Theater Critic's Job Description

Updated February 21, 2017

Theatre critics have been around for centuries and write reviews that appear in newspapers, magazines and on websites all over the world. The influence of a theatre critic can be far-reaching, with negative reviews potentially harming a play's ticket sales and positive reviews helping them. The job description of a theatre critic is fairly simple, though the parameters of the occupation, such as pay, will vary according to employer.


A theatre critic's job is to write a review of a play or musical for publication. These reviews can be used by potential audience members to decide if they want to spend their money and time on the performance. A critic must take all aspects of the performance into account, including the acting, lighting, production design, theatrical effects and overall atmosphere, as well as answer the major question: Is it worth seeing? Some theatre critics may use a scoring system in their reviews, often awarding "stars" to indicate how positively (or negatively) they thought of a particular production.


A theatre critic must be open-minded when it comes to productions and attempt to analyse both the good and bad aspects of the play and production, making sure not to emphasise too much of one particular aspect unless it is a very glaring element. (For example, a poor actor may ruin an entire production.) Critics must have a broad and deep knowledge of theatre so they can review productions with informed and supported opinions. Reviews should be short enough to be interesting but long enough to adequately cover the production. Most reviews are between 300 and 500 words.


Theatre critics earn either a salary or a stipend. Established critics with large publications such as The New York Times or Variety are usually paid a yearly salary and are required to review most major productions. Other critics may be freelancers and are paid a stipend for each review. The pay may depend on the length of the review, the placement of the review within a publication or the importance of the production.


Theatre critics often must see productions right after they open, as many publications compete to be the first to print reviews (it's pointless to print a review after the production has already been out for several weeks or months). Therefore, a theatre critic must be able to meet strict deadlines. Many theatre critics receive opening-night tickets to productions through their employers.


Theatre critics must be able to handle criticism themselves, depending on their opinions of productions. There will always be people who disagree (and in some cases, very strongly disagree) with a critic's view of a production. The critic should be prepared to take criticism from those with opposing viewpoints.

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About the Author

Brenton Shields began writing professionally in 2009. His work includes film reviews that appear for the online magazine Los Angeles Chronicle. He received a Bachelor of Science in social science and history from Radford University.