By Bill Hirschman
We believe in the future of theater, especially South Florida theater.
This website is an expression of that faith.
Certainly, the demise of Florida Stage, Mosaic Theatre, Promethean Theatre and the Caldwell Theatre infected all of us who love theater with a quiet dread. It was a dark lie that whispered perhaps this time the fabulous invalid really has started its final downward spiral.
But you and I know better. Live theater is an expression of our souls that has endured 45,000 years. It has prevailed because it fills an innate need in humanity – the need to come together to tell stories, to hear stories, the need to learn and grow, the need to share, the need to know that what we feel, think and experience is not an aberration. As Melissa Manchester once said, to know “that we’re not going crazy all alone.”
So while the South Florida Theater Review has closed its cyber-doors, the new Florida Theater On Stage has risen like the proverbial phoenix as an article of faith, an articulation of support and a tangible investment in the concept of theater.
So here we are. A celebration of creativity and communication in art and entertainment, now more than seven years old with nearly 426,000 unique visitors, 703,000 visits and 1.1 million page views.
We need to underscore that this site is simply a cyber platform for reputable, vetted arts journalism: honest and independent. Like a newspaper, while we want advertisements, that will play no part in a critic’s review or even the choice of what we write about. Our sole responsibility is to our readers and our sole stock in trade is unassailable integrity.
A key goal is to review every professional production in the three counties. But there will be additional elements aimed at making the site indispensable to theater audiences and professionals.
* A calendar stretching out as far as possible listing professional, community and educational productions – updated as soon as there is an addition, deletion or extension. Each listing will include phone numbers and direct links to pages where people can buy tickets.
* A far more comprehensive posting of news items including auditions and casting decisions plus a Tuesday spotlight on what’s opening and closing.
* More advances and features, even Q & A interviews with local theater figures.
* A more visual site: local podcasts, promotional videos from theaters, photo galleries of productions.
* Commentary: Bill’s blog, Stage Bill, will examine local theater and arts issues. We will also welcome guest columns for professionals and the public. We especially hope readers will comment on specific posts, starting an interactive town hall meeting.
* Reviews of New York shows each spring.
* An encyclopedic list of websites to help professionals, students and patrons to research topics and to stay current with developments around the country
* Reviews of theater-related books, CDs and DVDs.
* A searchable archive, including everything that was published in South Florida Theater Review.
All of this will take time (and cash flow) to develop and evolve, so we also ask your patience. We will be constantly growing, adding new features, discovering what works and what doesn’t. And we’ll make mistakes, some tiny, some large. So, we need your feedback and suggestions, criticism and corrections. Don’t be shy.
Before and during our launch, we were approached by so many people offering much needed advice, encouragement and, where feasible, far more than just good wishes. Profound thanks to, in no order: Mary Damiano, Betsy and David Weisman, Ann Kelly of Madcat Theatre, Charlie Cinnamon, Savannah Whaley of Pierson Grant, Christopher Demos-Brown and Michael McKeever of Zoetic Stage, Richard Jay Simon of Mosaic theatre, Lorraine and Tim Treanor of DC Theatre Scene, Jay Harris, Michael Peyton of WLRN’s Cultural Connection, Benjamin Aycock V, Toni Antonetti, Dan Christensen and Alan Cherry of Broward Bulldog, Bob Rountree and Bonnie Gross of Florida Rambler, Buddy Nevins of Broward Beat, Tom Davidson, the folks at 2Amt, Andie Arthur at southfloridatheatre.com, and Larry Johnson for bequeathing the archives of South Florida Theater Review. Special thanks to Vanessa Cordo and to Pete T. Boyd and the crew at PaperStreet,com. My apologies to anyone inadvertently omitted.
It’s a reminder that we are in a partnership with you, the people who love theater. Many of you have asked how you could help. Besides advertising or putting an ad in your Playbill, there are three simple things that won’t cost you a dime.
Alert your friends and colleagues through Facebook, Twitter and mass email lists that we exist, spelling out our URL. And join us on Facebook, Twitter and/or an RSS feed for alerts when we post new material.
Please talk to us online: Let us know what works and what doesn’t, provide us story ideas and up-to-the-minute tips on news, send us news releases.
But first and foremost, take advantage of what we have to offer. Make us part of your daily online routine; we’ll make it worth your effort.
Who We Are
Editor, chief critic and reporter
Bill Hirschman has been a professional journalist since interning during high school in 1966 in Westchester County, New York. He began reviewing theater for the South Florida Sun Sentinel in 1998 and had written about the arts and reviewed for several decades before that, especially books. His arts coverage has appeared in Variety, American Theatre magazine, Playbill.com, a&e magazine, the Sondheim Review, Mystery Scene Magazine, Florida Health News, 850 magazine, and the Miami Herald among many other outlets. His work as the founding critic for the South Florida Theater Review won him first place for arts criticism in the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sunshine State Awards and he received the Jack Zink Spirit Award. He is the former chairman of the executive committee of the American Theatre Critics’ Association and currently chair of its advisory committee, now in his second term as treasurer of its Foundation and past chairman of its new plays competition which presents the Steinberg/ATCA Award. This website has recently been honored by the South Florida Theatre League with its Remy Award and recently with the Silver Palm Award. He is a judge for the Carbonell Awards, the local equivalent of the Tony Award, and judges the Silver Knight competition in drama in Broward County.
A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism with a theater minor, he has been involved in theater as an actor, director, producer and playwright most of his life.
He is an award-winning investigative reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in Florida, New York, Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas, covering local government, education, social services and crime. He is the past president of the South Florida and Kansas chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists and winner of SPJ’s national First Amendment Award.
He lives in Plantation with one dog named after the heroine of Sunday in the Park With George, and his wife Oline H. Cogdill who he says “makes all things possible.”
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (954) 478-1123.
Michelle F. Solomon has been immersed in theater since she first played the role of Millie in Picnic at the age of 12. A graduate of Emerson College, Boston, Mass., with a master’s degree from the State University of New York, Michelle has been a theater critic at major and mid-sized newspapers, including executive arts editor of the Albany (N.Y.) Times Union and assistant features editor/entertainment at The Detroit Free Press. She was an on-air entertainment reporter for NBC affiliate, WDIV-TV and an executive producer at ABC affiliate, Miami’s WPLG-TV, Local 10. In addition to theater reviews for South Florida Theater Review and Florida Theater On Stage, Michelle is a syndicated movie reviewer for Internet Broadcasting/Local10.com, involved locally in improv comedy, and recently got up the nerve to begin performing stand-up comedy at venues in South Florida. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Pam Harbaugh has been reviewing theater professionally for more than 25 years, primarily with FLORIDA TODAY, a daily Gannett newspaper based in Melbourne, Florida. Now, her theatre criticism appears on her blog, BrevardCulture.com, which serves arts patrons in Brevard, Indian River and Orange Counties. Ms. Harbaugh is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association for which she served two terms on its executive committee. She also has extensive experience producing, writing and directing children’s theater in New York City and Florida. After leaving the newspaper industry, she returned to theater full time and her vitae now can include playwright and director for grown-ups.
Brad Hathaway: Writing about theater is a second career for Brad. After thirty years working for the Legislative Branch of the Federal Government first as a staff member in the House of Representatives and then as an executive at the GAO, the non-partisan investigative arm of the Congress, he retired to delve into his life-long passion – theater, especially musical theater. While writing for multiple newspapers in the Washington DC area he came early to the digital world of the internet. He covered Washington theater for Theatre.Com and Broadway for Musical Stages Online. In 2001 he established Potomac Stages, the first comprehensive website for the Washington theater community. Now relocated to the west coast he is undertaking writing projects on a wider range of topics. He writes the weekly syndicated column Theatre Shelf: CDs, DVDs and Books for the Theatre Lover, while still contributing to websites and magazines such as American Theatre, The Sondheim Review, Live Design and Stage Directions. He can be reached at Brad@BradHathaway.com
Copy Editor/ Business Manager/Critic
Oline H. Cogdill is a veteran features editor, copyeditor, teen mentor and internationally-recognized mystery fiction reviewer and columnist. She currently reviews for South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Mystery Scene Magazine, Publisher’s Weekly among many others outlets. Her work is distributed through the McClatchy-Tribune News Service and has appeared in more than 300 newspapers around the world. She formerly edited of Nova Southeastern University’s Horizons magazine.