Monday, January 2, 2012

In retrospect

I'm still in cheerleader mode - only this time for myself.

It's going to be a slow week, so I thought to myself - what about filling up some space in the blogosphere with a self-retrospective, a "Best of the Hub Review," to go with my other annual "best of" lists?

 And you know, I'm just conceited enough that I thought this was a really great idea.

Especially since 2011 was a busy one for the Hub Review in terms of sheer polemic, which almost none of the other cultural blogs engage in.  So I've mostly narrowed my "Best Of" focus to those essays which had a particularly political edge during the past year.  I've kept it to roughly ten - well, to almost ten rubrics, as you'll see; some of my longer pieces, particularly my extensive consideration of His Girl Friday and Porgy and Bess (in the context of the racial politics of vintage theatre), were linked into something like one continuous article.  So without further ado -

The Best of 2011

I'm well-known as just about the only long-form cultural blogger in existence, and 2011 saw me at my most long-winded in a linked, four-part (and almost 8,000-word) consideration of what constitutes a valid approach to racism in classic theatrical texts - via a comparison of the ART's exploitive Porgy and Bess to Trinity Rep's honorable update of His Girl Friday.  I also pondered why, exactly, the print press is so hypocritically eager to condemn racism in some works, while ignoring it in others.  (Indeed, if you only read the print reviews, you might never have realized this cultural debate was playing itself out on-stage in New England - I think I'm the only person in the region who bothered to compare the two productions.)  The series culminated in the critique of Clybourne Park that the Guardian deemed "brilliant" (thank you, Guardian - I now have a whole cohort of steady readers from the UK):

Two contrasting tales of racism and renovation

Hot off The Front Page

Paulus, Parks, and Porgy

What we talk about when we talk about what we talk about when we talk about race

I also penned a double essay around the tenth anniversary of 9/11, and the questions it raised about America and what I christened "9/11 pop" (although in retrospect, "9/11 porn" might have been the better handle):

Which one is the real America?

Seen from a distance . . . Notes on 9/11 pop

I likewise devoted a fair amount of space on the blog to the crack-down on Occupy Boston - which I often visited this fall - which led to these widely-read pieces:

Thoughts on the phony progressive politics of the theatre

Scenes from an Occupation

So, Mumbles has lost my vote

Elsewhere, I mused on the slow death of cultural discussion on the web  -

Welcome to the blogosphere

And wrote about the practice of theatre criticism itself quite a bit, as I weathered a sustained attack from several theatres (and then launched my own against Charles Isherwood of the New York Times.) Salvos from that period include:

The case for creative destruction, etc.

More thoughts from Larry

Larry's open letter to the A.R.T.

And, of course, I can't honestly review this tumultuous year without including my own attack on those who sought my expulsion from the IRNE Awards:

The Shawn & Kati Show

Meanwhile, on the lighter side, there were my frustrated polemics against another theatre critic, Charles Isherwood:

You know, maybe Chuck does kind of suck


Should the gays be reviewing the blacks? or, Is there too much swish to the Ish?

Don't worry, we're near the end! Looking way back, very early in the year I penned the following plea for a "Martin Luther King" prize devoted to plays about race right here in Boston.  (Within a few weeks, intriguingly enough, the Huntington announced it would be producing just such a play, Kirsten Greenidge's The Luck of the Irish):

The Martin Luther King Prize - how about it?

And finally (fast forwarding to just a few weeks ago) one article that led to a number of positive emails and comments was my re-consideration of the Frank Capra classic, It's a Wonderful Life:

It's a wonderful life, but a lousy market economy

Whew; I think that's enough self-congratulation for now - not that there isn't even more great writing on the Hub Review. Hopefully I'll be able to keep up something like the same standard in 2012, so by all means - keep reading!


  1. Might you consider a poll so readers can chime in on the best of the best?

  2. Hey - I'm the critic around here, okay? ;-)