Ah, critics. Where would be without them? Needless to say, if you bring up the role of the critic in society to an artist, you'll likely get a impassioned response — and it probably won't be a positive one.
Just recently, for example, I saw the movie Birdman, and one of the most compelling scenes was a confrontation between Michael Keaton's character, Riggan Thomas, and his critic-nemesis Tabitha Dickinson at a bar. The scene underscores the very different realities inhabited by actor and critic.
Dickinson: "...This is the theater, and you don’t get to come in here and pretend you can write, direct, and act in your own propaganda piece without coming through me first."
Riggan: "You just label everything...Do you even know what that is? You don’t. You know why? Because you can’t see this thing if you don’t know how to label it."
The timeless tension between artist and critic won't abate anytime soon. So why am I writing this post with a spring in my step and a lightness in my heart? The Clive Barnes Foundation, that's why.
Clive Barnes was a dance and theater critic for the New York Times and the New York Post. He passed away in 2008. A year later, the Clive Barnes Foundation was formed to create annual awards giving recognition, encouragement, and financial support to two talented young professionals, thereby honoring the memory of the many years of critical work and the warm personal generosity of its namesake.
The foundation recently announced the winners of this year's awards. They include actor Alex Sharp and dancer Russell Janzen, each of whom will receive a $5,000 prize.
As noted in the Times, Mr. Sharp, 25, currently stars in the Broadway play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a role he debuted just four months after graduating from the Juilliard school last May. Writing in the Times, Ben Brantley called Mr. Sharp’s performance "the kind of smashing Broadway debut young actors classically dream about."
Meanwhile, Mr. Janzen, also 25, has been a member of New York City Ballet since 2008 and was promoted to soloist with the company in October. “Tall and broad shouldered, Mr. Janzen, with an adult authority beyond his years, deepens the world onstage by the power of his absorption in it,” Alastair Macaulay wrote in The Times.
That's right: A foundation created in honor of a critic, proving once again that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction (or in this case, an Academy Award-nominated film).