When I first agreed to become a critic, some 17 years ago, I was unsure of my ability to do the job. I knew I could write but I had no training, and while I had gone to musicals, especially Gilbert & Sullivan for most of my life, my experience with straight theater was quite limited. I had never studied playwrights like Ibsen or Wilder, or any of the classic French comedies by Moliere and others. And I knew I didn't like Shakespeare. This did not seem to make me the most logical choice for the job.
But I decided to try it and over 17 years, I have seen a lot, learned a lot, and even have learned to enjoy Shakespeare. We see about 60 shows a year. My comfort zone is still musical theater, and those reviews come quickly when I get home, but I seem to have been able to express my opinion in an entertaining and helpful manner.
When I read other critics, I realize that I would never pass in a big city newspaper, but I have had a lot of very positive feedback and I enjoy what I do. Most of the time.
But I do have an Achilles heel. I know nothing about dance and am asked twice a year to review a concert given by our local Pamela Trokanski Dance Theatre. We've known Pamela for most of our time in Davis and the first time she asked me to review one of her shows, I confessed that I knew nothing about dance. She told me that made me perfect to review her shows, which are intended to appeal to anybody, even people like me.
So I've stumbled through several of her shows and though when I re-read my reviews I sometimes cringe, I think I've managed to serve her well. But I still never feel comfortable. I'm always happy when her shows come on a weekend when I have two or three other shows to review and am unable to make it to her performance.
This weekend, we went to her latest fall concert, Turning Corners. I was all prepared this time. I took copious notes (none of which I could decipher when I got home!!) The review is written and submitted but, as always, I feel uncomfortable hoping that I got it right.
The theme for this show is exploring what happens when you look at familiar scenes from a different perspective. You take the same road to work every day but what happens if you suddenly take a different street. What will you find?
(The amazing thing about this group of 8 dancers is that the youngest, young Asher Habicht is only 9 years old. I don't know how long he has been dancing, but this is the third year I have reviewed him. He's as talented as the adults with whom he dances. The oldest in the group is Allegra Silberstein, who is 87 and who has been dancing with Pamela for many years -- both Asher and Allegra are on the right side of this photo)
Trokanski's choreography is always athletic and wonderfully synchronized...and also fun.
We enjoyed the show and were surprised to find one of my colleagues from the News and Review also there, with his wife. They suggested we go out for dinner together, which we did. Jim and I know each other only through emails and passing in various theaters. It was nice to get to know them both a bit more personally over Thai food.