Exit Stage Left

After 16 years, 'Boho' theater critic hangs it up

When contemplating the ending of things, we often feel compelled to look back to the beginning. This being my final column as the Bohemian‘s theater reviewer, I thought I’d do the same.

When I first started writing for the Bohemian, I was mainly known as a film writer. Though I’d had a fair amount of stage experience, having launched my own Southern California theater company (and, um, puppet troupe) in the late 1970s, my North Bay journalistic efforts had been almost entirely focused on movies, local news and general arts reporting.

Then something happened that changed my life. The Bohemian found itself in need of a theater critic.

For many reasons, mainly the fact that nobody else wanted it, I took the gig. It made sense. Unlike some of the writers who’d previously reviewed, I actually loved theater. I’d written and directed shows, read plenty of Russian and Elizabethan plays (for fun!) and knew what it was like to stand out there in front of an audience. I strongly believed in theater as a vital, compassion-building, deeply humane art form.

Reviewing is a tremendous responsibility, not just to the artists who create theater. A critic also has a responsibility to audiences, confirmed theater junkies who deserve to get their money’s worth every time. After 16 years, I’ve decided to let the title of theater critic go to pursue writing and performing without the knotty tangle of complications that come from reviewing theater while making it.

I leave with a heart full of gratitude. I had the opportunity to talk and write about an art form I cherish. I have seen hundreds of stage shows around the Bay Area, and along the way have gotten to know many of the artists who work so hard to create theatrical magic onstage. Most significantly, I have had the honor of playing a small part in alerting the wider Bay Area scene to the marvelous work being done by Sonoma and Napa County theater companies. It’s been an astonishing ride.

But all rides, like all plays (even the great old Russian ones), must eventually end. Beginning next week, Santa Rosa writer, actor and teacher Harry Duke will take over, and I will step back into the less “critical” role of general arts writer, and, happily, occasional theater artist.

To the local theaters who’ve opened their doors, to the theatergoers and donors who help keep those doors open, and to the many readers who’ve been my own weekly audience, I give you my deepest thanks. It’s been a privilege and a joy.

I’ll see you at the theater.

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