Followspot has been useful, interesting, and frequently entertaining to me. I've always enjoyed Tim's cryptic and smart reviews, as well as the more thoughtful responses to them posted by readers. And, I always look forward to his interviews with local theater artists who are doing work at a high and exemplary level. By writing in a focused way about local theater productions and local theater artists--and by posting responses--Tim both helps knit together the local theater community and raise the bar for its work.
One huge weakness of any public blog that accepts unsolicited--and generally unmoderated--comments from its readers is that it can get hijacked by its readers with their own agendas, often anonymously. So, occassionally, a thread that begins innocuously enough as a forum for commenting on a show will devolve quickly into a murky screaming match between the armed hyenas who have taken over the cockpit and other readers who keep talking to them, assuming that SOMEONE still knows how to fly the plane. But, there is no talking the hyenas down, and so the thread wanders through the public airspace, lurching and dipping, never quite crashing, but making everyone sick in the process. Eventually, everyone just falls silent, and the damn thread runs out of gas, crashing silently somewhere out of sight in the dark jungles of communal psychosis.
And, so it is on the thread that purported to comment on THE TEMPEST. Things just got ridiculous. Tim's elegant forum turned into a food fight between petty, inarticulate, emotionally infantile, and very, very angry readers. Many of the posts seemed to be borderline psychotic, to my eyes, though again, that is often the nature of posting online, where we often seem to be inhabiting a communal dreamscape rather than a public square. Often, I can shrug off the psychotic quality of angry blog postings because I know that I'll never actually be dealing with these people; they're very far away, not only intellectually and emotionally, but geographically. They're in Arizona or Istanbul. Not my problem. But, I find them harder to shrug off when they're right next door. Perhaps literally. I don't like finding myself thinking less of people, whom I'm going to see on a regular basis, after they've succumbed to screaching online, under the cover of an "anonymous" signature which, as often as not, is a thin disguise, at best.
Things got so out of hand on this one thread that I worry Tim will be tempted to trying out new security measures to keep the armed hyenas out. But, I hope he just sticks it out, trusting that the occassional nutball thread won't undermine the more adult and artistic conversations that he hosts. If anyone sees him at the bar, buy him a drink, okay? He probably needs it.