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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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11 Deconstruction of A Critique



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Deconstruction of a Critique

Reading about researching before a performance or exhibition, the taking of notes during a performance or exhibition, and the process of writing a piece of arts criticism after a performance or exhibition is not the same thing as actually putting these things into practice. To help facilitate this enterprise, this chapter offers for examination a published theater review that has undergone these various stages of development.

The performance being reviewed was an equity production of the drama Red by the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. The review was written by the chief theater critic for The Washington Post, Peter Marks. The review is presented here with a running narrative by its author that offers insight into his creative process—that is, the research that was done, the note taking that was performed, the choices that were made, and the intentions behind them. By deconstructing a critique, it is hoped that we will be able to:

▪ witness the application of critical thinking and critical writing in a finished piece of arts journalism;

▪ identify key concepts discussed in previous chapters in a published work; and

▪ recognize the creative aspects of arts journalism and how there is no set formula or one way to approach and review a work of art.

A Case Study in Criticism

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