On Monday evening, I posted the first transcript of a Twitter conversation between Peter Marks (@petermarksdrama) of The Washington Post and me and, as the title indicated with “Part 1,” there would be a “Part 2.” This conversation took place 10 days after the one shared in my previous post, on November 11. It began with Peter throwing some snark in my direction, by merging Hugh Jackman’s Broadway show, which had officially opened the night before, and my blog post of last week, on showing our emotions when we attend the theatre.
In prepping this transcript for posting, I have to say I found it even more rewarding a read than the first, because so many more voices joined the conversation, and because we didn’t focus so much on the role of the critic, but rather on everyone’s shared reaction to theatre, which transcends boundaries such as professional and amateur.
As before, the transcript is in reverse chronological order, so you must go to the bottom of this post and scroll upwards to track the conversation as it happened. I have taken the liberty of cleaning up a few typos and replacing some Twitter shorthand with complete words, for ease of reading.
Peter and I will finally meet face to face in four days at Arena Stage; I’m eager to see how our conversation flows, freed from the strictures of Twitter. It will irrevocably alter our Twitter conversation thereafter, since we will have met corporeally; maybe it’ll lead to yet more conversations for us all, both online and off.
With that: go to the bottom of this post and start scrolling. Enjoy.
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reduced 12:36pm @petermarksdrama @HESherman Also (again, IMHO) critics should use 1st person more in reviews. You ARE the story – it’s your opinion.
reduced 12:36pm @petermarksdrama @HESherman IMHO, critics in an audience ARE part of the community. Leaving early during bows, screams ‘Look at me!’
petermarksdrama 12:13pm @GwydionS @HESherman Agreed
GwydionS 12:12pm @petermarksdrama @HESherman I think a critic needs to be both “of” and “outside” the audience.
MariselaTOrta 12:11pm @dloehr @HESherman at my last reading the girlfriend of the actors couldn’t stop crying. Not quite my aim, but I want aud. to feel
petermarksdrama 12:11pm @HESherman Since I only know you by tweets and tv guest starring roles, looking forward to meeting you next week, Howard.
petermarksdrama 12:09pm YABBA DABBA DO @MT @HESherman You are not Fred Flintstone
MariselaTOrta 12:09pm @petermarksdrama Thank you. I mainly write, well tragedies, I think there’s something to the crucible of pain, reveals our humanity
HESherman 12:07pm @petermarksdrama You are not Fred Flintstone sliding down the back of the dino when the whistle blows. You’re part of audience.
HESherman12:07pm @petermarksdrama That’s often apparent. But respect for those on stage? They see people running for the doors.
petermarksdrama 12:06pm @HESherman You leave with that swipe about critics running out? We can’t even be the first out at quittin’ time?????
HESherman 12:06pm @petermarksdrama I wonder what kind of crowd they thought was right specifically for you and that show. Very amused
Theatreontario 12:06pm @petermarksdrama I guess it seems to me to be an effective journalist, you would have to be a member of the community
petermarksdrama 12:05pm Howard–we r not there to send back waves of love. MT @HESherman I watched major critics rush out during applause for Hugh. Rude
HESherman 12:05pm I’ve gotta sign off. Have a lunch in the wilds of Park Slope. If u don’t know, @petermarksdrama meet live next Sat @arenastage
Theatreontario 12:05pm @petermarksdrama Not a member of the community? That idea surprises me – a different obligation doesn’t negate “membership”
petermarksdrama 12:04pm @HESherman (They’d bussed in a group and comped them, clearly were expected to LOVE it for me.)
monicabyrne13 12:04pm @ATPvporteous I disagree. I don’t write to get emotional reactions out of people. I write my truth; how they react is up to them.
petermarksdrama 12:03pm @HESherman Another time, I left Promenade Theater during ovation. Guy w/head mike stopped me at door & said, “Get back up there and applaud”!
ATPvporteous 12:02pm … & all we do is try 2 elicit specific emots/reacts from receivers. RT @monicabyrne13: …whether it gets an emotional reaction, up 2 receiver.
BrookeM1109 12:01pm @HESherman hah I know! But I wouldn’t whisper anything into critics ears as @petermarksdrama said!
HESherman 12:01pm @petermarksdrama SOUPY SALES!! Really? How subtle. Presumably for an O’Neill play.
petermarksdrama 12:01pm @HESherman It was a Johnny Mercer revue, called DREAM. It was pretty awful.
HESherman 12:00pm @brookem1109 Now you’ve blown it. You’re going to have to go to @woollymammothtc press nights in disguise!
petermarksdrama 12:00pm Most enthralling theater I’ve ever experienced was just watching her. MT @HESherman So your theatre was watching your child.
Sueyellen 11:59am @HESherman @petermarksdrama @HughOnBroadway was 1 of the best theater experiences my 8 yr old has had in her short B’way life. Gr8 memory!!
monicabyrne13 11:59am @HESherman Tell me about it. My emotions startle people. I try to warn them!
MrSamuelFrench 11:59am Magic of the Theatre RT @petermarksdrama: Took my 6 year old daughter to Cathy Rigby’s PETER PAN & cried, just watching her watch the show
petermarksdrama 11:59am @BrookeM1109 @HESherman On Bway, occasionally planted people next 2 me. Soupy Sales, once. Kept whispering 2 me isn’t this great?
HESherman 11:59am @petermarksdrama So your theatre was watching your child. Cathy Rigby didn’t enter into your experience, except thru daughter.
sophieGG 11:58am @petermarksdrama @HESherman I cried so hard in Ruined I couldn’t speak to my husband for an hour. That’s theater.
MrSamuelFrench 11:58am @hesherman & so we call it “Cheesy” to guard against our true reaction? (Also I think I know the coffee commercial of which you speak.)
monicabyrne13 11:58am @petermarksdrama @HESherman Last time I cried in theater: last line in VIBRATOR PLAY, woman to man, “You’re so beautiful.”
MrSamuelFrench 11:58am @HESherman & so we call it “Cheesy” to guard against our true reaction? (Also I think I know the coffee comm. of which you speak.)
HESherman 11:58am @monicabyrne13 That’s what I was told in my unsuccessfully dating days. But too much emotion can startle people.
KirstinFranko 11:58am @HESherman @petermarksdrama I have to throw in a play like RUINED. It so strongly sent me on a roller coaster of emotions. Up & down
BrookeM1109 11:57am @HESherman @petermarksdrama I sit a few rows back from critics to watch responses & also 2 c what rest of audience vibe is on press night
ATPvporteous 11:56am I think opposite: ‘emotionality’ not primary characteristic RT @monicabyrne13: I think it’s designed to BE an emotional expression…
HESherman 11:56am @petermarksdrama Leadership thought that was the case. I quickly learned that a smile could mean thinking of a nasty phrase.
petermarksdrama 11:56am @monicabyrne13 @HESherman Took my 6 year old daughter to Cathy Rigby’s PETER PAN year ago and cried, just watching her watch the show.
HESherman 11:56am @mrsamuelfrench Or are we simply afraid to admit to others that we can be so affected by “entertainment”?
Bflood28 11:56am @petermarksdrama @HESherman I’m still against that. I was still shocked when Bway theatres started doing that. Nederlander yes?
monicabyrne13 11:55am @petermarksdrama @HESherman I think showing vulnerability is always wonderful. Be proud.
MrSamuelFrench 11:55am @HESherman @petermarksdrama Maybe we perceive it “cheesy” because it’s familiar. Universality & ability 2 relate drives emotion, no?
HESherman 11:55am @petermarksdrama I watched Frank Rich be very moved by FALSETTOS @hartfordstage. He later wrote what show meant to him him.
petermarksdrama 11:55am @HESherman Wait–watch 4 laughing or crying crix? And what would u report back: “She’s doubled over–we’re home free!”? @pmdhes
ArtHennessey 11:54am RT @petermarksdrama: @HESherman @monicabyrne13 Always odd as critic to be crying as lights come up. Sometimes embarrassed; sometimes proud.
KirstinFranko 11:54am @HESherman @petermarksdrama I know exactly that coffee commercial! It gets me too! But I’m a real emotional giver, so no surprise
HESherman 11:54am @petermarksdrama In my p.r. days, I was sometimes assigned to watch important critics for emotional reaction.
petermarksdrama 11:54am @HESherman Jackman belong on Bway? You bet. He’s earned his solo act. wish he’d taken more risks w/ it. He’s got wattage 2 do that
HESherman 11:53am @petermarksdrama Going back to your opening salvo, did you think Hugh doesn’t belong on Broadway?
petermarksdrama 11:52am @HESherman @monicabyrne13 Always odd as critic to be crying as lights come up. Sometimes embarrassed; sometimes proud.
Bflood28 11:52am @HESherman @Cirque isn’t that part of equation however? Successful Vegas shows must be flashy/sexy/relatively brief
monicabyrne13 11:51am @petermarksdrama @HESherman @GratuitousV In my opinion, no, but response is highly variable among individual recipients. I.e. “taste.”
HESherman 11:51am @bflood28 We were speaking more of classic 60s Vegas and current @Cirque shows, not Broadway going to Vegas.
petermarksdrama 11:51am @Bflood28 @HESherman And used to be only in Vegas you brought your drinks to your seat! (Theaters even have cup holders!) Bway nxt?
ATPvporteous 11:50am Could think v nothing else 4 months. Interesting: saw it on TV. @kanessie Wept at RSC’s NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. Smike. Still choke up.
HESherman 11:50am @petermarksdrama I was thinking about Richard Maxwell’s work, but I’ve only read about, never seen (though I adore Jan).
Bflood28 11:50am @HESherman @petermarksdrama true, but most broadway transfers to Vegas must be severely cut & shortened due to attention span deficit
petermarksdrama 11:49am @monicabyrne13 @HESherman @GratuitousV Without emotional response, can piece be considered successful?
HESherman 11:49am @petermarksdrama But if it hits something primal, why is it cheesy? There’s a coffee commercial every Xmas that gets to me.
petermarksdrama 11:49am @HESherman Yes re draining emotion. And that can be effective, witty. See works of Richard Maxwell (brother of Jan)
iamJoePapp 11:48am Boy, I hated the critics. I could have killed each and every one of them.
HESherman 11:48am @petermarksdrama Aren’t there artists who drain emotion from work intentionally? Tho guess even that provokes emotion in auds
petermarksdrama 11:47am @HESherman I write sparingly in first person. I think people think you’re making yourself the story.
monicabyrne13 11:47am @HESherman @GratuitousV I think it’s designed to BE an emotional expression; whether it gets an emotional reaction is up to the receiver.
HESherman 11:46am @petermarksdrama Do you ever speak of yourself in the first person when reviewing, and admit direct emotional impact?
petermarksdrama 11:46am @HESherman One of hardest aspects of reviewing is examining own response: “Jeez, why am I crying? This scene is so cheesy!”
petermarksdrama 11:44am @GratuitousV @dloehr @HESherman re all art manip. emotions. It’s not whole experience without.
petermarksdrama 11:44am @HESherman @kanessie Wept at end of RSC’s NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. Smike. Still choke up.
HESherman 11:43am @petermarksdrama I do wonder how show developed. Hugh spoke of how quickly it was put together for San Francisco.
Kanessie 11:42am @petermarksdrama @HESherman Six Years by Shar White, wept openly and remembered why I love theatre.
HESherman 11:42am @petermarksdrama I thought NEXT TO NORMAL grew enormously and I loved it when it returned to NYC, post @arenastage. But no tears.
Petermarksdrama 11:41am @HESherman And I did see O. Fantastic.
HESherman 11:41am @petermarksdrama When I 1st saw NEXT TO NORMAL in NY, thought about leaving at intermission. At that point, some was offensive
GratuitousV 11:41am @petermarksdrama @dloehr @HESherman I think all art is manipulative, designed to provoke an emotional reaction. That’s the point, IMHO.
MrSamuelFrench 11:40am @petermarksdrama But do you also enjoy those plays that aim to make you laugh and not wrench the old heart strings?
Petermarksdrama 11:40am @HESherman Invoked Vegas cuz he resorts to such obvious material. “Over The Rainbow”? “Mack the Knife”? “Luck be a Lady” Come on!
HESherman 11:40am @moorejohn Another critic joins us. John, can you convey to readers why they might value a difficult emotional experience?
Calindrome 11:40am I am dead serious when I say @petermarksdrama and @HESherman should have their own show. They’re in fine form today. Follow
Petermarksdrama 11:39am @HESherman sob every time I see NEXT TO NORMAL. Hits me in sensitive places. cry @ 110 IN SHADE ’cause I have daughter named Lizzie
HESherman 11:38am @petermarksdrama Why did you invoke Vegas re Hugh Jackman. Even Vegas has great art now. Have u seen O or LOVE?
Moorejohn 11:38am Makes me sad. RT @HESherman I think theaters are afraid of, and challenged by, deeply moving pieces. “Who wants to buy a ticket to be sad?”
HESherman 11:37am @petermarksdrama It becomes a fine distinction. You must realize we’re try to “turn” you.
dloehr 11:37am @HESherman Indeed. And pumped into the home, it can be revisited on demand. A life lived in the moment, in the room, not so much.
Petermarksdrama 11:36am @HESherman re: presence on Twitter. No, don’t want to join community. Want to enjoy engaging with community.
HESherman 11:36am @dloehr Emotion that comes into your living room free in very different than paying to go out in order to be shattered.
SMLois 11:36am RT @petermarksdrama: God, they’re practically all that’s worth living for MT @HESherman I think theaters are afraid of deeply moving pieces.
Petermarksdrama 11:35am God, they’re practically all that’s worth living for MT @HESherman I think theaters are afraid of deeply moving pieces.
HESherman 11:35am @petermarksdrama Doesn’t your presence on Twitter suggest you want to be part of the theatre community? Isn’t isolation ending?
dloehr 11:34am @HESherman There’s a quiet moment in the Twilight Zone episode, “In Praise of Pip,” where Jack Klugman rips my heart out.
HESherman 11:34am @petermarksdrama I think theaters are afraid of, and challenged by, deeply moving pieces. “Who wants to buy a ticket to be sad?”
dloehr 11:33am @HESherman Very much so. (Up till then, only Snoopy Came Home & Jim Henson’s memorial had such a powerful effect on me.)
HESherman 11:33am @petermarksdrama You think the comedy and tragedy masks have currency today? Not vestigial?
Petermarksdrama 11:33am @HESherman Ah because when the seams show, you feel compelled to point them out. We’re journalists, not members of theater community
dloehr 11:32am @petermarksdrama @HESherman Plot involved the Joker kidnapping baby boys & threatening to kill them. Suddenly, that was high stakes for me.
HESherman 11:31am @petermarksdrama Then why do critics focus on intellectual response or picking on “tribute to aboriginal culture” and just enjoy?
Petermarksdrama 11:31am @HESherman “Play me didgeridoo, Lou…”
dloehr 11:31am @petermarksdrama @HESherman Though, after my 1st son was born, I did start crying reading a Batman novel. I kid you not. (cont’d)
HESherman 11:30am @dloehr I teared up writing my blog. The question is not what we evoke in ourselves, but in others.
dloehr 11:30am @petermarksdrama @HESherman Absolutely. It’s rare for other media to affect me like that. I think it’s the shared moment in the room.
Petermarksdrama 11:30am @HESherman But I was unclear what you were saying to theaters–that they don’t market the “emotion” in their productions?
HESherman 11:29am @petermarksdrama You’ll laugh, but during that segment, I was hoping he’d cover “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport.”
Petermarksdrama 11:28am @dloehr @HESherman I think emotional content is whole point of theater–that’s why it’s represented by masks of laughter and grief
HESherman 11:28am @petermarksdrama Yes I assess content, but I see my role in theatre ecosystem as evangelist, not critic
dloehr 11:27am @petermarksdrama @HESherman There’s a scene in one of my scripts that always gets me, a story nearly verbatim from my grandfather.
Petermarksdrama 11:27am @HESherman But don’t you assess the content? You bought the whole tribute to aboriginal culture?
HESherman 11:27am @petermarksdrama I wasn’t writing advocacy piece for emotional epiphanies. But I do think profound emotion isn’t spoken of often
Petermarksdrama 11:26am @HESherman Listen, I take your point–I cry more at theater than I do at weddings.
HESherman 11:25am @petermarksdrama I’m not critic, so re @realhughjackman, I thought it was a terrif piece of entertainment, whatever the venue
HESherman 11:24am @petermarksdrama I knew you would start in with me about the crying blog post, but isn’t cynicism where crix & auds diverge?
Petermarksdrama 11:23am @HESherman So Howard — did you cry during Hugh Jackman’s show? The man’s irresistible, but wasn’t the whole thing a little bit Vegas?