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Critics Curbed: Philly Bloggers Bite Back!

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The Philadelphia theater community has set up a protest blog to attack their vitriolic local critic, Toby Zinman, known as the Bitch of Broad Street for her snarky reviews. Zinman has been the main theater critic at the Philadelphia Inquirer since January and has alienated most of the town since then with statements like "You could go into the University of the Arts musical theater program and with your eyes shut point out five people who can sing the socks off this cast.”

"We Love Toby! The Blog" opened on May 26 and is gleefully bouncing up and down with all their press coverage. The editors write, "In the coming days, WLT's rabblerousers-in-charge will attempt to take this movement to the next level, moving beyond Toby, toward more constructive solutions."

Could it be? An Internet movement towards criticism invested in the local theatres, like what Parabasis writes about? Has the spirit of Heidi Julavits reached the thespians?

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It's all so 2003. There's a great exchange where one of Zinman's affronted students posted the definition of the word "critic", and the We Love Toby editors posted back with the word "incompetent."

In similar news, Hedy Weiss's 8/16 review of eight new musicals in the Chicago Sun-Times ("None of the shows presented last weekend, whether in semi-staged or concert reading style, was ready for prime time") is being officially protested by the Dramatists Guild of America, who claim that the Stages 2006 festival "had asked Ms. Weiss not to review any of the works since they were still in the developmental stage."

Don't cry about it, DGA. Anything bringing national attention to theater, even nasty critics, is a welcome change for the field. If Zinman gains the notoriety of a Brantley, Philly's theaters will probably profit in the long run. Smell the blood in the water? It smells like PR...

We're going to be careful what we wish for at LAist, but we wouldn't mind a nice, dirty fight with a critic to blow a little dust off the old image of LA theatres as showcase houses.

Photo from Flickr, story via ArtsJournal.