THE BITTER LEMONS IMPERATIVE
What is it?
Simply put, if a producer or a theater company wants their show reviewed, they can get it reviewed, guaranteed, but it will cost them $150 per review and that review will be originally published at Bitter Lemons.
Now before your heads explode, let me continue to lay it out as simply as I can and then attempt to address some of the questions and concerns that are now bouncing around in your skulls like a mad frenzy of prematurely lit bottle rockets inside a telephone booth.
Why do we need it?
Well unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you know that we are smack dab in the middle of a crisis in theater coverage. It’s not just a local problem, it’s a world-wide problem. The reasons for this dwindling coverage are varied: the transition of traditional media from print to online, the rise of the social media networks, the prevalence of the Yelp-like review, these and other elements have not only caused coverage to dwindle, they’ve served to erode the quality and standard of theater criticism and forced the professional and serious critic to scramble to find a way to maintain their vocation while making a living.
So over the last year and half, we here at Bitter Lemons have been working on a new business model, one that raises the standard of theater criticism, offers more opportunity for quality coverage to the artistic community and creates a market for those truly outstanding critics who should be making some money for their contribution to Los Angeles Theater. We call it:
The Bitter Lemons Imperative (BLI).
Because after a long and arduous fact-finding-feedback-tour over the last year and a half, meeting with critics, artistic directors, actors, writers, directors, designers, producers, disinterested passerby, and just plain old audience members, we found $150 to be a reasonable and sustainable number in the current economic and artistic climate.
Where does the money go?
$125 of that $150 will go directly to the critic, $25 will go to Bitter Lemons for maintaining editorial oversight and for the administration and implementation of the BLI. This is a one time ground floor introductory rate. Costs may rise slightly down the road when we get a full time editor and the demand increases, but those costs will always be minimal and always remain sustainable and reasonable. We will also be offering some introductory package rates for multiple reviews, season subscriptions and lower budget productions.
Where does the money come from?
From anybody who wants a theater review for their show, be it a producer, artistic director, writer, director, actor, anybody associated with the show.
Who has that kind of money?
Most producing companies already have it in their budgets, if they have any budget at all. We understand that some work on micro budgets and would consider working with those groups on a sliding scale, but for the rest that have some semblance of a budget, the money is already there under Marketing, Advertising or Publicity. And we also understand that though this will initially appeal to the more intimate companies, we are opening this up to all producing companies, intimate, mid-size, LORT, all of them. This is a one size fits all model.
Companies already pay thousands of dollars for mailings, postcards, advertising, many companies even pay anywhere from $500 to $2k for a publicist. Why do they do this? Mostly because of that publicist’s relationship to the reviewers. Yes, the publicist does more than that and the role of the publicist is also one that is also currently evolving in this new climate, but really, it’s all about the reviews. We are simply saying, if you are out to get quality criticism, rather than roll the dice and hope that a reviewer takes notice, or settle for the drivel that passes for reviews on most sites, we will guarantee that you get that quality review. You don’t get guaranteed a favorable review. That would be absurd, these are professional theater critics not publicists. These writers have proven their worth over time and they have been chosen for their honesty, their integrity, their experience, their passion and their ability to communicate their opinion in an intelligent and entertaining fashion. They are being asked to judge your show. Because you trust them to be fair and honest in their judgement. That’s the pact between company and critic. We take that seriously. And so should you.
If you want 1 top quality theater review, pay us $150 and you will get it. Guaranteed. If you want 5 top quality theater reviews, pay us $750 and you will have them. Guaranteed.
if you’d like to see some samples of past reviews go here.
So what do you get for your $150?
- A guaranteed top quality written theater review with a floor of 300 words and a ceiling unlimited.
- Written by a trusted, highly experienced, highly credited, well established theater critic (see list below).
- Published within three days of attendance.
- Originally and publicly published in perpetuity at Bitter Lemons, to be used in perpetuity by the paying company as they see fit as far as promotion and publicity is concerned, and after a week of exclusivity on Bitter Lemons, to be used by the critic as they see fit.
- You do not get a guaranteed favorable review and you do not get to choose who reviews your show. You will, however, always see the talent pool from which we are pulling our critics (see below).
It’s that simple. Seriously.
How do I get someone to review my show?
Click on this link to purchase one review for your show.
And who is this talent pool?
We call them…
The Bitter Lemons Review Brigade (BLRB)
Listed below are the 8 fearless members of BLRB (“Blurb”) and some of the illustrious outlets for which they have written. Please note: none of these outlets has endorsed the BLI.
When purchasing a BLI Review you will not get to choose which of these individuals will be covering your show, we will make that decision via a random selection process, they have simply been listed here along with their credentials and bios so that you will know exactly the level of the talent pool from which we are pulling our reviewers.
Please Note: During the Hollywood Fringe Festival we offer 30% discounts on our BLI reviews at $100 a pop. Please go here for more information and you can purchase those reduced rate reviews here.
Frances Baum Nicholson (Pasadena Star News, Pasadena Weekly, The Stage Struck Review): Frances Baum Nicholson has spent over thirty years as a theatrical critic for Pasadena-area newspapers. She began as a substitute for the Altadena Chronicle, before it was sold and became became the Pasadena Weekly. From there she moved to the Pasadena Star-News, joined since 1990 by the related papers of the San Gabriel Valley Newspaper Group, where she is now the sole theater critic, and its parent company of LA-area papers. She studied theater at The University of the Pacific, and holds an MFA in writing from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky.
She considers a highlight of her career that she once had an entire page of Letters to the Editor dedicated to hate mail written to her after she gave a negative review to the now-defunct California Music Theater’s production of “The Desert Song." She considers this to have been a backhanded compliment. In the spring of 2011 she was a featured panelist for the L.A. Stage Alliance discussion of “Arts Criticism: How Does it Serve Los Angeles”. 2011 also saw the advent of her theater arts blog, which houses the reviews from her newspaper work from that point forward (among other things): www.stagestruckreview.com
When not in the theater, Frances Baum Nicholson teaches philosophy, government and economics at Pasadena’s Blair High School, where she founded their Gay Straight Alliance and advises the student council. Under the name F.M. Nicholson she is the author of two published collections of poetry, and her work has appeared in many literary journals. She lives in Pasadena with her wife, fellow poet Cynthia Rausch Allar.
Ernest Kearney (Working Author, The TVolution, Bitter Lemons): Living in Londonderry and Belfast at the height of “The Troubles”, Kearney found himself approached by the IRA and investigated by the British authorities. On February 17, 1978 he was outside the La Mon restaurant in Northern Ireland when one of the worst bombings by the IRA took place. Twelve people died and thirty were injured. Kearney carries his scars still.
Returning to Los Angeles, Kearney turned his talents to the theatre once more. His first play, Among the Vipers was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre.
His following play, The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.”
Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist three times in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His play Peddle was selected by the Midwest Theatre Network as one of the best plays of 1997. His most recent work The Salt Prince was awarded honors from the Nathan Miller History Play Contest as well as the Fremont Center Theatre Play Contest.
His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer.
After a wild and misspent youth, which lasted well into middle age, Kearney has settled down and is focusing on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene.
Julio Martinez (Arts In LA, Variety, LA Stage Times): Julio Martinez is an arts journalist and critic, feature writer, radio host, guitarist, monologist and sometimes he goes dancing. Born in Spanish Harlem, he moved to Los Angeles at a young age, studied music and cultural history at LA City College, Univ. of Michigan and UC Berkeley. After serving in the US Army (teaching music theory at the Army Band School), Martinez launched into a music career during the 60s, performing with singer Al Jarreau (7 years), Irene Kral, Michael Greer, Kay Dennis and more. During this time, he also worked in live theater with the San Francisco Mime Troupe, The Committee Workshop and The Public Players Company. Since the mid-80s, Martinez has worked as a journalist and radio host, including an 18-year stint as a theater critic for Daily Variety and his current 26-year association with KPFK Radio. Martinez pens the weekly LA Stage INSIDER column for artsinla.com, as well as being a regular contributor to the Writer’s Guild publication, Written By, and writes TeleVsion features for Latin Heat Entertainment. More recently, Martinez has been active as a monologist and playwright.
Jason Rohrer (Stage and Cinema, American Theatre Magazine, Bitter Lemons): Jason Rohrer’s education includes New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, The Nikitsky Gates Theater in Moscow, and the National Academy for Theater and Film Arts in Sofia, Bulgaria. He reviews film and performing arts for stageandcinema.com, contributes to American Theatre Magazine, and co-hosts the podcast Jason and Todd Talk through Lousy Films. He tweets as @RohrerVacui.
Joel Beers (OC Weekly, LA Weekly, American Theatre Magazine): Joel Beers has been the main theater critic at OC Weekly since that infernal rag’s first issue, in 1995. Previous to that, he was a freelance writer focusing on theater previews for the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. His theater writing has also appeared in American Theatre Magazine.
Along with OC Weekly, Beers has worked as a news, sports, feature and entertainment reviewer for publications in Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Los Angeles and Riverside, ranging from the Los Angeles Daily Journal and Southland Golf, to the Riverside Press-Enterprise and OC Metro.
He has also written more than a dozen plays that have been produced in Los Angeles and Orange Counties and once got a very nice letter from Amy Freed thanking him for his review of her play “Freedomland,” a review that Beers’ editor had tried to rip apart because it was too “purple.” That editor was overruled by the big editor, who obviously wasn’t an idiot. “Freedomland” was a finalist for the 1998 Pulitzer Prize and Freed said Beers’ review was the most insightful thing written about it. Beers holds grudges.
Recent awards include second place in arts criticism, circulation of 50,0000 and over, in the 2011 Alternative Weekly awards and second place in sports writing in the 2013 Southern California Journalism Awards/LA Press club, for a profile on former professional golfer Muffin Spencer-Devlin in the 2013 Southern California Journalism Awards/LA Press Club awards. Beers always remembers who finishes second.
His favorite playwrights are Samuel Beckett, Noah Haidle, George Bernard Shaw, Mark Ravenhill, and himself.
He loathes big, bombastic Broadway musicals.
He loves the Los Angeles Dodgers and thinks Vin Scully is the voice of God.
Jonathan Ross (Long Beach Post, Minor Progression, Bitter Lemons): Jonathan Ross is the leading theater critic for the Long Beach Post and writes for them from a lovely apartment in his hometown of Long Beach, California. He attended the Boston Conservatory where he received his Bachelor’s in Theater Arts and lived in Brooklyn, New York for nearly six years following that. While there he wrote for his now expired Theater/Music/Arts blog minorprogession.com and directed and stared in a small handful of theatrical curiosities. His interest for the theater is only matched by his love of well made cocktails, perpetual travel and late night dance parties.
Ellen Dostal (Musicals in LA, Shakespeare in LA, BroadwayWorld): Ellen Dostal has been a west coast editor and reviewer for BroadwayWorld.com since 2009. A self-professed musical theatre geek, she also publishes two popular Southern California theatre blogs – Musicals in LA and Shakespeare in LA – and has covered the performing arts community, jazz, and classical music for KJazz 88.1 FM and K-Mozart 1260 AM. She is also the LA Show writer for TheThreeTomatoes.com, the Insider’s Guide for women who aren’t kids.
She graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a Bachelor of Music in Performance and promptly left the Midwest for points south. An award-winning morning show host of the now-defunct radio station KRKI in Estes Park, CO, she has also worked on behalf of local radio stations for seventeen years with the Southern California Broadcasters Association.
As a founding member of New Musicals Inc’s repertory company, she has developed roles in countless new works, many of which have been produced regionally and in New York.
Tony Frankel (Stage and Cinema): A graduate of the CSUN Theater Department, Tony Frankel has since worked in the theater as a director, casting director, producer and teacher. He sight-reads piano and has worked as a music director and accompanist, helping performers to develop cabaret acts. As an actor, he has appeared in over 70 productions. After writing for Back Stage, he turned to theater criticism in 2010, becoming critic-at-large at Stage and Cinema, for which he is now Editor-in-Chief. Stage and Cinema critiques theater, film, music, dance, concerts, etc., around the country and currently has over 30 writers contributing to the site. Aside from the arts, Tony has been a community activist and – being a National Parks fanatic – has experienced 307 of 394 U.S. National Parks.
Mirage Thrams (Los Angeles Comedy Scene, Axs Entertainment) A contributor to a number of comedy-focused media outlets in Los Angeles, Mirage is an award winning writer and director (The Revolution Will Not Be Improvised, Hooked on Ebonics, Two Sets Of Triplets, No Kids Allowed) and a professional actress and comedienne for which she makes several dollars a year. She has contributed to a number of Comedy collaborations (Uncle Nasty the Show, Mania TV) and also works as a teacher of improv and theater (In Trump We Trust at Second City Hollywood, Flappers Comedy, ComedyWorks) where she’s able to hide all of her faults and is perfect. She apologizes for being late. Mirage lives in the Calabasas area with a family that she loves ferociously (hers) and she vehemently insists that she is not lactose intolerant. She is a member of the Second City Sketch ensemble- Penningsworth and a member of the Really Awesome Improv Show (Voted LA Magazine’s best kids show). Other credits include: a ComedySportz Sunday Team member and writer and director of The People In Your Neighborhood- opening July 6th. She is the owner of Hooked on Ebonics Productions.