Outtake: Edward Albee on why critics should read plays

Posted by Randy Shulman
March 12, 2011 12:32 PM |

In creating a final cut of this week's Edward Albee cover story, we had to lose a few passages for space. One of those was this interesting exchange about critics:

METRO WEEKLY: I guess you could also argue that in the case of a critical flop, it's not always necessarily the fault of the play. It could be the production.

Edward Albee

EDWARD ALBEE: Well, of course. One thing troubles me is that a lot of critics do not read the play before they review it. They mainly see the production. So what they're reviewing is the production and not necessarily the play the author wrote. Because we all know there are lots of changes that happen to a play during production and they're not always good changes. But then you have a responsibility to tell an audience in the opening night review, this is a bad production of a good play, if that's what you thought.

MW: I worked as a theater critic for fifteen years and I can say from experience that sometimes you just can't tell.

ALBEE: Well, you can usually tell by reading the play. If you know how to read a play -- and that's not hard to learn. You can tell if a production is worse than the play or better than the play. You can tell that pretty easily.

MW: I think you can tell that without having to read the play, actually.

ALBEE: More accurately by having read the play first.

MW: So your advice to all critics is that they need to read the plays they review.

ALBEE: Well, some of them have to learn how to read.

MW: I'm getting the sense you don't like critics much.

ALBEE: Well, they used to say in the 19th century that a good critic is a dead critic. I don't feel that way. Some are better than others, of course. Some bring more intelligence, some bring more knowledge, some bring more seriousness to a serious art. Some people are critics and some people are reviewers. A critic thinks more thoroughly and more completely than a reviewer does.

Speaking of critics, read Kate Wingfield's Four Star reviews of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and At Home at the Zoo, both now playing at Arena Stage, here.

Edward Albee photographed at Arena Stage by Todd Franson.

Please Leave a Comment