a while to build an audience.
Talk to us – we are always on the look-out for the next big things in theatre criticism, show us your work, engage us. And most of all, be interesting.
Elly Michelle Clough is the publicist at Belvoir