1 How many productions do you review each year?
I review about 250 productions a year—on average 5 productions a week.
2 What genre(s) of productions do you most frequently review?
In a recent year I reviewed 54% plays, 43% musicals, and 3% other types of productions. I love straight plays, but since I grew up seeing musicals, I’m less likely to turn down an invitation to review a musical than a play.
3 Do you usually see productions in larger or in smaller theaters?
It runs about 50-50 between smaller theaters (99 seats or less) and mid-sized or large theaters.
4 How do you decide which shows to review?
Having seen and reviewed well over 2000 productions since the creation of StageSceneLA in 2007, I have learned from experience which companies, theaters, playwrights, actors, directors, choreographers, musical directors, and designers do the most consistently topnotch work in town. Those are the theater professionals whose work I want to see.
I also take into account genre (you won’t often find me seeing avant-garde, artsy, experimental theater—not my thing, and only occasionally do I see a solo performance), type of theater (I’m far more likely to see an Equity or AEA 99-Seat-Plan production than one at a community theater—no offense intended to the many talented people who enrich our community theater scene), and the particular play or musical in question (I’ll gladly see another Spring Awakening depending on the director and cast though I’ve probably reached my limit on Little Shops, Sweeney Todds, Fiddlers and quite a few others) and I will never ever see a 2nd production of Cats). I’m more likely to see a West Coast or Los Angeles Premiere of a play or musical I’ve heard good things about than a World Premiere, though I gladly make exceptions when I know the theater and artists in question. (About 13% of the productions I reviewed during a recent season were World Premieres.)
Since I receive a hundred or so official invitations per month (and another couple hundred on my Facebook page), I end up having to turn down numerous invitations to review that I sincerely wish I could accept.
5 I’m a performer with a cabaret act coming up at a local supper club. Will you come and review?
Supper clubs provide a terrific showcase for performers whose musical theater work I’ve reviewed and loved, however I’ve made it a rule not to review them for one main reason. Unless fully comped for food and drink in addition to cover (which I’m absolutely aware is too much to ask), supper club cabaret acts end up simply too expensive, both for myself and for whomever I invite to be my plus one.
6 How should I contact you about getting a production reviewed?
If you’d like me to consider a production for review, please send a press release and/or invitation to review to StageSceneLA@gmail.com.
7 How do you decide whether a show gets a WOW!?
WOW! indicates a production that I can recommend without hesitation. I might express a minor caveat or two in my review, but any nitpicking is greatly outweighed by the overall excellence of the production.
8 Most of your reviews are WOW!s. Isn’t this a lot?
While it is indeed true that the vast majority of productions reviewed on StageSceneLA receive a WOW! review, this ought not to come as a surprise to those familiar with the work being done by our finest theaters and companies, whose productions make up the bulk of those reviewed here.
One of the very best things about being an independent reviewer is that I have the freedom to pick and choose what I review. Unlike critics for the Los Angeles Times, or those who write for the LA Weekly or Variety, I am never assigned to review a production, nor do I receive financial compensation of any kind. Every production I review is one I have chosen to see, and since I receive three to four times more invitations than I have available slots on my calendar, I am able to select only those productions most likely to guarantee a positive theatergoing exprience. I’m not doing this for money, simply for the love of great theater.
9 Aren’t you more likely to rave about a production than most other reviewers?
Not at all. A website called Bitter Lemons compiles print and online Los Angeles theater reviews and assigns each production an average score from 0% to 100%, i.e. from Bitter to Sweet. A look at StageSceneLA WOW! reviews included on Bitter Lemons in a recent calendar year reveals a (very sweet) average score of 85.9%. In other words, the average Bitter Lemons score for a StageSceneLA WOW! review is about 86%. The vast majority of productions raved about on StageSceneLA are in fact being raved about by other reviewers as well.
10 So why don’t you see more bad shows?
Unlike those who go to the theater in search of something to criticize, or feel it is their mission as a drama critic to find fault, there’s nothing I like less than sitting through a badly acted, badly directed, badly designed production. For every one of my negative reviews, I’d much rather have spent that time seeing a show I could rave about. Maybe that’s why I refer to myself as a theater reviewer and not a “drama critic.” The latter sounds too much like the verb “to criticize” for my own personal comfort.
11 What differentiates you from most other reviewers?
I come to reviewing from the point of view of a lifelong theatergoer and occasional stage actor, rather than as a journalism major or playwright. I don’t think of myself as better or smarter than the actors onstage or the folks who have worked behind the scenes. I try never to forget how much work goes into even the most flawed stage production. When criticism is needed, I do my best to make it constructive. I view myself as an L.A. theater advocate, and when I like a show I’ve seen, I see it as part of my mission to get the word out and bodies in seats. If my writing makes a difference in the L.A. theater community, I feel I have done my job.
12 You review everything in town, don’t you?
Far from it. At the very least, I miss two-thirds of what’s playing around town. When the time comes for Ovation, LA Weekly, and L.A. Drama Critics’ Circle nominations to be announced, I am amazed by how many nominated productions I didn’t see.
13 So why don’t you get other reviewers to cover the shows that you can’t make it to?
StageSceneLA is my own very personal take on theater. That’s why the line below the banner reads Steven Stanley’s StageSceneLA. If I had other reviewers covering shows, I couldn’t be certain that their opinions and recommendations would match my own, something that would be especially important when Scenies are awarded every September. People who read my reviews do so, I hope, because they share my tastes and feel they can trust me. Were reviews written by anyone else, that trust would be compromised.
14 Your site is called StageSceneLA. Do you cover only Los Angeles productions?
About 75% of the shows which I review in an average calendar year are staged in Los Angeles County, with another 15% in Orange or Ventura Counties, i.e., the same geographical area covered by the Ovation Awards and LA Drama Critics’ Circle Awards, with the remainder a bit farther afield. Every StageSceneLA-reviewed production is a round-trip easily accomplished in a day, and one I would gladly take even if I weren’t a reviewer.
15 How can I find out what’s currently on our stages?
Click on the Now Playing tab on the top right of the front page for a complete list of all currently-playing shows reviewed on StageSceneLA. Shows which have closed will be filtered out.
16 What’s the fastest way to be notified when a new review is published?
Follow StageSceneLA on Twitter. Twitter followers are the first to get notified of brand new reviews.
17 What exactly are the Scenies?
The Scenies (and I thank the ingenious Peter James Smith for coming up with the name) began as a pair of Best Of The Year lists I compiled during my two years as an Ovation Awards voter. Those lists were based on the votes I had cast for each production on a 1-10 scale, and I have maintained the same scale on a running list I maintain as a reviewer. I compile yearly lists of the highest-scored productions and individuals, and these Best Of The Year lists are now called the StageSceneLA Scenies.
18 Why do you announce your Best Of lists in September, rather than in January like everyone else?
Since my initial lists followed the Ovation Awards calendar year (September 1 to August 31), I have kept a September-to-August calendar for the Scenies.
19 How come there are so many winners each year?
The Scenies are my way of recognizing the breadth and depth of talent in Southern California theater, along with pointing a spotlight on performers, directors, designers, etc., whose work ought to be made known to the theatrical community at large. The Scenies are intended to inclusionary rather than exclusionary, and though there are indeed categories with a single winner, the majority of categories have multiple recipients, each of whom I believe to have done award-caliber work. You might think of the Scenies as a kind of theatrical “Dean’s List,” with a string of deserving names divided between Magna (Best) and Summa (Memorable) Cum Laude. If a Scenie helps anyone get seen or cast or hired, no one will be more delighted than I to have lent a helping hand.
20 One final question, is it “theater” or “theatre”?
I prefer the traditional American spelling of the word. In fact, the only time you’ll see the word written “theatre” on StageSceneLA is when it’s part of a theater’s name (and the same is true, I might add, at both the New York Times and the L.A. Times).
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