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Critcal Stage Fright

January 19, 1986

We seem to be afraid of new ideas ("What Makes Critics Shun the Process?" by Dan Sullivan, Jan. 12.)

Gordon Davidson of the Mark Taper Forum tried to involve critics actively, for a fee, in the "process by which a script becomes a play": rehearsals, discussions, post-performance audience forums. But they didn't want to play.

Dan Sullivan, one of the few willing to participate, asked, "Why are critics so up-tight about this?"

Well, maybe they just want to look good. Now they would be part of the performance, without a rehearsal or an out-of-town tryout, their half-formed ideas naked in front of all those people. The Critics' Nightmare!

But it wasn't a new idea for Sullivan. He has been a dramaturge at the O'Neill Theater Center in Connecticut--a relaxed, learning-experience atmosphere. He must be talented, too. They've been asking him back every summer for 12 years.

In the theater, there are so few places to experiment and fail, and learn. Gordon Davidson is on to something, but he messed up, too, his first crack.

Charging the critics a fee? Bad idea. Audience discussion? Maybe later, after everybody's practiced a little.


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