Lawson Taitte broke the news himself yesterday afternoon: he will retire as theater critic for the Dallas Morning News at the end of the year. He’s covered theater at the Dallas Morning News since 1996, though he’s been with the newspaper for more than 21 years. As TheaterJones’ Mark Lowry notes, it’s time to speculate how the daily paper will replace him. Taitte wrote that the paper will conduct a nationwide search, suggesting that he’ll be replaced with someone who will be similarly engaged. But there’s always the Mark Lamster and Richard Brettell model, the News’ two most recent arts hires: partnering with a nearby university that will bear the brunt of the salary.
Full-time professional critics aren’t even really a dying breed around here. They’re more like the ivory billed woodpecker. As with any sort of journalism venture attempting to remain solvent, the internet’s monetization challenges plus an ever-increasing reliance on low-pay or no-pay freelancers does not make hiring someone to think about theater full time attractive, despite all the evidence that suggests that the more we do away with our collective support for the arts, the worse our societies become. Municipal and private support, evidenced most dramatically by the Arts District but also clear every time a smaller theater company thanks TACA at the start of a performance, is there, though none of these buildings mean anything without the people in them—the artists and the audience. Money is one very helpful thing. Taste is entirely another.
On a more personal note, Taitte is just about the kindest critic in town. I’ll miss seeing his face down the row. Taitte’s last official day is December 31, and his last show will be the Dallas Summer Musicals production Irving Berlin’s White Christmas.