A Seattle Theatre Critic Flies Past An Ethical Boundary

November 2nd, 2015 § 3 comments

A great deal has been written about the diminishment of arts journalism in general, and criticism in particular. Editors want to focus more only on big name productions, or celebrities, as budgets are continually cut and positions and space are pared back.

So it’s really sad when you find a critic doing their utmost to diminish the perception of critics and criticism entirely of their own volition. While I wouldn’t suggest that this is a regular occurrence, a particularly egregious aberration has emerged out of Seattle in recent days. A critic has posted on Craig’s List about his regular availability of a spare ticket to the city’s many cultural venues, making the following offer:

I am compiling a list of people who would like to purchase these single great seats for the performances. I plan to sell the ticket, and the price will less than half of the face value. In addition, your input might well be reflected in my review.

He goes on to write:

If you’re interested in participating, respond with your name and email address. I will then reply with my blog address (to prove that this is a real offer and give you an idea of what I’ve reviewed in the past few months) and the first list of upcoming events.

Thanks for considering this proposition and helping me to keep these seats from being empty in the future.

While some commenters on Facebook have provided links to who they believe this critic is, I am holding back from linking because I haven’t got absolute proof. But whoever this guy is, he seems blithely unaware of – or unconcerned by – the ethical and possibly legal boundaries he has crossed.

Here’s the complete listing:

Craig’s List image


The profiteering critic

The profiteering critic

I could write at great length about why this is wrong, but I hope it would seem obvious. The short version is that this bozo is being afforded complimentary tickets for his use as a critic and if he doesn’t need more than a single seat, he simply shouldn’t take the second one. It is not his role to fill that second seat, and it’s certainly not his right to profit from selling that seat, even at a discount, regardless of whether he’s being paid to write or not. I have seen some critics offer their second ticket – gratis – to their readers on social media, which seems an inventive way of reaching out to their own audience and to audience members for the theatre. But no money changes hands.

So whoever this is, I hope that the theatre community in Seattle blackballs him. I hope he isn’t given tickets by anyone ever again. I hope the theatres don’t feel they somehow need him. If, as it appears, he writes for The Huffington Post, I hope they withdraw that platform from him, because even with the very broad range of unpaid writers at HuffPo (an ethical debate for another day), he’s not doing that site any favors in the credibility department either.

Dude, not that I have any authority here, but as a former publicist, general manager and executive director, I’d say you’ve forfeited your rights to complimentary tickets. If you want to write about theatre, then you can buy a seat. If there’s any justice, your free ride is over.

P.S. This “offer” is under “men seeking women,” so there may be even more to the deal than meets the eye. Maybe that’s why he’s always got an extra ticket, too.

Update, November 2, 6:15 pm: The Craig’s List posting was removed within one hour of this post going live.

Update, November 2, 7:30 pm: Seattle’s weekly The Stranger has written about this situation, insuring it will spread throughout the Seattle arts community.


Howard Sherman is director of the Arts Integrity Initiative at The New School College of Performing Arts School of Drama.


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