Imagine being able to see over a hundred plays a year and thousands of folks checking in to read your thoughts. Sounds like a dream right?
Well that dream is a reality for digital journalist and creator of Dave Begel on Theater, David Begel.
Utilizing skills developed by a career in political reporting and experience in acting, Begel has been attending, reviewing and posting his commentary on hundreds of shows in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area, to his blog since 2014.
The hardest part – reviewing shows that don’t live up to his standard. “I want to be honest about it,” he explained. “And yet I don’t want to be cruel… so it’s always a challenge to walk that fine line between critical criticism and gentleness.”
Despite a long history and passion for traditional media, he knows the hay days of print media are over and he won’t be left behind. He is keeping pace with this new media landscape by designing his own website and more recently, recording and posting interviews conducted via video call. He calls this video series “Conversations” and within each video he talks to performers about all sorts of topics from race inequalities in theater to how they’re managing COVID-19.
I know from experience that COVID-19 has put a huge dent in live performance. It has caused Broadway to shut down for over a year and for many other performances to be moved online. Navigating an online live performance is very difficult, especially if the director and actors are new to it. It presents even more challenges for the audience, who appreciate the atmosphere of a physical theater.
That is why Begel stayed away from virtual performances for so long. It wasn’t until he saw Skylight’s virtual production of Being Earnest that he realized what he was missing. “I think it was a misplaced reluctance,” he reflected. “I think I was being short sighted. I’m glad I had my mind [opened] for me to see plays that are online.”
Social Media? Begel does fine without it. He does have a Facebook and a mailing list but, that is it. He focuses more on making sure his content has journalistic valuable and remains authentic – advice he gives to beginning bloggers. “You have to be concerned with the value,” he advises. “The value comes from you. It doesn’t come from anything external.”
He doesn’t fret over how many people are reading and warns against click-bait gimmicks. He says, “My main concern is in what I do, you know, and I figure the rest of it is eventually going to take care of itself.” He’s right; it does take care of itself. An average post on his site will be seen by upwards of 6,000 people.
He does offer one last piece of advice: “Don’t read the comments.” He knows that there will always be people who agree with him and people who don’t and has learned that not reading the comments under a post has made him a lot happier.
Be sure to check out David Begel’s site: Dave Begel on Theater!
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