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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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9 Prelude to A Critique



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Prelude to a Critique

The process of writing arts criticism begins long before one sits in front of a computer screen and starts tapping keys. In fact, the process of writing arts criticism begins long before one walks into an event, initiates any form of observation, or attempts to describe and explain the experience to others. It begins in the preparation for the event; in the prelude to a critique.

The first stage of preparation is recognizing that there are specific characteristics required in order to become an effective and interesting arts critic—characteristics that have been touched on in previous chapters, but which will be specifically discussed at length here. Some are applicable to all those who engage in arts journalism, but they are particularly germane to arts critics. Once recognized, these characteristics need to be developed into specific skills that will be refined through repeated application over time. They include:

▪ the development of a critical third eye;

▪ the desire to seek;

▪ the establishment of a critical voice;

▪ adherence to a sliding scale of critical evaluation; and

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