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June 12, 2007


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Oh good, it's not just me who notices it. I can appreciate that Chris wants to keep tabs on the NY scene, but lately it just seems like he'd much rather be there than here.

Where the productions hire a greater percentage of Equity actors, perhaps.

Rob Kozlowski

If it were up to me, there would be no New York theater coverage in the Tribune whatsoever, but unfortunately it's the Tribune. Regardless of what Jones actually thinks, everything that sees print is up to the editors, and the editors are under the heel of the advertisers. Who are the biggest theater advertisers? Why, Broadway in Chicago, of course! Is it unethical for the editorial department to be ruled by the advertising? Of course! It's the Tribune, my friends.


I wouldn't say there should be no coverage of NY (or any city outside of Chicago). Being insular rarely helps. And though I don't want to be on the Chris Jones watch, it wasn't until I started reading his blog that I realized to what extent NY seems to be favored by the Trib over work (especially non-equity work) in Chicago.

It has to be tough being in the shadow of one of the few superstar critics (and not because of people's hatred of him,) but it is a disservice to readers to have coverage skewed so heavily towards NY.

But I don't think Chris is solely to blame, in many respects it's institutionalized. Look at the amount of companies fighting to get first dibs on the Chicago premieres of "hot new plays" from off-broadway.


I thought the silence on the Jeffs was weird, too, especially given that the headline (well, PerformInk's headline, anyway) was all about The House's raft of nominations. But maybe that's precisely why he avoided it.

Kris Vire

I wouldn't say there should be zero coverage of New York; for better or worse, it is institutionalized, as Tony (Jay?) puts it, as the theater center of the country. But here's my argument: this is, as you might be able to tell from the blog you're reading, the age of the internet. Theatergoers in Chicago who want to keep up with what's going on in New York can go online to read the New York Times or the Post or Newsday. Or they can check out Broadway.com or Talkin' Broadway or Theatermania. They don't need the Tribune to keep tabs for them. If Chris can provide a particular Chicago point of view on Broadway, that's great; if the only Chicago angle is "the Jersey Boys made another appearance at the Tonys, and thanks to our benevolent overlords at Broadway in Chicago, they'll be arriving here this fall and they'll be a huge hit," then phooey.

Now here's the equal and opposite problem. Say a theatergoer in Austin or Philadelphia or, heck, New York is planning a trip to Chicago. They've heard the buzz about Chicago theater. They've read what critics like Michael Billington at the Guardian and Richard Ouzounian at the Toronto Star have been saying about Chicago in the past few years. Maybe they're not even planning a trip, they just want to keep up with what's going on in Chicago theater. They log on to the Tribune's website and click on the Theater section, where right now six of the top eight stories are about non-local subjects. They click on the theater critic's blog and get a raft of posts about the Tonys. Does this not seem like a problem?

Kris Vire

Oh, one more thing. Rob, leaving aside the basic journalistic ethics that call for a firewall between editorial and advertising, is it true that BiC is the biggest advertiser? I ask this honestly, since I almost never look at a print edition of the Trib or Sun-Times. The theater-reviewing pubs I do see in print (Time Out, the Reader, Windy City and Free Press) don't seem like they have many Broadway in Chicago ads.


The Sun-Times has a 2/3 page print ad every weekday, I believe, which is not in fact full of BiC productions. Rather, the long-running mainstays (Tony & Tina, Late Nite Catechism, etc.) of the city's live entertainment scene each get small notices collaged together with a Goodman ad, maybe one or two BiC notices, and who's on the docket at Zanies.

It is what it is, and these theaters pay good money for the advertising, so that's not a problem...although I admit a slight "irk" that the ad is referred to as the "Chicago Theatre Guide," as if these were the only Theaters In Chicago.


It's Tony, but my blog title is Jay Raskolnikov (inside joke from college is where the name comes from.) Blogger makes you do comments under the name on the blog, so until I figured out how to get around that, I had the choice between leaving comments under a different name, or under different names depending on the site. Had a day off and figured out how to fix that. Any way long story--not really important or interesting.

In London Lyn Gardner has a great blog--in one post


she says:

"The trouble with theatre criticism is that it is like the fagging system at Eton. Critics comes in as second strings and many think that if they trawl the fringe for long enough (and don't get gazumped by a celebrity reviewer) they might eventually end up as a first string critic with a cosy aisle seat at the National, and never have to venture beyond the West End and the M25 again. They forget that what is happening at the National begins outside of the mainstream, and that you can only do your job properly if you are seeing some of that work because other wise you never learn its vocabulary."

I think she sums up pretty well why focusing so almost exclusively on Broadway and the major regional houses is a problem. Also interesting to note that it's not only a Chicago phenomenon.

Kerry Reid

Bilal, I think you're referring to the ad that is put together by the League of Chicago Theatres. So it's not meant to be all-inclusive -- it's just whichever League member theaters opted to pay to be in it that week. (I used to check that ad against our listings every week when I did the theater listings at the Reader, and it's surprising how often the ad was wrong, because theaters did the ad before they did their PR and things changed in the interim.)


That's probably it, Kerry. I know that I tend to breeze past it precisely because it isn't all-inclusive.

Rob Kozlowski

I don't actually *know* if BiC is the largest theater advertiser in the Tribune. I'm just making a rash assumption based on BiC having more money than anyone else. I too haven't read the print Tribune in years. I also forget that suburbanites read the Tribune too, and that's a pretty big chunk of readership that would never dare venture beyond the Loop for fear of being mugged by ethnic fiends. I have fond memories of a friend's mother clutching her purse in terror in front of the Chicago Theater. Jones has to write for those people too.


And those people regularly respond to Chris's blog saying inflammatory statements against our amazing storefront/fringe scene here in Chicago.

Good lord, they get my blood a-boiling so I'm going to start inviting them to some of our types of shows.

(It's kind of like the end scene of Dirty Dancing when Johnny says he's going to do his type of dancin' to his type of music and by the end of the scene, everyone's up on their feet tryin' out some new moves.) ;)

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  • Kris Vire
    I write about theater for Time Out Chicago. I write more about it here.

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