Ok, promise not to pile on the man every day this week, but he is opening himself up to public scrutiny all week. And here's an eloquent question directly about the theatre coverage--encapsulating many oft-repeated complaints--from a downtown AD.
Over the last 10 years we have seen the elimination of the Sunday theater critic, which took away a second chance for Broadway shows with a second opinion. (Famously, Clive Barnes loved “The Wiz” and loathed “Shenandoah” on Thursday and Walter Kerr loved “Shenandoah” and was mixed on “The Wiz” on Sunday. Both shows thrived — The Times loved them both.)
We have also seen the demise of the “Onstage and Off” column, as well as a drastic reduction in coverage of off and off-off Broadway productions. This was explained at one time by The Times now becoming a national rather than a local newspaper.It’s The New York Times. New York is the theater capital of America. The Times should cover it fully. At the present time, while the coverage that exists is excellent, it is only a shadow of what the “Gray Lady” was doing in the past. This is detrimental to theater in New York, to say the least.
— Martin Platt, co-director, Perry Street Theater, New York
Good points, to be sure. But I'm happy to report Sifton gives a fair and persuasive answer that the Times is actually reviewing more shows, and more non-Broadway shows than ever before.
[T]he notion that there has been a “drastic reduction in coverage of off- and off-off Broadway productions” at The Times is just wrong, I think.
Looking back to 1997 in our in-house database of articles, I make a rough count of 286 theater reviews for the year, including the work of the Sunday critic. In 2006, by contrast, we published 516. In the past 365 days we published 449. An average season on Broadway is, what — 35 shows? We review a lot of off- and off-off Broadway theater.
And you produce more! We’re trying, and will continue trying, to cover it all.
I have indeed noticed the increased downtown coverage. Seemed like for a while they were experimenting with groups of blurb reviews (a la Voice "Sightlines" style), which are limited in their word count, but can at least expose the reader to more titles. I wouldn't mind seeing more of that, frankly.In fact I'm seeing many of the same shows reviewed in the Times that I see in Time Out and the Voice. Many, not most. But it's a step.
What I'd like to see more of in the Times--indeed in all the local theatre sections--is an even more pronounced sense of why they're covering what their covering. I like to feel a paper has really sought out the most potentially interesting work in the furthest corners of the city, based on the artists' history, the subject matter, or the venue. Not just the lure of a forgotten TV actor or an unrelenting press rep.