We often receive comments from readers that make me think, “Dave, you should write a post about that.” This is the first in hopefully a few blogposts in a new series called C2E (comments to the editors).

In response to a recent review on SCERA’s production of All Shook Up, we received this comment:

“I’m in the show and I just want to say one thing: we didn’t write the show. So why are you even commenting on that?”

– Jake Kelley, cast member of SCERA’s “All Shook Up”

That’s actually a great question, Jake!

Why do we comment on the script in a review?

Did you know that Titus Andronicus, Henry IV Part 1, and Merry Wives of Windsor are considered Shakespeare’s weakest plays? That doesn’t mean the production will be horrible, but it certainly doesn’t help.

The Simple Answer: If the problem is in the writing, why should the actors take the blame?

The Longer Answer: In order to answer this question more fully, we kind of have to ask “Why does the UTBA review shows?”

From our tiny beginnings in January 2010, we started the Utah Theater Bloggers as a way to address the extremely limited theatre arts coverage in our state (especially for smaller arts organizations). Our goal was and is to strengthen the Utah theatre community by raising awareness of the quantity and quality of theatre in Utah.

So, to whom are we trying to raise awareness? Who is OUR audience?

Our goal with each review is to write to three groups: Patrons, Artists involved in the production, and Producers.

For Patrons, we want them to know that your show is happening and give them at least one person’s opinion so they can judge for themselves whether or not the price of admission is worth it.

For the Artists involved in the production, we want to praise what was great and draw attention to what in the production didn’t really work. Sometimes the choices of the performers/designers/directors don’t quite translate to the audience as well they were intended. We feel (and have heard back from many artists) that commenting on these moments helps to improve productions and thus aid to raise the quality of theatre in our state. Theatre improves when people talk about it.

For the Producers, we want to provide whatever help we can. My personal opinion is that if a show is bad it’s because one of three things was bad: script, direction, or the acting. If you’ve got a great script, great direction, and great acting then anything else you do to it (set/costumes/lights) will only enhance it. But if the script/direction/acting is bad, then it doesn’t matter how much makeup you put on, the show is less than it should be.

Often people will see a show, hate it, and then blame the actors. A few will blame the writing. Even fewer will blame the director. Just because a play got produced, doesn’t mean it’s well written.

So, back to my short answer, “If the problem is in the writing, why should the actors take the blame?”

If the script is bad, and a producing organization gets called out for picking a bad script, maybe the next group won’t pick that script.

It’s a thought.

Readers? What are your thoughts?

Why would it be important (or not important) to comment on the strengths/weaknesses of a script in a review?