Monday, October 18, 2010

To read, or not to read?

The Players of the We Players' Hamlet: Ali Hanson, Cara Zeisloft, Rebecca Longworth, Caroline Rebecca Parsons, and Sallie Romer
(Photo by Peter Merts)

In working on my review of the We Players' production of Hamlet, I have been, I'm only slightly sorry to say, influenced by exogenous forces.

Because I write for a weekly, other critics' reviews of a play often appear days before mine do. Nonetheless, I usually avoid reading their work. My articles are supposed to be about the play itself, not about the conversation surrounding it.

But when I quasi-accidentally catch a glimpse of those articles, my work, I feel, improves. Rather than trying to assess the work generally, I am then primed to focus on points of inquiry others have already singled out as worthy of discussion. Those writers have done the dirty work; I get to capitalize on it.

My review of Hamlet this week falls into that category: I skimmed someone else's article before writing my own. (The height of sin!)

But partly due to my inadvertent engagement and partly due to the unique nature of the We Players' site-specific production, I'm writing what I consider one of my most honest reviews in a while. I was even able to get away from the format I've felt trapped in: catchy intro/overall assessment, plot summary, acting evaluation, design evaluation, suggestions for future productions.

It's counterintuitive that by reading someone else's work I should be able to become more original, and despite this week's success I will try to avoid the habit, lest I should start to feel the pressure to say something new, instead of just saying what I want to say.

Or should I just suck it up and be as informed as possible?

Stay tuned: The hemming and hawing continues.


  1. I've never written a philosophy paper without first reviewing the secondary literature--but I'm careful to write out my own notes beforehand, in hopes of preserving my own perspective while avoiding ignorance.

  2. An excellent system!

    Philosophy and theatre: the parallels surface YET AGAIN