I’m going to be talking about the evolution of our reviewing squad on nytheatre.com for the next several posts. To set the stage, I want to share some documents that have never before been made public. Below are the guidelines we provided to our reviewers for the 2004 New York International Fringe Festival. With only a few modifications, these were the same guidelines we used through 2014. I’ve bold-faced the statement that most reviewers told me was their favorite; it was the signpost for our squad for more than a decade.
– Be fair, open-minded, and objective when you’re seeing the show and when you’re writing your review
– Try to leave behind and/or ignore any prejudices or predispositions you have about the show or the company
– Write a review that is your honest response to the show: that’s all anyone can ask of you
– Think about the experience in the room and how it made you feel and what it made you think about
– Be clear: use vivid examples and simple descriptive language
– Be quick: FringeNYC only lasts 17 days (for example); the faster we post the review, the more impact that review will have on the production, on the audience, and for the reviewer
– Get excited: if you love the show, let us know it in your review
– Give credit where it’s due: Mention names, and not just of cast members but the behind-the-scenes folks as well. Be sure to double check spelling of all names!
– Be respectful: if you hate the show, remember that the artists involved have gone to a great deal of trouble to make it happen—they didn’t put it up just to annoy you
– Remember that your objectives as a reviewer for nytheatre.com are to: (a) provide constructive, honest, timely feedback to the artists; (b) provide an interesting “read” for audience members that gives them an idea about what the show is like and helps them decide if they are interested in seeing the show themselves
– Let Martin know about something that’s extremely worthwhile. I’m always on the lookout for new plays for our annual anthologies and I’ll check a show out if you tell me about it.
Please DO NOT:
– Be mean-spirited. If you are, I will delete the offending passage(s) or even not publish the review
– Be egotistical: The review is about the show, not about you. Don’t use this as an opportunity to show the world how smart or knowledgeable you are, or how you would have done something differently.
– Compare the show to another production you once saw, unless it’s absolutely essential to the point you’re making. This goes for performances, designs, etc.
– Give away the ending or other surprises. The point is to entice the reader to see the show for himself/herself.
– Worry about writing a literary masterpiece. All we’re looking for is a clear, concise, honest reaction to the production.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS TO HAVE A GOOD TIME WHILE YOU’RE IN THE THEATRE AND AT YOUR COMPUTER KEYBOARD!