HOW TO BECOME A CRITIC

Even so often, yours truly will receive an e-mail asking how we attempt to create a weekly issue of this newsletter. Many of the oft-asked questions we receive is based upon our media reviews. One example of these inquiries (and perhaps the most direct question we received of late) goes something like this..

  What are the rules you follow in order to write a review…?
     -Frank

Perhaps the best way to answer the above question is to state that we don’t have any rules to follow. There are a few guidelines we cater to, but these guidelines are not necessarily “rules” in the traditional sense.
Many people that write media reviews do hold their own agendas when it comes to commenting upon what they write for. Some of these commentaries do hold some impact based upon the program vs. how the review is seen and distributed, as well as the nature of the writer of said review. The rest of the reviews only serve as a basic guide that one can use for what it’s basically worth.
Back in the so-called “good old days” of journalism–that is, before the year 2000 right before the internet took its hold, people were employed (i.e. “got paid”) to comment upon a media-based source be it a book, music album, a television program, a feature film, a stage play, etc. for a newspaper, a magazine, a newsletter, or some kind of print based outlet. These people would hack out columns on a daily or weekly basis that not only gave their personal opinions to whatever they were writing about, but would analyze the basic structure over the specific element. Sometimes these reviews examined content that got a bit deep into the subject (sometimes too deep) where if one isn’t paying attention to the writing prose, one would not know what the writer is really writing about!
This method of writing usually was linked to writers of feature films. This kind of media once held the biggest impact to its market and to its audience, where these film critics, usually writing for big-time newspapers such as The New York Times would be the be-it-all person to review. They were almost celebrities within their field. Ads for such features would post quips from these writers in their advertising (“The Best Film Of The Year!” says Judith Crist) making these critics “experts” within their areans, although the majority of the movie going public didn’t seem to care much. These critics and their quotes were used as second opinions by the same movie going public to use in their decision if they would go out to spend their money to see the feature that was raved!
Fast forward to the post-modern era-after the year 2000 and when the internet of things became a way of life! Today, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of media critics that write about movies, (the most common form of critics), television/video, recordings, books, and related. A few are still professional while others receive little to nothing for their work. Each one of these writers have their own agendas on how they write and what they write about. Again, it all depends on who is doing the reviewing, what source hosts their reviews, as well as the subject on hand.
Not so long ago, Adam Buckman who is a TV critic for Television News Daily composed a piece entitled Seven Simple Rules For Writing TV Reviews, giving his expect advice on how he hacks out a review for a TV show or related program.
He did state that his rules are not “rules” per se, and he did note that some of the elements he uses such as being honest and fearless within his commentary. (“Honest” means to not lie about what’s good or bad, and “fearless” means to stick to what you feel about the subject even if you are the only person who says otherwise!) He also writes using simple English and avoids tired cliches. This means to write to somebody who understands essays that a high school student can conceive, and to avoid words and expressions that have been overused! Too many critics wrote about blockbuster movies that were akin to a “roller coaster ride”, dramas that were the “feel good movie” of the day/week/month/year, as well as actors/actresses that were “Oscar worthy” for their performance.
There were other guidelines he noted. But for the most part, there are no real rules or guidelines to follow. Perhaps the rule yours truly first learned about to write about anything came from my junior high school years–the period in one’s domestic life that is not only popular to focus upon (especially with TV content fodder usually found on a Nickelodeon and/or The Disney Channel drama/sitcom), but speaking for a life moment where these “tweener” kids are undergoing a transaction between living a silly childhood to entering a sobering adult life. That rules to follow in composing an essay of some sort consisted of three steps:
1)-Tell the reader what you will be writing about. 2)-Write about what you are telling the reader. 3)-Tell the reader what you just wrote about.
That was it!
Granted, it may not give any details on just how to write a review, or if what you are writing will be any good! (Amusing or informative to read!) However, it does serve as a base to become a critic of anything! And never mind the fact that you may receive as many as a zillion “hits” on your blog (give or take a few), or one will receive as little as two! Just as long as you are making those opinions for real, then you will be OK! After all, this writer isn’t the only one out there who hacks out this kind of stuff, and won’t be the last either!
To get a real idea on the method this writer uses to create a review, please take a peek at the examples below. These reviews were created to be as fair and rather honest to describe on what the show in question is really all about! Enjoy!
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NEWS AND REVIEWS
Theatre 40 of Beverly Hills presents the world premier of Samuel Warren Joseph’s MORAL IMPERATIVE, a thriller about how an individual will do anything just to get what’s desired, even if involves murder!
Taking place at Briarton University, a small yet respected private academic institution located within the New England states, Seth (Martin Thompson) a high ranking professor and university chair, holds his status through the long standing connections he holds with the school. His spouse for 30 plus years Mary (Susan Damante) is also a professor there that teaches upon medical aspects. He holds a bit of bitterness with Briarton’s current president Oscar (David Hunt Stafford), since he isn’t pleased with the ethics the current university president carries. He even believes that he is better suited for the position, in spite of what the university trustees thought otherwise. Seth’s university colleague Robert (Ken Kamlet) also feels the same way. However, Seth’s solution to this situation is the remove Oscar from his position through the act of murder. This devious deed would be of benefit toward the college’s moral standing, or so Seth’s confidence tells. So a plan is created and takes shape. However, many questions remain. With the removal of Oscar, will Seth become leader of his respected institution? How can Seth and Robert go forth in Oscar’s permanent removal? And perhaps the most burning question of them all; Will they get away with it? Many elements are at stake that speak for what’s correct, what’s for the good, and what is just moral.
This play written by playwright Samuel Warren Joseph is very much akin to a classic murder mystery, but not necessarily in any traditional sense. It’s not so much as a “whodunnit” where somebody is bumped off and everyone near the crime scene is assumed to be a suspect until a police detective, private eye, or a sap that knows how to solve a crime through sheer wit or just plain dumb luck, solves the mystery. This play unfolds as a platform that has the scheme planned out and the diabolical plot brought forth, only to have the plan of action undergo its twist and turns until the results are discovered without a focused guilty party. The count of thrilling waves experienced are just as intense as one can get, all presented in a vast and tight manner. The cast of players presented that also include Kyoko Okazaki as Robert’s spouse Karen, and Brandee Steger as police detective Pauline (nearly every story that contains a murder plot has a detective working on the case), fit fine together. Seth, as played by Martin Thompson, is the well respected college professor type that has a bit of evil within. Susan Damante as Mary is the noble wife within an educated grouping. Robert as performed by Ken Kamlet isn’t as strong witted as Seth. He is a bit softer, but far from being another Milquetoast. Kyoko Okazaki as Karen is also a nobel wife to Robert, but in more toward a humble and scriptural stance. Oscar, as portrayed by David Hunt Stafford, who is also Theatre 40’s artistic director, plays the “heavy”. He may be bigger in size, but keeps is attitudes slightly in check in spite of what Seth believes otherwise. And rounding out the cast is Brandee Steger as detective Pauline, who looks hip, acts hip, and is hip to what’s been going on! Howard Storm, who directed a number of previous plays presented by Theatre 40, is back to helm this show that does hold an intense impact from its opening scene to its final plot twist.
Jeff G. Rack, Theatre 40’s rep set designer, once again creates an impressive set that consists of the living room of Seth and Mary, loaded with classic and modern styled club chairs, antique-eske furnishings, along with deep wood paned walls, vintage framed art, and a massive book shelf with important looking books lined up just for show and perhaps reading.
MORAL IMPERATIVE will keep one intrigued throughout its two acts. It may not have one at the edge of their seat per se, but it will latch that same seated audience member to have the desire to find out what’s going to happen next–no matter what!

MORAL IMPERATIVE, presented by Theater 40 performs in the Reuben Corova Theater located on the campus of Beverly Hills High School, 241 South Moreno Drive (off Santa Monica Blvd.) Beverly Hills, until October 17th. Showtimes are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM.
     For ticket reservations or for more information, call (310) 364-0535, or via online at http://www.Theatre40.org
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BARS AND MEASURES, Idris Goodwin’s play about two brothers that hold a common bond separated by an uneven relationship where society kept them apart  while dealing with the circumstances behind it all, makes its world premier at Pasadena’s Theatre @ Boston Court.
Donathan Walters and Matt Orduna are Eric and Bilal, two brothers that grew up exposed to jazz music-the bebop variety-from their father. As they aged into adulthood, Eric got into his music and his born faith as a Christian. So did Bilal, but changed directions faith wise and became a Muslim. When their dad died, they received a generous inherence. Eric kept his, while Bilal gave his away to the sect where he practiced his faith. However, he got caught by the feds suspected in funding an extreme terrorist group. Now waiting trail in prison, Bilal attempts to keep in connection with Eric through family links and the passion of jazz music. Eric also learns about his sibling’s spiritual belief through Sylvia (Zehra Fazal), a woman Eric works with in performing classic auras. She too is Muslim, but on a lower key level. The real challenge foretold is the saga of these two family members as they await the fate if Bilal is indeed supporting a terrorist group alining with Eric’s success into progressing as a jazz musician.
This new play by playwright Idris Goodwin uses a focus upon two brothers that support an interest in music, and an extreme opposite of what one believes in, even if that such belief may create a right or a wrong. This theme doesn’t take any sides that state that one character lives as good and correct while the other serves within an evil purpose, even if the cause may present some form of harm. As to the performers, Donathan Walters and Matt Orduna holds their dramatic chemistry in fluid manner. Their roles say that they bond toward the other due to their blood legacy and the music that matters to them. (They can even “scat” in perfect sync!) This mesh of music and family hold through to the themes this theatre piece expresses. Zehra Fazal as Sylvia, Eric’s student, shows heart to the matter, keeping Eric as bay for his brother. Her role isn’t as outstanding as it could be, but shows its promise. Weyni Mengesha’s stage direction views all of these these features as the ensemble cast interact with one another directly within this single act program.
As to the stage setting presented, Francois-Pierre Couture’s scenic and moving image design creates a minimal standpoint. Using a few furnishings, the set consists of a white table that services as the prison that is interchanged as Eric’s piano set upon a circular stage that can rotate upon different scenes, with a lone standing bass located at stage right. The bass serves as Bilal’s musical instrument when he created his jazz, long before he was considered a threat toward the American society he was born and raised in.
Also appearing as part of the cast is Brian Abraham as Wes, the prison guard Bilal must serve under.
It’s been stated directly or indirectly that a number of aspects found within a human society keeps one together with the other(s). Out of those many choices come in as family, music, and spiritual practice. BARS AND MEASURES blends these three elements within a method of bliss and a procedure of becoming cursed. Whatever the causes and outcomes, the play’s overview and presence serves as an example of intense and solid dramatic theatre.

   BARS AND MEASURES, presented by and performs at The Theatre @ Boston Court, 70 North Mentor Avenue at Boston Court, (one block north of Colorado Blvd and one block east of Lake Street), Pasadena, until October 23rd. Showtimes are Thursday through Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM. A special Wednesday evening performance takes place on October 19th at 8:00 PM, and the performance for Saturday, October 8th will be at 4:00 PM.
     For ticket reservations or for more information, call (626) 683-6883, or via online at http://www.BostonCourt.org
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ACCESSIBLY LIVE OFF-LINE
is a presentation of Linear Cycle Productions

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ACCESSIBLY LIVE OFF-LINE (C) 2016 Linear Cycle Productions.
All rights reserved. The views and opinions are those of the writers, and                                                  not necessarily of the staff and management. ‘Nuff said!

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