Thursday, January 6, 2011

2010: The Last Goodbye

As I was writing my article this week, which lists my favorite shows from 2010, I could not resist the temptation to reread my reviews from the year. I was curious to see if hindsight would reveal some trends - did I favor certain kinds of shows over others? did my taste or my writing change over time? most importantly: how many words and phrases did I overuse? (For whatever it's worth, "pity," "unfortunate," and "shame" enjoy a distinct preponderance.)

(New Year's Resolutions: Write better, and have better hair.)

Most of my favorite reviews, unfortunately (!), were written before I'd started graduate school, which suggests the extra time I used to have for tinkering and nitpicking really did make a difference. In fact, I can pick a single favorite from the year: My review of California Shakespeare Theater's The Pastures of Heaven. I remember trying to select each word with unusual care, to force each bit of figurative language to help transition from one idea to the next, rather than just weigh down its own clunky sentence.

In the entire year of criticism, I upbraided most frequently a production's "lack of clarity," which, incidentally, comprises both many of the writing lessons I give for my day job and one of my own biggest flaws as a writer. When I met with one of the established, paid (!) SF theatre critics last year, he told me (unsolicitedly, but rightly) that, reading my reviews, he didn't always understand what I was talking about.

So in this new year, I resolve that each time I write that an actor should refine his movement, a writer should pare down her dialogue, or a director should make bolder choices, I will at least try to express that thought with a modicum of clarity.

Happy 2011!