So You Want to Be a Reviewer?

No. Nononononononononononononono. NO. After my post on the Next Stage Theatre Festival, I received a tweet from the Toronto Fringe Festival asking to let them know if I wanted to review any other shows.  I didn't catch the message immediately, but I friend of mine did and he said he was looking forward to reading my work.

Uh, what?

Listen, I love going to the theatre, but even more so, I love talking about the theatre.  I love watching plays and then telling people about it.  I know what I like (or didn't like) and I have been working long enough in this field that I have the vocabulary to tell you why.  But there's the rub:  I work in this field and I would like to work in it some more. And unfortunately, saying critical things about a production or performance could rub the people involved the wrong way, no matter how well-intentioned the critique may be.  This could very well have repercussions on my future employ-ability.  I've seen it happen before.  A fellow blogger and actor was working in an education capacity for a theatre company when he wrote a review of their show he had just seen.  The review was intelligent and well-written and, although not negative, it was definitely critical.  And while the director of the show appreciated what he had written, the company administration was all up in arms that one of its employees could say something "bad" about them.  Granted, this was in the much earlier days of social media, but still...

So, from then on, I resolved to not review shows, but simply mention shows that I was looking forward to see.

And having said all that, I can now tell you I am also full of shit because here is my review of Modern Love, now playing at the Next Stage Theatre Festival.  Why?  Because I really enjoyed that show, I want people to see it, and I think that, buzz-wise, it may get overshadowed by the Morro & Jasp's and the Uncalled For's of this festival (because if I had a newspaper and needed a picture to represent the festival, I would use the four shirtless guys in a life-raft too).

Please note: though I work in arts marketing, I am not involved with this production and also paid to see it just like everybody else.


I have a running gag in all my actor bios: "In her spare time, Nancy can be found on the internet." It's not just in my spare time anymore.  It's my day job, my night job, my connection to everyone I know.  I'd rather send you a text than talk to you on the phone. I'd rather write on my blog than tell you what I've been up to lately. If I have to talk to you in person, can I have a drink first?  Those who know me, probably don't realize how much crowds of strangers and acquaintances make me anxious.  The internet, in many ways, was my salvation from all that.  Behind the screen, I have time to think and be witty.  I banter better. Sometimes, I even alliterate more.

So Theatre Caravel's production of Modern Love was not only right up my alley, it struck a very real chord.  A HI-larious chord filled with now obscure internet memes (because something that was popular a few months ago on the internet is like an eternity IRL), blanket forts (BLANKET FORTS! Sidebar: ever since I started watching Community with my roommate, I have been constantly pushing the very real need to build a blanket fort in our apartment) and a whole lot of heart. Gosh, the number of times I've gone trolling for dates on the internet only to get completely overwhelmed by the process and  freak out to the point of actual embarrassment when somebody answered...  Sigh. I'm lonely too.

Aaaaaanyway, not only that, but the humour and heart in the show reminded me a lot of my own one-woman show.  In the very early drafts of Roller Derby Saved My Soul, I had also toyed with including multimedia elements to the piece.  I ended up scrapping that idea when I realized that a) the story really needed to be fleshed out more and b) I didn't know who I could get to do the multimedia work for me.

But I still love the use of mixed-media in theatre pieces when it's done well.  And in Modern Love, it's done very well.  I have to applaud Jessica Moss for making her interactions with the screen elements look so seamless and so tight, because I know for a fact that that shit is not easy to do (you can say 'shit' in a review, right? This guy does it all the time).

So, folks, Jessica Moss was speaking my language.  And if she didn't already have a beer in hand when I briefly had the chance to meet her last night, I would have bought her one myself. (Oh and if that wasn't enough to make me love her, this interview pretty much sealed the deal.)

Did I have some nitpicks about the show? Sure. Sometimes everything felt a bit rushed, there wasn't any breathing room for the gags to land, and I ended up missing many more because people were laughing so hard.  But that's a minor quibble after I realized that this was opening night and therefore probably the first time this show played in front of a full-house in its current incarnation.  That will probably even out with the rest of the run.  Part of me would love to see it again later on, just to see how it develops.  I'd also love to see how it would grow and change with new technologies...

Modern Love was a good night out and you have quite a few more chances to catch it in the Factory Theatre Studio Space. So please, do as I did:  Step away from the screen, put the iPhone on Airplane Mode (because God forbid I actually turn it off), and go have a laugh, will ya?  Jessica Moss, she is good people.  And if you're lucky, you might just catch me in that deliciously heated beer tent in the courtyard next door.



Oh and Jess, I feel that way too.