Laura Nanni weighs in on the Critic-Free Environment

Festival Director Laura Nanni weighs in on some of the responses to Sunday’s post about critic-free spaces

After Sook-Yin’s post about critic free spaces went up on-line yesterday I’ve received alot of interesting questions from people in the community regarding criticism in the age of social media.

Since the beginning of Rhubarb 33 years ago, as well as this year, we have communicated a no-review policy to the media.   I’m glad that this has remained a core value of the Festival.  We want to assure artists that they have a space where the pressure is not to get a good review, but to make the most of the opportunity to test new ideas in front of an audience.  We want a space where they can risk creatively, make bold choices, and continue to develop the work during and after the festival.  We want their focus to be on making the work, not on getting a good or bad review (there is pressure in both cases).

This isn’t to say that we don’t encourage dialogue.  As a festival focused on new work and experimentation, opening work to a live audience is key.  Our audiences have always shared their opinions and critiques whether it be face-to-face with the artists, in post-show Q&As, through word of mouth, or just at the bar with each other.  FB, Twitter, personal blogs, etc. have also become part of the mix and it is not something we discourage or police, especially if artists are encouraging feedback for their work in that way.  An important distinction is that by claiming it a critic-free space, we are doing our best to establish an environment where there aren’t authoritative voices swaying an audience to see or not see a work based on a showing of something that is just starting to take shape.

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