Hello and welcome to my blog. In the hours I have free from editing the theater section at Time Out New York and reviewing about 100 shows a year, I hope to post on various aspects of theater, literature, music and other cultural matters that spark a thought. But why this bold step forward into…well, 2003 (about when I should have started this thing)? Simply put, I have been paying more attention to theater blogs this year, and found myself hooked on the high level of conversation, the enthusiasm and the rapidity with which some bloggers have been able to respond to news issues and aesthetic debates. I'm thinking, mainly, of the crisis of artistic leadership and political relevance which the Rachel Corrie/NYTW disaster opened up. In March I had my say at TONY, and a couple of weeks before that—under the influence of blogs, I believe—mixed standard reviewing practice with rancorous editorializing to howl at Manhattan Theatre Club's Rabbit Hole for promulgating safe, bourgeois plays. So I guess these blogs, to which I’ve linked and which may link to me, have been a major inspiration. A mainstream media (MSM) critic openly admiring a corner of the blogosphere...unthinkable! But not really. When critics at the city's leading media outlets either get the facts dead wrong, express outdated, middlebrow tastes, fawn over celebrities, remain ignorant of rising talent downtown, fail to support daring young playwrights and companies, or make it painfully clear that they have never actually worked in the field, then it's time to turn to blogs for informed opinion and passion.
The blogs also make me wax nostalgic. Ten years ago, I was an Off-Off Broadway actor, mostly working with a former college professor who was an exiled Iranian writer-director-performer. (More on him in later posts. Suffice it to say, he could be described as a Persian Charles Ludlam.) Anyway, it struck me then that the coverage for tough experimental theater below 14th Street was sorely lacking. Neither The New York Times nor the Village Voice was adequately covering what I believed to be a wild, brilliant ferment of activity at HERE, the Ontological Theater, PS 122, etc.—what could be a second wave of New York avant-garde theater. So, with the defunct, no-nonsense Lingua Franca as a model, I joined forces with former actress and graphic designer Jenny Woodward to found and publish OFF: A Journal for Alternative Theater. I have yet to scan and post images and stories from OFF, but it was basically a free arts 'zine that lasted from 1996-98. We printed about 1000-3000 per issue, first on photocopied 8 1/2" x 11" paper then cheap newsprint, and distributed them to around 20 Off-Off venues, mostly below 14th Street. So Histriomastix is an extension of the work started a decade ago in OFF. That humble 'zine was my start in theater journalism. I’ve just entered my sixth year working full-time as a theater reporter and reviewer for TONY, and this blog is my way of making sense of those thousands of hours watching shows, writing reviews, profiles, blurbs and news reports about theater from the splashiest Broadway opening to scrappiest experimental work in a converted garage. Thanks for tuning in to the process.