When a freelance “critic” goes too far.

The great arts crusader Howard Sherman outed a Seattle-based “critic” on his blog for get this . . . selling his plus-one comp ticket on Craigslist.

I mean, really, buddy?  Your spare ticket isn’t like a spare bedroom you can put on Airbnb.

As you can read in Howard’s exposé here, the former-critic (because I can’t imagine anyone is going to let him review officially anymore), who has since been identified by Playbill as L. Steven Sieden, who reviews for HuffPo and The Examiner, posted an ad that said . . .

I am compiling a list of people who would like to purchase these single great seats for the performances. I plan to sell the ticket, and the price will less than half of the face value. In addition, your input might well be reflected in my review.

So this guy was looking to profit from the long-standing theatrical tradition of giving two tickets to a critic who planned on reviewing a show.  My official response?  Blech.

But here’s where it gets interesting.  The ad continued:

If you’re interested in participating, respond with your name and email address. I will then reply with my blog address (to prove that this is a real offer and give you an idea of what I’ve reviewed in the past few months) and the first list of upcoming events.

Thanks for considering this proposition and helping me to keep these seats from being empty in the future.

So first, if he was really concerned about that seat being empty . . . all that he had to do was give it back to the theater.  They would have filled it.  But to suggest that this was some altruistic way of supporting the theater, rather than a way to line his pockets and potentially take revenue away from a local theater, makes me say . . . double blech.

Someone take away this guy’s credentials and fast.  In an era when good, ol’ fashioned theatrical criticism is already challenged, this guy just made all of the Producers and Press Reps out there second guess all those tickets that we give away.  I’m hoping there is an official statement from the Outer Critics and other official Critic organizations and quick.

Now, all that said, the irony is . . . this guy was so close to an idea that would have had me excited about his efforts, rather than lambasting them.

Let’s go back to that first paragraph.  He writes, “In addition, your input might well be reflected in my review.”

Now, while he’s obviously framing it in a sleazy “Hey, buy this ticket and you might see your opinion in print” kind of way, the idea of a critic allowing a member of the theatergoing public to come with him and talk with him about what they just saw is fascinating.  All that he had to do was post this same exact thing, and not ask for any money, and bam . . . he’s got a fascinating approach to critical theatergoing.

Imagine.

Hi. I am professional theater critic.  I get two tickets for every show that I see.  Rather than take a friend or spouse or someone that I know and therefore have most likely have similar tastes to, I’d like to take someone who is just a fan of the theater.  Someone who pays to go see theater.  I want to talk about the show with you . . . to see how it rates with what you’re looking for in a night at the theater.  I see theater for a living.  And I think it would be fascinating to see theater with someone who sees it purely for entertainment.

Now that’s cool.

But no, Greedy McGreedy over there wanted to make a few bucks and devalue his profession in the process.  You know, his excuse will be that “theater criticism doesn’t pay enough for me to make a living.”

Then find something else to do, my friend.  The theater will be fine without you.

 

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