On Tuesday, I received an email, as did other members of the Independent Theater Bloggers Association, saying this:
Looking around all of our blogs, it seems that we’ve collectively seen a huge number of the shows at this year’s Fringe Festival. A special Fringe award given by the ITBA seems to be in order, as so much of the coverage of the festival has been by we bloggers.
I’d like to invite everyone who made it to the Fringe this year to answer these two questions:
How many Fringe shows did you attend this year?
Which one(s), if any, would you consider extraordinary?
I read this email as I was walking on my way to class, so I was a bit confused by this.
For starters, there are four members of the ITBA that do not live in New York City and I am one of them. It is not that easy for those of us that live outside of New York City and that area to attend the Fringe Festival and, therefore, this automatically excludes some of the ITBA members.
The main problem I have with this is something that popped in to my mind as I was walking. That problem is this: How will the ITBA verify that the people voting attended the shows they vote for?
I do not review every play that I see, so if I sent an email saying that I thought a show was outstanding, there is really no way that anyone at the ITBA can verify that I saw that show.
I have emailed Patrick Lee, who is in charge of the awards for the ITBA, enquiring as to what the ITBA will do to verify that people saw the show. I have yet to receive a response from him.
However, Leonard Jacobs wrote about this issue and said this:
Some weeks ago, said representative told me that the ITBA was dedicated to creating a valid and respectable awards system of some kind. Wouldn’t that be great? A committee of self-selecting blogger-critics devoted to developing an honor that would confer increased validity to the theatrosphere? What we have right now, I guess, is a single-blogger effort that isn’t transparent or, for all I know, honest.
A huge problem with the ITBA awards system is that it only recognizes theatrical productions in New York. Robert Bullen and I can’t put in our two cents about Chicago theater, which is what we primarily review. (That’s intend to for me, though. But honestly, I can’t exactly make it out to Iowa to see plays now.) I also shouldn’t put in any votes for ITBA awards because I won’t be attending a majority of theatrical productions in New York City. I can’t speak for Bullen because I’m not him.
So, you can have awards, but not everyone can really vote.
But, really, what is the purpose of the ITBA? Is it to give the theater bloggers more respect and recognition? Because, quite frankly, doing this only makes it seem like more of a joke because there’s such a lack of transparency that not even the members can really know what is going on and why.
Is it to give out awards? Honestly, does New York theater need more awards? No.
So, there, I don’t even know what the ITBA does and I’m part of it.
On a more uplifting note, Leonard Jacobs is trying to put together a different organization of theater bloggers. He had posted a proposal for the organization a couple weeks ago and I personally think it seems very promising. I personally am interested to see how things go with this group because I think that this is a model that has the most potential.