March 18, 2015 News » Long Story Short

From the critic's desk 

Long Story Short

A typical week during the high season for New York Times chief theater critic Ben Brantley usually means seeing four or five plays. He takes notes, but just to "tattoo" them on his mind. He then sleeps on his thoughts, and awakes early the following morning to write, which he generally does in one sitting.

"I don't work out of the Times building, I haven't in years," he says. "I have a little office in downtown New York. I maybe actually set foot in the Times building three times a year, so I just send it in by email and wait for the copy desk to call."

He requires coffee, and if he's having trouble, maybe a crossword puzzle (a hard one) to work through his thoughts.

There's a lot to think about, and despite what detractors may say of him, Brantley understands his industry inside and out. "It's very easy to flop on Broadway," he says. "It's very difficult to get the formula right. And as a consequence ... there has to be some sort of brand name, a lot of producers feel, to lure in audiences." Those audiences, he knows, are full of tourists who want a sure thing for their very expensive tickets.

For someone who's a brand name himself, Brantley proves quite approachable, even by phone. The Indy recently got a chance to speak with him in advance of a local appearance March 30. His thoughts on the future of Broadway, writing reviews, and the role of regional theaters far from the Great White Way start here.


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