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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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Chapter 2: Criticizing the Arts, or Not


ƒ C h a p t e r 2 Criticizing the Arts, or Not In addition to theater and many other traditional arts being marginalized and relegated to the periphery of popular awareness and participation, as was dis- cussed in the previous chapter, there are obstacles that keep theatergoers and other arts patrons from critically thinking about the arts. That is, not only do many of us not have the interest to experience performances and exhibitions, but we also fail to possess the wherewithal or vocabulary to contemplate and explain whether they were well done or not, are valuable or not, are effective or not, are impactful or not. The Obstacles of Critical Thinking About the Arts The Era of the Internet We live in an era of instant information access, when a second’s delay on an Internet download seems an eternity. We scan. We tweet. We instant message. We do not afford ourselves the luxury to ponder, reflect, consider, or evaluate the information or entertainment we receive through technology. Suggests Nicholas Carr, in his essay Is Google Making Us Stupid?, our thinking has “taken on a ‘stac- cato’ quality, reflecting the way we quickly scan short passages of text from many sources online.”2 Literary critic Sven Birkerts cataloged the losses that a reader in the electronic millennium has suffered: divorce from historical consciousness, a fragmented sense of time, and a loss of deep concentration.3 Clearly, then, we are potentially losing the patience and the potential to take in information...

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