There's No Business like Show Business

Note:  This is a bonus assignment.  You do not have to do it.

Assignment:  Up to 2 bonus will be added to your final mark for this assignment.

Attend a performance of a live theatre performance.  Tickets are available from the Sault Community Theatre Centre Box Office in the Station Mall or online (

Write an insightful theatre review of the performance.

This review, which should be 1 to 1 1/2  pages long, is due no later than 27 March, 2020.  Please note that reviews will NOT be accepted after that date.

Staple your ticket stub and a copy of the programme to the review.

    Many people write theatre (or even movie) reviews that just leave much to be desired. As someone that participates heavily in theatre, I am really scrutinous when it comes to the reviews that are written. If I'm going to spend money on tickets to a show, I want to know what to expect from the production as a whole, not what the summary is. Movies are different in this respect, as not a lot of plotlines are known for movies.

    Before you write a theatre performance review, you should familiarize yourself with the work you will be reviewing. Read or reread the play if necessary, and research the playwright and the play's historical context. This will give you a basis for the review. Once you are well-informed, attend the performance. Pay close attention and make a few mental notes to help you write the review. It also may be necessary to attend the performance more than once to write a good review.

    Be generous with compliments to stand-out performers.

    Whether the production venue is a high school drama department, a community playhouse or the Broadway stage, a good theater review highlights a show's strengths and weaknesses, extols the talents of its cast members and entices fellow theater lovers to buy tickets. Familiarity with plays, playwriting and production values is desirable for aspiring theater critics, coupled with excellent communication skills and attention to details, subtext and nuance.

I think you’re referring to Goethe’s three questions on evaluating art. These are famously well-known, though often inaccurately attributed. Here is a great reference from Marvin Carlson published in the edited volume, Romantic Drama (see pps 244-45)

“In October of 1820 an article in the London Quarterly Review surveyed recent Italian tragedy as illustrated by works of Monti, Foscolo, Pellico, and Manzoni. The influence of Foscolo, directly and indirectly (through Hobhouse whom the article quotes) is clear. Only a single paragraph is devoted to Manzoni, calling Conte di Carmagnola a ‘feeble tragedy,’ lacking in poetry and gaining so little by its boastful violation or the unities as to convince no one that they need be abandoned.” Goethe, who now clearly saw himself as Manzoni's champion, responded in the first 1821 issue of Über Kunst und Alterthum with a reprinting of this offensive paragraph and a sentence by sentence refutation of it. This essay includes the famous Goethean distinction between the destructive and the productive critic, the former applying blindly to new works already formed rules and expectations, the latter opening himself to the work and attempting to judge it in the light of its own goals and assumptions. The famous ‘three questions’ of good criticism found here and often attributed to Goethe are in fact Goethe's unacknowledged quotation from the opening paragraph of Manzoni' s Prefazione [to the Conte di Carmagnola]: ‘What is the intent of the author; is this intent reasonable; has the author succeeded in it?’”    (Carlson, Marvin. “The Italian Romantic Drama in Its European Context.” Romantic Drama. Ed. Gillespie, Gerald Ernest Paul. Herndon, VA: J. Benjamins Publishing, 1994. 233-48. Print)

Christina Hamlett

Ghostwriter and film consultant Christina Hamlett has written professionally since 1970. Her credits include many books, plays, optioned features, articles and interviews. Publishers include HarperCollins, Michael Wiese Productions, "PLAYS," "Writer's Digest" and "The Writer." She holds a B.A. in communications (emphasis on audience analysis and message design) from California State University, Sacramento. She also travels extensively and is a gourmet chef.


1.  Begin with a catchy statement to attract the reader's attention. This can be a quote from the play or a list of items from the play.

    Identify the title of the play, the genre, the name of the production company and where the show is playing in the opening paragraph. Example: The summer season of the Easy Street Players has just kicked off with a six-week run of Muriel's Memoirs at the newly renovated Crane Performing Arts Center. This contemporary drama directed by Maria Laris stars four accomplished actors whose faces will be familiar to patrons who follow Arcadia's theater scene.

2.  Provide a brief synopsis of the play and a little bit of history about the playwright and the period in which the play was written, which also describes the setting, introduces the main characters and tells the audience what the core conflict is.

    Don’t summarize the plot.  The purpose of this paragraph is to hook the readers' curiosity about what happens next but should never spoil their own enjoyment of the show by divulging all of the twists and surprises that await.  I don't want to hear what happens in the script. I want to know how the actors act within the script!

    Include a reference to the playwright and other plays he or she has written. If there is anything interesting or unique about the inspiration behind the script, its performance history or why the director chose to produce it, mention that as well. Example: Ten percent of box office proceeds will be donated to the Tri-Cities Alzheimer's Foundation.

3.  Review the performances. Did the actors approach the roles traditionally or in a new way? Were they believable?

    Talk about how the actors play the characters, not the characters That is so important! Give everyone credit. Justify your reasoning for not liking (or really liking) an actor's performance. Be sure to provide the actors' names and other information, such as some of their past performances. This is so important, and so many people leave it out.

4.  Consider the set design, the costumes and how technical elements such as lighting, sound effects and music enhanced the production or detracted from it. Offer constructive remarks on what might have been done to make the show better. Example: “The amplification of recorded music sometimes made it hard to hear what the actors were saying. “

    Be sure to name all of the designers. A lot of work went into designing the sets and lighting and everything else you see on stage besides the actors. Comment on it! I want to know what to expect in the production design and such. Sometimes, the set and props make the whole show! This is an area that needs a little more attention. Even if it's just one sentence, please say something about it.

5.  Discuss the performance's direction. Give the director's name and discuss the director's approach. For example, did the director try a new approach, or was the staging more traditional?

6.  Provide readers with information on the performance dates and times, where to purchase tickets and whether there are any elements of the show such as violence, sex or strong language that make it inappropriate for young children.

    Tell your readers whether you would recommend the play, and give reasons. Suggest ways in which the performance could be improved, and if the performance is great, tell why.

    Was the show worth any money at all? Perhaps your readers should just skip the production all together. Was the time you spent going to it worth it? Perhaps taking in a shorter play may be better.

Tips & Warnings

·         Whenever possible or practical, read a copy of the script prior to attending the play.


Last Christmas is a gift.

STU Reviews :  Where Fredericton follows theatre.


Hamlett, Christina.  How to write a good theatre review.  ,<>

Sweeney, Erica.  How to write a theatre performance review.  <>