New York Times writer Peter Marks, responsible for the Friday "Weekend" section news & gossip column, "On Stage, And Off," will move into the number two reviewer slot under chief critic, Ben Brantley. The position, which mainly involves reviewing Off-Broadway shows, has been vacant since Brantley moved up in late summer.
Marks came to the New York Times after seven years at Newsday (1985-93) where he worked on general assignments as well as features, some covering the theatre. He started his career at the New Brunswick Home News and later spent two and a half years on the educaton beat at the Bergen Record.
Marks, 41, told Playbill On-Line, "I've been a theatre-lover all my life, even though I ended up in journalism. As you know, there aren't many theatre reporting jobs."
Explaining the musical chairs re-positioning at the Arts & Leisure department, Marks noted that "Ben Brantley moved up to #1, the #2 position was open, and I really wanted to try for it." He was asked to do some sample reviews, and apparently his unpublished efforts (Master Class, Edmond and Valley Of The Dolls) met with approval from John Darnton, the new Cultural News Editor.
Asked about defining moments in his theatregoing life, Marks pointed to "the amazing" Nicholas Nickleby, Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, and seeing The Sound Of Music at age seven. He credits a production of Much Ado About Nothing at New Jersey's McCarter Theatre for giving him an appreciation of Shakespeare. For Marks, who's been attending the theatre four nights a week, the location of a show doesn't matter -- "it could be on Broadway or in a tiny basement in Soho...a great play is a great play."
And what will Marks be covering for the Times? "Anything Ben doesn't want to," Marks said, laughing.
William Grimes will cover Marks' column until a replacement is found. Former film critic Vincent Canby will continue with his weekly Sunday review column, which he took over from Margo Jefferson several months ago.
Other theatre critics currently writing for the times include Stephen Holden, Lawrence Van Gelder and D.J.R. Bruckner.
-- By David Lefkowitz