James Critchfield | Pittsburgh City Paper

James Critchfield 
Member since Apr 7, 2011

James Critchfield (Founder & Executive Director of ACT) has lived, studied and worked as a professional actor, singer, director, producer, theater consultant, administrator, and performing… More »



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Posted by THE SYSTEM on December 15, 2018 at 9:39 AM

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Re: “Agnes of God and The Elephant Man

As the Executive Director of Actors Civic Theater, this rebuttal to Mr. Hoover’s theatrical review of Agnes of God may seem self-serving and only reactionary to one reviewer’s opinion. However, we - the readers of this fine paper - are granted this opportunity to comment, and I will take the opportunity afforded me.

While Ted’s theatrical reviews can often be curt, sarcastic, and convoluted, he does have a wealth of experience to warrant the right to this, his employment.

First I must say that being in the business of professional theater as long as both Ted and I have been - all of our adult lives (which is probably many more years than either of us may be willing to share) - we both know that the job of a theater critic is to inform the readers of her/his paper the theater critic’s opinion (hopefully supported by her/his training and experience) of what the she/he thinks important for the reader. Ted Hoover has never failed to do just that. Honestly speaking, it is not the critic’s job to be concerned of the accuracy of her/his comments and how the possible inaccuracy may affect the artisan, affect the production company, or affect the artisans’ work being criticized. In the defense of any well versed art critic, they do not have the opportunity to observe the process and creation of the specific art form being reviewed. Performing arts critics can only get one quick look at the “finished” product. However, can we accurately say that a piece of art is ever truly completed? Performing Arts (Music, Theater, Dance) are truly Ephemeral.

One of the greatest things about evaluating any art form, including live theatre, is that two people can see the same piece of art (or in this specific instance - theater production) and come away with completely differing reactions. Here is a fine example: The audience who witnessed the same performance Ted saw gave a standing ovation. In that spirit, I'd like to offer my rebuttal to Ted Hoover’s quick and curt theater review of ACT’s production of Agnes of God when he attended opening night this past Friday evening (4/1/2011).

Those of us involved in creating theater know that the long and creative process is one of the best examples of true team work and “ensemble.” The writer gets the idea and writes it down on paper. The theater production company chooses to produce the written piece and places a team of arts together (directors, designers, actors, technicians) to create the play the audience will see.

With all that said, here is my rebuttal. To say that “the Actors Civic Theater's production of Agnes features strong performances by Robin Beruh, Patricia Cena and Abigail Lis-Perlis” (which I agree with whole-heartedly), but to say in the very same sentence that “Mary Chess Randolph's direction was muddied, haphazard and continually trips them (the actors) up” is contrary to all we understand in the evaluation of any collaborative art form. How does Mr. Hoover feel qualified to say that what he saw - in the brief snapshot of time – was “muddled and haphazard” direction when he said that the actors gave strong performances? Are we then to assume that the director - who guides the whole artistic side of the production - had nothing to do with the actors’ “strong” performances?

I would NEVER place myself in the amazingly difficult position all critics have placed themselves in - to inform the critic’s readers their assessment of such a subjective and individually personal view of an ephemeral art form like live theater. But Ted has a job to do and he did it. I, for one, would be much more careful of my accuracy of information to my readers.
For example, the evening Ted came to see the performance (he must have ran out of room in the paper to say) we had a very enthusiastically energized audience who all rose to their feet with a rousing standing ovation for the performance which included ( in my educated assessment) the performers,’ the designers,’ the production team’s work including the this impressive director’s guiding efforts.

I believe Mr. Hoover is mistaken in his statement regarding the direction while the performers’ success cannot be exclusive from the director’s skillful guidance.

I encourage those looking for excellent and affordable live theater (free parking) in a beautiful arts center which is only 5-7 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh to come and see this amazing production. You may agree with the opening night audience and give these worthy performers and their laudable director a standing ovation.

We have performances this Friday and Saturday @ 7:30 PM & Sunday @ 2:00 PM at the Father Ryan Arts Center, 420 Chartiers Ave., McKees Rocks, PA 15136 (Only 5-7 minutes from Downtown Pittsburgh).

Thank you City Paper for this opportunity to rebut Mr. Hoover’s opinion.

I encourage those who have had the opportunity to see this fine production to comment as well.

James Critchfield,
Executive Director
Actors Civic Theater

Posted by JamesCritchfield on 04/07/2011 at 3:35 PM

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