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A Theater Criticism/Arts Journalism Primer

Refereeing the Muses

Bob Abelman and Cheryl Kushner

A Theater Criticism/Arts Journalism Primer: Refereeing the Muses examines the skill set associated with being a critic and arts journalist. It explores the history, evolution, and future of the profession in the United States, and carefully and purposefully dissects the preparation, observation, and writing process associated with generating thoughtful and interesting arts criticism.
Using theatrical productions as the best and most vivid example of a storytelling enterprise that employs creativity, imagination, collaboration, aesthetics, and artisanship to effectively engage an audience, this book is intended to generate the critical thinking and critical writing skills necessary to effectively engage in all forms of arts journalism.
It is designed to be used as a college-level textbook on theater criticism and arts journalism courses, for those looking to become more thoughtful, critical consumers, for casual critics thinking about starting a blog or working for their university newspaper, and for working critics hoping to improve their craft.
The text is written in an accessible style and includes quotes from renowned critics and arts practitioners throughout as well as frequent sidebars that offer timely, insightful, and entertaining examples of the points being made in the text.
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4 Critical Thinking



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Critical Thinking

All of us think. That is, we use our intelligence and experience to consider something carefully. When something is important, we ponder, reflect, analyze, examine, and sort out information and evidence. We generate theories, which combine this information into a unified, comprehensive whole. We create hypotheses, which apply these theories to form tentative explanations. We form ideas or opinions, and we determine, resolve, and work things out. Rationality, common sense, and reasoning often guide our thinking. However, so too do emotions, instincts, bad habits, and superstition. We are all prone to over-react, rush to judgment, and leap to conclusions.

The thinking process usually passes through the following six stages, and does so quickly:2

▪ Stage 1: Interest: The thinker becomes aware of a problem, situation, or event and his/her interest is aroused;

▪ Stage 2: Attention: The problem, situation, or event becomes a priority, is put into focus, its nature is ascertained through observation and reflection, and relevant data from memory and experience are recalled and reviewed;

▪ Stage 3: Suggestion: Possible solutions to the problem, resolutions for the situation, or opinions regarding the event surface, based on memory and past experience;

▪ Stage 4: Reasoning: The possible consequences of each suggested solution, resolution, or opinion are briefly considered;

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