Theater Critics Lack Job Skills To Survive DepressionNew York Post theater columnist Michael Riedel loves to twist the knife into a failing production, and this morning he can't help himself. The staged failure in question is an irrelevant, overpriced disaster that struggles along slowly where its competition surges on. This horrorshow is the dramatic plight of the newspaper theater critic, a production that should have themes that resonate with Riedel's job status, but the controversial Broadway observer doesn't see the irony in writing trend pieces that might leave him unemployed. Does the world really need Ben Brantley (left), or Michael Riedel, for that matter?Critics are taking buyouts right and left, with the The Star-Ledger parting ways with two longtime writers who reviewed for more than a decade in their pages. The financial climate for new productions is one reason for cutbacks, but there's just not much need for a critic when bloggers have the attention of the industry. "Most people can't tell the difference between Wayman Wong [a blogger] and Ben Brantley. And, frankly, I'd rather read Wayman," a producer tells Riedel. It's not just the cutbacks, it's the brutal humiliation they've suffered in having to do the job:
"We were all misled," says [Star-Ledger critic Michael] Sommers. "I thought I was going to be George Sanders. Then I found out we don't get invited to the parties. There's no glamour anymore. During the stagehands strike, my editors had me standing on the sidewalk at 2 a.m. getting quotes. ... I ran into [veteran producer] Liz McCann and said: 'Well, I've been taking stock of myself. I'm middle-aged, I don't get all the new technology, I really don't get the young generation, and I don't have any money. There's nothing left for me to do but become a Broadway producer. She laughed and hit me with her cane."
Maybe he could try a wax museum. Can the NYT start sending Thomas Friedman to new musicals to distract him from writing op-eds?