Before The Chieftains review — which it’s not, because I lost my Lamy Al-Star pen following a disaster of a restaurant meal so I couldn’t take notes — a roundabout.
I try to be a jack of all journalism tricks. I even covered a lecture and poetry reading by ex-NBA star Tom Meschery in about 2000 at the University of Arkansas for The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas — almost sports reporting. In about 1982, I photographed a workshop in Irving, Texas, taught by jazz guitarist Lee Ritenour. Later I realized I heard little and saw little, except for notes I made for the photo-page captions and what came through my Minolta’s lens. In the 1990s, reviewing occasional plays and classical and jazz concerts for the Arkansas Democrat then Democrat-Gazette, I found that deadlines changed my appreciation of the stage. It wasn’t just plot and character, but more story and acting. Was that a dramatic pause or a missed cue? Are those French horns in tune? Reading books evolved with reviewing a few a year.
We all do this though, without writing. Honey, did you like the movie? We exchange experiences and opinions. Maybe it’s that the critic needs specific sentences immediately, not fuzzy impressions, especially if the show is over at 9:45 and the copy desk needs the 10-12 inches by 10:30. Notes are necessary.
In the last decade, outside of Brick I’ve written no reviews. I still jot a rare note during a show. I fear I’ll forget. Yet in the last decade I have forced myself to sit back, just absorb. You leave the theater then glowing, with a total impression, hard to summarize and, too soon, hard to recall. So when I buy $48 tickets for us to see Randy Newman on Jan. 22, at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville, I want to leave with something besides, “Duh, rockin’ show, durn, he’s funny.” The value of a top-dollar entertainment only starts with the two hours in a dark auditorium. It continues with memories and any enrichment afterward. On Newman, the first revelation was as a young man he wrote 3 Dog Night’s “Mama Told Me Not to Come”; when he sang it that night you realize, with that croaky voice and singsong pacing, who else? Continue reading