ASR Theater ~~ An Addendum to Our Opinion Piece About Sept. 8

By Barry Willis

Aisle Seat Review wishes to apologize for any unintended offense that may have come about due to our recent opinion piece about the troublesome cluster of North Bay theater openings scheduled for the weekend of September 8th.

We did not and do not wish to alienate anyone in the hard-working theater community.

Our purpose then and now is not to glorify ourselves or any other critics. What we really hope to do is to encourage theater companies to cooperate and communicate with each other so that all can enjoy full houses, lots of ticket sales, and lots of sales at the concession stand.

ASR has the Bay Area’s biggest team of expert reviewers…

Optimum revenue for all would be the result of staggered openings—or barring that, press openers held on weekday evenings as is commonplace elsewhere in the Bay Area. Admittedly many such openings are at Equity houses, but not all.

More opportunity for all can’t possibly be a bad thing, can it? Staggered openings would allow theater fans to see everything they’d like to see rather than having to choose among them—plenty of exposure for performers, directors, choreographers, musicians, etc., and a bonanza for fans. A real win-win.

Some detractors mentioned that with so many shows, we should simply recruit more reviewers—a hilarious suggestion in view of the fact that there are precious few people with any knowledge of theater and even fewer with the ability to write a coherent sentence. The literary talent pool is a tiny fraction of the size of the North Bay’s acting pool.

It’s actually frightening how many Americans are functional semi-literates. Even many highly educated people are mediocre writers. Writing ability is simply not a huge value in our culture, except where and when it’s desperately needed.

Aisle Seat Review has the Bay Area’s biggest team of expert reviewers, most of whom have decades of journalistic experience with theater and other special interests. All but one of us are voting members of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC), now the only awards-granting theater organization in the region. ASR is also the only theater-centric website covering the entire Bay Area, a geographic entity the size of Switzerland.

SFBATCC nominations and awards may be of minimal importance to company directors, but they are hugely important to theatrical talents onstage and off, as any perusal of playbill bios will reveal.

ASR’s reviewers don’t attend theater simply to take advantage of free tickets, snacks, drinks, and the opportunity to chat with colleagues. Thoughtful, informative, and entertaining reviews are hard specialized work, something that may not be apparent to casual readers. Everything expertly done looks easy from the outside, but there is enormous knowledge, energy, and skill behind every review that appears on ASR.

We wish to avoid insulting theater companies by not coming to opening nights. How many times have we fielded complaints from company directors that they simply can’t get reviewers to their shows? Or that a review appears three days before closing weekend? The fault is not ours. It’s the failure of theater companies to communicate with each other. If the NBA can schedule hundreds of basketball games each season, without conflict, a handful of North Bay theater companies can certainly do something similar.

Aisle Seat Review’s utmost duty is to inform potential ticket buyers as to whether any production is a good use of time and money. By fulfilling this duty, we hope to elevate the theatrical experience for all.


ASR Executive Editor Barry Willis is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and president of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle. Contact: