Curtain Critic: An important milestone, and a new vision for the new season

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(Sierra LaDuke/DD)
“Curtain Critic” columnist Molly Bilker hopes to spotlight downtown Phoenix’s theater community, and in turn elevate its theater criticism. (Sierra LaDuke/DD)

This summer, I went home to Denver, as I always do.

There, as one of my many recent masochistic forays into playwriting, I participated in a 24-hour playwriting festival called Mile High 24. I was one of eight playwrights to write a lost scene from a movie in a particular genre. (If you’ve been hoping desperately to someday soon read a musical rendition of “Jaws,” wait no longer. I’ve got this.)

Another playwright I met there was John Moore, the former theater critic for The Denver Post whose lost scene from “The Exorcist” was my favorite play of the night. I approached Moore after the show and asked him about theater criticism. He talked for half an hour about how important good criticism is to a local theater community.

Coming back to ASU for my final year, I find his words especially heartening now. I dreamt of running “Curtain Critic” from the moment I took over as columns editor in August 2013, when the lovely and talented Jasmine Barta was still in charge of what was then a theater review blog. My dream now is to make this column one that brings the kind of thoughtful, strong theater criticism that matters to the downtown scene.

As the year goes on, I will be slimming the amount of time I spend relying on other reviewers in the hopes of expanding my own understanding of and ability to do excellent theater criticism. Shows will be reviewed almost every week. And “Curtain Critic” will be adding a four-star rating system to give the downtown community a benchmark to go by.

Here’s where I have to be transparent. I am primarily a writer. I come from a creative writing background. I have acted in shows before, and I have a deep and undying love for acting and theater. But my experience lacks, particularly compared to that of some theater devotees.

“Curtain Critic” is going to go through a bit of a learning curve this year. While I hope to push the downtown Phoenix theater community to produce the best work possible through my criticism, the column itself will also push me to expand my horizons, develop new understandings and challenge myself in ways I never have before.

Everything worth doing in life is a challenge. If you’re not feeling pushed to step outside your comfort zone, maybe you’re doing something wrong. So I embrace the challenge “Curtain Critic” promises to bring me this year, and I can only hope that readers will join me on the journey.

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