In the world of journalism, the most important thing every reporter strives for revolves around one word: ethics. No self-respecting journalist has made a career without having a code of ethics drilled into his or her brain (as it should be).
But journalism, like any kind of writing, is varied and full of subgenres. Following strict rules can get trickier the more alternative the writing becomes.
For instance, investigative reporters know to remain objective, but what about critics who write reviews where the point is to give an opinion? What ethical standards, aside from the obvious, apply to them?
Recently this critic learned a very important one: only review what you know. That doesn’t mean don’t try new things or be redundant. It means don’t review something you have no authority on.
Most people have enough knowledge about what makes things like movies, music, plays and books good or bad. You can break down a movie or a play into components like plot, acting talent and other aspects that determine the overall quality.
Other forms of art, however, can be far more difficult and specialized.
On Thursday night this critic attended “Dream Boxes,” a production I thought was going to be a play – but turned out to be some kind of interpretive dance performance – I think. The program only says the story is told through pure movement, so if that’s not interpretive dance I sincerely apologize for my ignorance.
With all due respect to the arts, certain performing arts are just lost to me. What are you supposed to do with something as abstract as interpretive dance? How do you determine the quality of performers moving purposefully across the stage to tell a story – especially if you’re not getting the story?
“Dream Boxes” consists of two performances inspired by classic texts: “My Father’s House,” based on “Oresteia” by Aeschylus and the “Iphigenia” cycle by Euripides, and “The Forest, the Desert,” a narrative based on Dante’s “Inferno” and Chief Joseph’s surrender.
Perhaps it was a lack of familiarity with the works this production is based on, but I never had any idea what was going on with the story. I spent the entire first performance trying to figure out which performers represented each character as they danced, jumped and screamed across the stage in various costumes.
“The Forest, the Desert” was even more befuddling. There were actors sticking their faces in buckets of water, torn pillows blowing feathers everywhere and snippets of stories in various languages throughout the piece. Not exactly what I’d call entertainment. But what do I know?
After mulling over the performance, I realized there is no way I can write a review of this production because I have no idea what I’m talking about.
It would be unfair and unethical to write a negative review of a performance I did not enjoy when I simply lack the expertise to give a credible opinion.
So instead, I am just going to say I did not get it. If you are a fan of these classics or if you love contemporary performances that use movement, don’t let this column prevent you from checking out more experimental performances.
But if you’re a boring, literal person like this critic, you may want to reconsider attending productions of the avant-garde.
Skylar Griego is a culture reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at culture @dailylobo.com or on Twitter @TDLBooks.