Clive Barnes, one of the most recognizable and respected New York theatre critics, is going to take life a little easier. As of Dec. 9 he will become the New York Post's Sunday theatre columnist, relinquishing his daily reviewing role to Donald Lyons, for the past five years critic for the Wall Street Journal.
Barnes, who's been with the Post since 1977, will take the title "senior drama critic" and will continue as the paper's daily dance critic.
A Fordham University graduate, Lyons, 60, has taught English literature at Harvard, NYU and Rutgers, according to the Post.
Born May 13, 1927, Barnes started as a dance critic at the London Times and then joined the New York Times as dance critic in 1965. From 1967-77, he served as chief theatre critic for the NY Times.
The addition of Lyons is the second major shakeup in weeks of the Post's theatre beat. In early November, theatre reporter Ward Morehouse came to a parting of the ways with recently-appointed editor-in-chief Ken Chandler. Michael Riedel then left his reporter slot at the Daily News to take Morehouse's position. Raymond Sokolov, editor of the leisure and arts page of the Wall Street Journal, told Playbill On-Line (Dec. 9) he expected an announcement to be made about Lyons' replacement there "early next year." Until then, staff writer Amy Gamerman will cover the two major Broadway openings left in December (The Blue Room, Parade). Lyons noted that the Journal has only one review slot, and it's a freelance position at that. "Years ago we had two critics in New York," he said, "but we hadn't while Donald was here, and that will probably continue. We do have a writer in Chicago, Joel Henning, who's been reviewing for us for years. He'll continue doing that, because it's so important."
Asked about the editorial shift at the Post, Barnes told Playbill On-Line (Dec. 9) "It's just time to move on. Donald Lyons is an excellent critic. I think the Post is extremely fortunate to have him; he's one of the best of the people around. I think it'll make a good team, especially since we're reshaping the daily and Sunday paper arts sections."
Asked if his considerable load of theatre and dance coverage would be lightened a bit, Barnes said, "Well, I'll be doing less Off-Off-Broadway, and I won't have to be going to the press previews all the time. For example, I'll permit myself the luxury of going to the second-night performance of Parade because it fits better into my dance schedule. Or, for example, today I wrote about Snakebit, which I missed and caught up with."
Barnes stressed that his Sunday article would still be review oriented, rather than a broader think-piece column.
Editorial page editor John Podhoretz said of the changes, "We've added two staff members, Riedel and Lyons, for a team of three full-time people to cover theatre, which we think is a matter of central interest, impact and concern to the paper. With Clive and Don particularly, we now have the strongest reviewing team in the city."
Podhoretz noted that there were no other candidates considered for the slot ("Don was it") and that there would be further changes to the Post arts section, but they could not yet be discussed.
Journal editor Sokolov said of his departing critic, "We loved Donald's work. His intelligence and wit. I've known him since we were both students in the classics department at Harvard... and I look forward to reading him."
-- By David Lefkowitz