How to be an Events INSIDER Theatre Reviewer!
Do you love the arts? Would you like to review free events such as theatre shows, comedy, festivals, and music?
It’s easy! Email me, Johnny Monsarrat, at firstname.lastname@example.org, with a sample of your writing.
Here’s how it works.
1. Events INSIDER places no advertisements and earns no money. So I can’t afford to pay you, but you get two tickets to a show. That’s pretty good! And of course I’ll put you at the front of the list if you want to win a giveaway either to the same show you are reviewing (to bring extra friends) or any other giveaway I hold. Also you can build a portfolio on New England’s most popular events blog, and use that clout to network in the arts community.
2. There are so many of us now that we have to organize. Please don’t ask for tickets directly from venues. Ask me with 2-6 weeks’ notice, and I’ll coordinate it. That’s less work for you, doesn’t confuse the reps, and it helps me ensure that our message is clear. For example, I always ask for giveaway tickets as well as a press review. And I have a special way of asking that builds our prestige. (It’s also okay to ask me for tickets for something you don’t want to review but just attend. I’ll try to get a giveaway.)
3. I’ll email you when I have a show to be reviewed. Don’t reply if you’re not interested. I’ll try to hold them 24 hours so every theatre reviewer gets a chance to see my email.
4. Of course please do put your name and a link to your website or social media in the review, if you want to promote it. You should also network with people in the theatre world, all that is gravy! It’s only the asking for tickets that I’d like to manage.
5. Of course we need to write unbiased reviews, but unlike other publications we don’t revel in taking down a bad production. If you have to go negative, write with empathy. Sometimes if I hate a show I’ll suggest to the rep that we just post nothing, but give private feedback. That’s less work and we’re not hurting the arts.
6. Don’t forget to help the reader decide whether to see the show! Give a rating from 0 to 5 stars. Each review should start with the “Playbill” paragraph about the show and end with a link to the show. Add your name, too.
7. Don’t spend more than one paragraph on the plot. I’m aware that it’s standard for reviewers. It’s also lazy. We try to do better. You’re an opinion leader. Give opinions. A rule of thumb that may help is to connect a choice the production makes to an impact that was felt by the audience. Even better if put into the context of alternative choices the production could have made. Here are some examples.
— The stage brought real trees onto the stage to create an outdoor landscape (choice, but no impact)
— I laughed out loud throughout the show. (impact, but no choice)
— Hamlet must decide whether to kill the king. (neither, it’s just a plot point)
— Macbeth features an armed attack, but of course there is no money in a small production for an actual army of extras on stage (context), and it’s not very scary to have three guys in armor be “an army” on stage. So the production used real trees (choice) to represent Birnam Wood, and as the actors physically pushed the 10-foot potted trees closer to Macbeth, so that they eventually surrounded and hovered over him, it felt (impact) like the entire forest was engulfing him, as one living beast, a nightmare come true. Macbeth’s crazed reaction, flailing and weeping on his knees, was rushed a bit much by Grant Michaelson (choice) to feel authentic (impact), but raised an interesting question normally found in a different Shakespeare play, Hamlet. (context) Is Macbeth being driven mad? Is he literally seeing the woods as a creature?
— Although productions are loathe to change the text of a Shakespearian play (context), they use staging and blocking to add their own twist. We laughed out loud (impact) at the running gag (choice) where Hamlet, played by Benjamin Price, keeps getting his coat caught on doorways and leaving his hat and cane behind in several scenes and having to return to retrieve them.
— Kudos to Abigail Weston (the Old Woman) who interacts with three real dogs on stage. Of course the dogs don’t know to follow the script (context), but she ad libs and improvises with them (choice) in a warm way that breaks the tension and adds depth (impact). Although yes, she’s a bitter old crone, she’s capable of great love for her neighbor’s pets. If only she had her own.
8. Go beyond adjectives. For example, instead of saying “it was good”, explain why. Try to find the ‘wow’, something notable about the show or the challenges producing it. You’re an expert. Teach the reader something.
9. Try to write reviews for ordinary people to read. Too many movie reviewers seem to write erudite, arty reviews meant only for other movie reviewers. If you must reference No Exit or Medea, that’s okay, but explain it. Say what type of person the show is good for. I often say I was worried that a show would be too arty or boring for me as a regular guy, but then was happily surprised to find it accessible. That’s valuable information to readers.
10. I understand of course that as a volunteer, and a busy person, it’s hard for you to find time to write a review. But to the venues we serve, they care. Please submit a review by Tuesday or within three days, whichever is earlier, so that we can help the venue sell tickets. Please write at least 500 words but aim for 750. Often I’ll go to 1,500 words. A good rule of thumb is, the more interesting the things you have to say, the shorter it’s okay with me. If you miss these goals once in a while, the world’s not going to end, but I might prioritize you lower when you ask for the juiciest press reviews and giveaways. Also I must have a zero tolerance policy for broken promises. If you agree to attend a show and write it up, do so. If you have an emergency, contact me with as much notice as possible.
11. I’d prefer a plain text format instead of Microsoft Word. Just write the review in the body of an email to me, not attached.
12. I won’t edit your review — it’s got your name on it! — but may occasionally ask you for a tweak or decline to run a review that’s off the field.
13. Now that I’m healthy again, I’ll post the reviews instead of having you post your own. That way I’m always paying attention, like an editor is supposed to. (For example, in the past our posts have gone to our Facebook page but not Twitter, our Facebook group, email, to the rep, etc. always posted with photos, etc.)