The job of the theater reviewer is twofold. Your task is:
- To convey your experience of watching a live performance to the reader who was not there. What did you
see? Where? What was the theater like? What happened on stage? What surprised you? What was it like to
see this particular performance?
- To offer the reader your opinion of the performance – and help the reader to decide whether or not to go see
it themselves. What worked for you? What didn’t? What was your general reaction? Do you think other people
should go see this – and why or why not?
The best way to learn how to write an effective theater review is to look at examples. Read the New York Times
arts section. These examples need not only be about theater. Reviews are a genre unto themselves, and a
good review of anything can be a model. Check out a book review, a review of a television pilot, a video game
review. Which reviews do you find most useful? What makes a review interesting to read? How much
information should you reveal up front – and when should you be wary of spoilers?
Use these examples as models (not templates). Learn from them, but make your review your own. In short,
write the kind of review that you would appreciate as a reader.
While I hope that you enjoy the performances you see, you are also welcome to write a harsh or negative
review of a production that you thought was lacking. Keep in mind, however, that any opinions you expressed
must be substantiated with evidence. Don’t simply tell us: “I thought the show was boring.” Tell us why – and be
specific. The more evidence-based and specific your writing is, the more effective your review will be