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Media Criticism Focus of Philadelphia Theater Research Symposium

By Margaux Kay LaPointe, ‘11

The hope of those that attended the Philadelphia Theater Research Symposium on Friday, Jan. 25, at the University is a simple one: that local theater will take notice of and be affected by the discussions. This year’s round table focused on media criticism and what critics think their job is.

Rev. David Cregan, O.S.A., Ph.D., and an assistant professor of theater and contributing writer to The Main Line Times, expressed the tension between synopsis and review. While it must be assumed that the reader is not familiar with a theatrical production being reviewed, the story must be a critique, and never a promotion.

The critics vehemently expressed that their job is to review theater as an art form, not as commerce. “Critics and marketing people do not have the same job,” said Toby Zinman, a critic with The Philadelphia Inquirer. “I am never inside the production. I am inside the audience.”

This does not mean that reviews are always negative. “We love theater,” said Mark Cofta, a critic with Philadelphia’s City Paper. “We love thinking about it, seeing it, writing about it.” Zinman agreed, saying, “I go dressed up, ready to have a good time.”

Critics are accustomed to publicly and frequently expressing their opinions, positive or negative. “If it’s sensational, you can make people go, ‘oh!’” said Nancy Furey, a critic with www.talkinbroadway.com.

“We’re reviewing the night that we were there,” said Cregan. “Those moments are temporal. [Reviews are] free of time constraints. They inform culture. Our art form is not dependent on the run of a production.”

As for theater in the Philadelphia community, the critics consider it extremely promising. “Some is good; some is great,” Cofta said. “There are a lot of growing theaters” in the city.

Margaux Kay LaPointe, ’11, is a first-year student from Lebanon, Pa. She is an intern in the Office of Communications in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Villanova University. Margaux plans on majoring in communication with a specialization in public relations.

Media Contact

Jennifer Schu

Director of Communications, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

jennifer.schu@villanova.edu

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