Qualified arts critics in Los Angeles?

Local theater has a hard enough time drawing audiences here. Apathetic critics don’t help.

Something that Marc Haefele mentioned in his most recent post on Metblogs has stayed with me since I read it:  his opening sentence wherein he mentions overhearing  “the arts editor of a prominent local weekly… say she didn’t like opera and didn’t know anyone who did.”

Having been to my share of LA Opera performances, some that I have enjoyed more than others, I was shocked to hear of a supposed cultural gatekeeper in the guise of an arts editor coming forth with a blanket disdain for a particular, um, art. Perhaps she needs to broaden her circle of friends and get out more–  or at least find another area of journalism to work in.

I got the same feeling today when I read a theater review in the LA Times by Charlotte Stoudt. Granted, it was a review of Octomom, The Musical, playing at the Fake Gallery on Melrose and Heliotrope. But her opening sentence may have tipped her hand about her feelings towards live theater, along with her qualifications to review it:

“It was only a matter of time before the exploits of Nadya Suleman trickled down to that most lowly of entertainment forms, live theater.”

It left me wondering where on her hierarchy of “entertainment forms” she places, say, WWF or TMZ, which she mentions being well aware of in her review. Something tells me she also is not an opera buff.

And for all we know, you could take her upfront dismissal of theater overall as a ringing endorsement of Octomom.

8 thoughts on “Qualified arts critics in Los Angeles?”

  1. I’ve attempted to fathom some hidden snark beneath what Stoudt might have been getting at, but it’s pretty cut and dry that she’s saying she’s a hater. It’s no revelation to point out there are lowly examples of live theater, but to sledgehammer the whole form as such? Wow.

    I filed hundreds of theater reviews as the critic for the Pasadena Weekly between the mid-late 90s, and with nothing more than a background as an acting student and a handful of equity waiver gigs I’d be the first to say I was unqualified for the job. At $40 a column I certainly did it more for the love of the craft than for the money. And whether I was at a venue as big as the Shubert in Century City or as small as the Knightsbridge in Pasadena, I took my sea full of respect for the stage.

    Shame on Stoudt for such lameness — and on her editors for not calling bullshit on it.

  2. Bert and Will, thanks for the comments and links. As a transplant from NYC who wrestles with the cliché about there being “no culture in LA” and finds it not to be true, if anything, the type of critic we’re discussing here contributes to that cliché more than any actuality.

    That certain editors here match the caliber of indifference their writers put forth speaks to another cliché about LA, one that I have not been able to disprove: low standards.

  3. It really is unacceptable for anyone anointed with the title of “Arts Editor” to make such a blanket statement about opera. Hell, I’ll be the first to cop to not really being “into” opera, but I do respect all theatre as an art form, and really, opera is like a sonnet: a true test of the ability of a playwright within a highly constrictive format.

    Sometimes I think LA suffers more from a lack of acceptance of / insight & information about its theatre & opera, than from cultural poverty. There is SO MUCH going on here. It’s our critics who suck.

  4. I hear you Mike. I, too, considered the same thing: a theater critic dryly debasing the whole of theater. But if so, the execution of the humor is drought-stricken and the irony is weak.

    For Stoudt to drop an incendiary statement like that (upon a majority of readers who are obviously reading her column because they have some sort of vested interest in the art form) and then not chase it with even the most thickly veiled winkwink is poor form at best, lazy at worst.

    Giving the reader nothing is like telling a joke — and a bad one — without a punchline, and while its decent to give her the benefit of the doubt, she still ends up looking like a total tool, a crappy critic, or both.

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