Reviewing Theatre For Over 40 Years
Entering a New Era
I admit it. I’m old school – not in my appreciation of art, but in my appreciation of the medium in which I have long worked. I have always loved newspapers and those who create them. I can remember the first time I walked into the offices of the Pasadena Star-News. It was still housed in the building (now a design and furniture store) on Colorado Boulevard, with vaulted ceilings, hard wood floors, the kind of doors where the glass rattles as they close, and an atmosphere of bottled intensity. The linotype machines clanked. There was a vague scent of printer’s ink. Someone was even wearing an eyeshade. My great uncle, the much-admired managing editor Lee Merriman, said hello as my class took the standard tour, and ushered me into his office briefly for a stick of his ubiquitous Black Jack gum. That was nearly 50 years ago, and I was in the 2nd grade.
I can remember the day, long after Uncle Lee’s death, I walked into the newsroom of that same Star-News as an adult, and handed my portfolio to then features editor Luaine Lee. Wanting to test me out, she gave me my first review assignment for the paper: a moderately interesting production of “The Fantasticks” at a Monrovia theater which no longer exists. That was 1982. Between then and now the Knight-Ritter Company sold the paper, and I survived the move. I lived, even when my very first theater column included – in large print – my name spelled incorrectly by an editor married to one of my oldest friends. I lived when it and the other column I wrote were both pulled due to shrinking space. I survived the shift of the features department – now covering three papers – to West Covina. I’ve survived computerization and The Star-News’ shrink to a storefront near The Ice House. I’ve weathered a reduction in force which took us from five or six theater critics to one – me. I’ve worked for five entertainment editors, a features editor – gone but unlamented – who was convinced nobody went to the theater anymore, and the recent bankruptcy of the papers’ parent company which has led to further economy measures. During that time I have written thousands of reviews of theaters throughout the San Gabriel Valley, and of the more important houses in Los Angeles. It’s been a calling, from the first, and a labor of love even when budgets have continued shrinking.
My aim, at this point, is to survive the sad but apparently unstoppable gradual demise of the print newspaper as we know it. Theater remains important in the Los Angeles area, and reporting on it remains essential. It is time to add something online to my repertoire which is not entirely dependent upon the shaky status of print media and its related online sources. (Okay, my son the computer guy’s pushing didn’t hurt either.) So, here I am. What I hope to do here is provide a conduit to those of my reviews which are posted online by my papers, and perhaps get a chance to talk – once again – about the world in which they are created. I have a passion for the theater I still want to share, and an apparently loyal and appreciative audience who still wants to listen – a fact which makes me both startled and grateful.
And so, I enter a new era. Hello, 21st Century. Here I come!