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March 20, 2017 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

On the Dramatic Arts (or “Theatre” if you’re not a pretentious shit), and why you should write about it for Salient.

Free theatre? In Wellington? Tell me more, in around 500 words, for publishing reasons.

Seems a bit specific, but sure: I’m Sean Harbottle, an insufferably British theatre editor for Salient. I’ve reviewed both amateur and professional theatre for student media in Vancouver and in the UK for about a year and a half now.

Theatre editor? So wait, what do you actually do?

Through an arrangement that I don’t fully understand, Salient gets free tickets to theatre in Wellington, for critics (me) to attend and write about. More importantly, if others are interested, they can attend and write it up instead.

But is reviewing really relevant anymore? And why should people listen to an amateur reviewer, anyway?

When tickets can cost upwards of $25 for cheap seats, you’re making a bet that’s generally quite expensive for students. As in, “I bet that this piece is worth my time and money that could be spent eating $7 lamb roti canai and drinking $8 chardonnay.” Wouldn’t you feel a lot easier about making your bet if there was a student like you, who had already seen it and said “yeah, I’ve seen a few of these shows, and you NEED to see this one” or “nah, give it a miss”?

That sounds cool! One problem though: I can’t write theatre reviews.

Did you see Moonlight?

Of course. I thought it was a brilliant character study with some stirring dialogue. Its depiction of an LGBT+ narrative in Black American suburbia is even more important considering the rampant whitewashing in Hollywood and the current political shitshow. I liked it!

Did you know it was originally based upon characters, dialogue, and situations from In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, an unpublished play by main writer Tarell Alvin McCraney? All of what you just said would be great as a theatre review, if Moonlight was staged as a play.

So the same criteria can apply to theatre? I just have to say whether I liked it or not and why?

That’s generally the idea. Obviously it’s a bit more complicated, because there are amazing things about theatre that films/music/your mate’s amateur art exhibition (where they broke an iPhone and called it anti-social networks) can’t replicate. It’s dangerous: nowhere else are you so close to absolute carnage, whether planned or unplanned. I’ve had Kevin Spacey’s spit on my face from when he was performing as Richard III in London, seen full-frontal male nudity in a dance piece on election night instead of watching Donald Trump gesticulate, and been seduced by Lucy the Slut at Avenue Q. You don’t get that at the Paramount. But you do get to write about it, and get so much better and more confident each time you do.

Okay, I think I’m ready to begin my career as an earnest theatre writer. Where do I start?

My email is Or, even better, come see me or one of the Salient editors at our office in the Student Union Building. The password is “Death of A Salesman is underrated.”


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