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The Theater Times (theatertimes.org) was launched in 2005 as a personal website for Cristofer Gross, a freelance writer and the Public Relations Director of Orange County's South Coast Repertory Theatre from spring 1983 through winter 2004. It covers Southern California stage productions and jazz concerts of interest with short calendar previews, reviews, and interviews with artists.

Background

Gross was previously an editor of an inflight magazine based in Orange County, California, and a biweekly music newspaper in Philadelphia, where he lived briefly after graduating from the University of Southern California's School of Journalism.

After leaving the theater at the end of 2004, he began a freelance career, writing press releases and marketing copy and creating newsletters and websites for both corporate and non-profit clients, among them Claremont Graduate University, California Association of REALTORS®, Fidelity National Real Estate Services and its successor, LPS.

He has also written occasional features for publications, including The Orange County Register, Westways, Los Angeles Times Magazine, Orange Coast, San Diego Union Tribune and Emmy Magazine.

Recently

Since 2006, Gross has been the primary jazz writer for the in-house publications of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts (formerly Orange County Performing Arts Center) in Costa Mesa. Several times each year he conducts artist interviews for advance features and often turns the conversation into a Q&A for the Intermission section of the website.

In 2015, the Theatertimes site was rebuilt to better serve smartphone and tablet readers. The redesign was launched in October with its core content while he continued to add in the remaining reviews, interviews, and posts from the previous decade.

Reviewing

Having been trained as a reporter and news editor, then splitting the bulk of his career between feature writing and theater promotion, he brings both an objective perspective and an insider's understanding to the task of assessing a theater production.

In explaining how he approaches reviewing, Gross says, "The critic can choose to serve any or all of theater's three masters: the public, the profession, or the play. By public I'm referring to the consumer, the outsider whose ticket purchase amounts to the biggest source of support for the art, and whose tastes and depth of knowledge may determine the art form's direction but certainly its health. The profession begins with that staging's production team, from the cast, crew and designers to the theater's producers and artistic directors, staff and board if there is one. But it also includes the wider theater community of actors, directors, playwrights as well as scholars and even critics, all of whom contribute to the current state of the art.

"The play is the art work itself," he continues. "It's the ephemeral experience of live performance. It is the voice of the playwright, but it goes deeper to the more mysterious and more subjective voice of the play, which has its own reality and purpose beyond what the playwright intends. And, while honoring the interests of the patrons and producers whose worlds meet at the fourth wall, we listen for what the play wants us to understand. In most Theatertimes reviews, we are reporting on narrative and its significance, and what the production did to convey it, elaborate on it, deepen it and so on.

"In terms of how reviews are written," he adds, “they are meant to entertain, inform, and critique but also to encourage. Every review or criticism should carry the message that theater is an art form with tremendous power to enlighten and entertain, and if the production at hand falls short of its potential, the next one will likely surpass it."

MONTHLY HIGHLIGHTS, PREVIEWS

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Cristofer Gross



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