By Sandi Durell
Some, but not many, may be aware of recent upsets in the long and illustrious career of theater critic Frank Rizzo, who spent 33 years at The Hartford Courant, is theater critic at Variety and, you have also read his thoughts and reviews at The New York Times, American Theatre and a long list of other outlets. Well respected in the industry, he is a strong believer in his obligations to his readers first.
Recently, an incident occurred when Goodspeed Musicals produced a developmental production of Cyrano starring the iconic Peter Dinklage and Mr. Rizzo found himself caught in a web after purchasing his own ticket, attending the last performance and writing a very positive commentary. After all, many anonymous writers were already writing about this production on social media and that was OK, but a professional writer. . .
This resulted in Frank Rizzo being “told on the phone by its director of marketing Dan McMahon that Michael Gennaro (Executive Director) was so furious that he couldn’t even speak to me … and that I could not be welcome as part of the CT critics…and they would communicate to the editors of the many outlets I write for that they will not be cooperating with me on stories.”
Thankfully, per Rizzo, it hasn’t affected his professional life (other than having to purchase the occasional ticket to Goodspeed). In fact all his editors have been supportive so Goodspeed’s efforts to effect his employment have been for naught.
So, after reading the links below and this article, what do you think? Does the punishment fit the crime??? Is Mr. Rizzo’s declaration that his responsibility is to his readership and not to theater owners viable?
You can respond to me and Theater Pizzazz at: email@example.com
Frank Rizzo wrote:
“The folks at Goodspeed Musicals are upset at me and I can’t blame them.
In their view I violated a trust in writing about their “developmental production” of a new musical “Cyrano” starring “Game of Thrones” actor Peter Dinklage at its second stage, the Norma Terris Theatre in Chester.
I wrote what I called a “developmental review” after seeing it on its last day of performances. Critics were not invited to review the show, which is the policy of works at the Chester theater — though there were several exceptions over the years.
So I bought my own ticket, wrote my thoughts in what I considered a positive and constructive way, and posted it after the run ended.
I did this for several reasons. The first and most important is that my first obligation as a critic — but also as an arts journalist — is to the reader, not to any institution. I am not any theater’s employee.
I usually cringe whenever I am introduced as “our advocate for theater” . . . (read more below)