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CBC theatre critic denied free tickets

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I missed this one yesterday -- thanks for posting it, dirac. I think it's an excellent article, and hope that anyone who has questions about: why do critics get free tickets? What is a critic's responsibility? What does a theater expect from a review? Etc. etc. etc. will read it --

and please discuss, of course :)

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I see no ethical conflict in getting free tickets. The Merc's ethical concerns are praiseworthy but misplaced in this instance, I think. Book reviewers get copies free of charge as a matter of course, for example. It gets stickier down the line – you have some film critics going on junkets with all expenses paid by the studio, with the unspoken quid pro quo that those reviewers will give the studio's Annual Expensive Blockbuster Turkey a rave review.

It seems to me that withdrawing complimentary tickets and suchlike courtesies because you don't like the coverage is an obvious no-no. Ben Stevenson had a similar hissy fit some time ago regarding the Houston Press. An example like the Canadian one is particularly troublesome, because the critic in question doesn't appear to have written or said anything that might be considered really out of line – the explanation amounts to, "We don't like her tone." That's nowhere near good enough. To return to the example of book reviews, a free copy of a new book by Novelist Y gets distributed even though the publisher may know that the editor of the publication in question may, as he has done in the past, give the book to Reviewer X, who has a history of slamming Novelist Y. Those are the breaks.

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This type of insanity happens occasionally and never makes sense.

If Canadian Stage accomplished what it seems to have wanted by refusing comps, one of two things would happen:

Either the CBC would pay for the tickets, which would not be that great a hardship, or the offerings of Canadian Stage would go unreviewed by the CBC.

Since one result is ineffectual and the other detrimental, there must be something else going on.

I would think it would be closer to Ben Stevenson's hissy fit in Houston than anything else. It may well be that Martin Bragg, the artistic director was really offended by something the reviewer wrote, told his PR director " do something about this", and this is the result.

Or Lynn Stocking may have offended someone else with power in CanStage--a member of the board, a leading actor, whomever.

One thing that will not happen is what CanStage wants--a different critic assigned to their shows. Unless things like that are different in Canada, where the CBC is part of the government.

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Interesting about the black listed critics in San Francisco, Rachel. There are examples in New York, too -- John Simon, of NYMagazine was denied tickets at one point. The Martha Graham Company press people threw a hissy fit -- love that phrase :) -- at several critics. Both were short-lived.

I checked The Slotkin Letter, btw, and the one review I read was extremely detailed -- pages and pages of the action described, and then criticism. I didn't find anything offensive at all about the tone.

Re critics getting free tickets, I think that often strikes people as odd at first, but think about it. The press don't pay for their seats at the White House briefings. Nor for ringside seats at fights, nor those skyboxes at other games. Dirac's mentioned book reviewers. The tradition is a journalistic one. There's private (in the case of the press briefings) or limited (in the case of theater tickets) access, and, as the writer of the article under discussion pointed out, the theater would like to have some control over where the critic sits, so that s/he can see what's going on. (It's not to their advantage to have someone buy tickets in the fourth tier, or have a seat behind a pillar, and fuss all the way through the review that s/he can't see.)

There are conflict of interest problems, or there can be, but I think these go beyond the free ticket issue. It's when a reviewer is a friend of the artist, or otherwise protective. Or the reverse, has a personal grudge against the artist (say he ran off with your daughter in the dead of night :) -- a totally hypothetical example!) and takes it out on them in a review. That's unethical, even if the reviewer paid $500 for the ticket that enabled him/her to do it.

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