Monday, January 15, 2007

Akron Beacon Journal continues to ignore local theatre

Akron is home to many theatre companies as well as being home to the beautiful Akron Civic Theatre pictured here. You'd never know that if you were a reader of the Akron Beacon Journal -- in print or online.

Today in a comment to an earlier post, Neil Thackaberry of Actor's Summit tells us that the ABJ is not reviewing their work:

Neil Thackaberry said...

"I sent the following email to the Beacon this morning.

I'm sorry that the Beacon Journal's priorities don't allow for consistent coverage of Actors' Summit, the only fully professional nonprofit theater in Summit County.

The regional premiere of QED was seen this weekend by critics from The Cleveland Plain Dealer, The Cleveland Free Times, The West Side Leader, The Record Publishing Papers, The Chagrin Valley Times, and The Cleveland Jewish News. The critic from the Times newspapers is scheduled to attend this coming weekend. It seems that only the Beacon Journal doesn't consider our work worthy of critical review.

In the past, Actors' Summit was considered a priority of the Beacon Journal. I'm sorry to see that is no longer the case.

Neil Thackaberry
Founder & Artistic Director
Artistic Director"

I am very sorry to hear this. I've been having a heck of a time finding any theatre reviews at all at ohio.com, the ABJ's online presence. Elaine Guregian is still listed as Classical Music and Dance critic with no mention of theatre. Her theatre reviews are not posted under her listing as a columnist. I finally located them under a small heading on the Entertainment page: Peforming Arts. There are two reviews by Elaine -- one for the latest Bang and Clatter production and one for a musical at Playhouse Square in Cleveland. There is also a review by George Thomas's 12 year old son of the concert version of High School Musical. (George Thomas no longer writes movie reviews for the Beacon but rather has been assigned to the sports department.)

If one were to take the Akron Beacon Journal as an accurate reflection of our community, we could only say that Akron is a cultural wasteland. Furthermore, we would wonder why so many theatre companies are shown in the listings but are no longer reviewed. Certainly Actors' Summit was always on the agenda, and ditto Coach House and Weathervane. Theatre work of interest by Akron's own New World Performance Laboratory would be covered as well as note-worthy productions at the University of Akron, Kent State, Wooster and beyond. Carousel just opened a new show last week but not a peep from the Beacon yet. What about Magical Theatre? As for all those surrounding community theatres in Hudson, Stow, Medina and so on -- forget it! If the Beacon isn't going to cover Akron theatres, there is no hope for you.

The weekly Theatre Notes column has vanished, so we are cut off from news such as -- has Weathervane hired a new executive director yet. We never got a column on the untimely demise of Ingenue Theatre Company. If anyone of any importance was doing something in theatre locally, we once had a place to read about it. I can't fault Elaine -- how do you fit in covering all the local theatre when you are also trying to cover classical music and dance events as well?

So what is a local theatre-goer to do? Everybody who is in the know, subscribes to the NorthEast Ohio Performing Arts (NEOPAL) list put together by Fred Sternfeld, but that is more of a bulletin board. Some people do post reviews, but it is not the same as having a trusted and consistant voice from a reviewer you respect. The NEOPAL list does not necessarily target the potential audiences that our local theatres must have in order to keep existing.

You might check out Kerry Clawson's new blog From Page to Stage. She is writing about the local theatre scene. Post a comment and let her know you care too. Because obviously the ABJ doesn't give a damn. Don't let that stop you from joining Neil Thackaberry and write a letter to the editor. The editors won't do anything until they feel the pressure.

3 comments:

stephanie grant said...

Wonder how the locals would react if the ABJ dropped sports from its coverage. The owners of the Browns, the Cavaliers, the nattering tv sports reporters, and all the high school coaches would scream to high heaven because it would meaning losing millions of dollars worth of free advertising. When you see a guy reading a paper in MacDonalds, it's most likely to be the sports section. One of the reasons I loathe professional sport is because its a money-making machine, soaking the middle class to enrich the billionaire owners and hangers on. That's okay, but what is not is all the free promotion given to them. Nowhere else on earth does this situation prevail. Obviously though, the people being soaked like it--as the Romans did their bread and circuses.

The theatre, however, does not hold much sway over the local economy. It doesn't create millionaires and it's often demanding of the intellect, and therefore gets little support.

liberal_dem said...

What a beautiful theatre!

Anonymous said...

ABJ and many other regional papers of the BJ's size are struggling for relevance in the internet age. ABJ's web presence is a joke IMO. But better than the bigger waste of space that is the print edition. Why not just take them out of the loop and develop a new resource for area lovers of theater? The power to publish is more accessible than ever. Sure the ABJ has some stature (mostly in a historical context) but how long do you hold on to a sinking ship? It seems it is time to DIY. I truly hope someone does it.