WildSide, CharPo and Beyond
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois
What a week it has been!
The WildSide Festival was very, very good to CharPo. Our traffic exploded and our contributors, who were everywhere, heard lots of great reaction to this site. The comment most often made was that we offer an immediacy to the theatre dialogue - reviews come out fast and are spread quickly, shared over and over again via Twitter and Facebook. It's also great that the internet allows us to review shows which run two or three nights (as we did with Hamlet, Match Made in Hell, and Mike Birbiglia's My Girlfriend's Boyfriend) and these reviews seem to be appreciated by the readers and artists. (Birbiglia, for instance, tweeted my review of his show to his 50,000 followers and in the ten minutes following his tweet, we experienced a 500 pageview spike on the site - which normally pulls in 150-250 pageviews per day. The dialogue about the show broadened to people from the US, even after the show moved on to Oceania.) So appreciated that our site doubled it's previous record, this week (and that's even if you remove the statistical anomaly caused by the Birbiglian spike).
What WildSide also caused was a lively exchange amongst the CharPo people about how shows should be handled - profiled, reviewed or both - and who CharPo is for. We decided both profiled and reviewed. Identifying who we are meant for is a bit more complex.
CharPo is meant for theatre people and theatre-goers. It is at once a place where local work is discussed and both promoted and critiqued. This last component is important. Criticism, for readers, is interesting even if they do not go to the play. A review, well written, entertains and provokes a reader to thought and, sometimes, comment. (You'll see from one of the comments on the Birbiglia show that not everyone liked his piece as much as I did.) Criticism, by its existence, supposes that the work of art being reviewed merits the attention and that the arts community under scrutinity is not some hothouse flower which will wither under the attention.
But, just to be clear, about 80% of the content of this site is purely celebratory and we invite artists to write for us and increase this proportion. Many have, already, with brilliant first-person articles: Steve Galluccio, Keir Cutler, Kate Bligh and Martha Chaves. Each of them understood, as we do, that theatre is only as lively a conversation as people make it, beyond the actual play being discussed. And the discussion does not end closing night.
As WildSide bounces into its second week, CharPo still has work to do to cover it and to cover the theatre outside of it (you'll be getting CharPo reviews of Neon Nights at WS and of Absurd Person Singular, this week). But we are also very excitedly preparing for massive coverage of other big events as well...
See you at the Fringe!
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