It is standard procedure for theatre troupes to grant critics complimentary tickets - and good seats - to facilitate the reviews companies need to bring attention to their shows and put bums in seats.
The seats never come with a guarantee of a good review.
In a conversation with NOW, blogger Slotkin, who also contributes to CIUT Radio, says she was dumped from the critics list because, as she reports her phone conversation with Stratford's head of publicity, she "didn't look like a friend of the festival."
She says that that is a poor representation of her attitude and her reviews, which she calls fair and tempered. She thinks that the move comes at the behest of festival artistic director Des MacANuff, who noticed a blistering blog from Slotkin, itself a response to a Globe and Mail piece about how McAnuff had taken the festival to the next level.
"I had another perspective on Stratford," she says to NOW. "I thought that he'd made the Stratford Festival into something that was diminished on the world stage."
McAnuff commented on the blog, escalating the tension (read more here).
This isn't the first time the outspoken and highly opinionated Slotkin has received this treatment.
When Canadian Stage was under the artistic direction of Martin Bragg and Slotkin was the CBC's resident stage critic, the company revoked Slotkin's privileges, claiming she was too negative. The CBC backed her up, kept her on and paid for her theatre tickets so she could keep reviewing.
Slotkin now plans to pay for her own tickets so she can keep her blog vital.
Phone calls to the Stratford Festival have not been returned.
Here are the questions I want to ask.
1. Why try to control critics who don't always say nice things. Such attempts always backfire, suggesting the theatre company is very vulnerable and can't take bad feedback, and makes a hero out of the targetted critic.
2. Given that Slotkin lost her gig at the CBC in 2011, she doesn't have a great deal of clout. Why take the risk of sullying your reputation by taking on a writer who's no longer in a major power position.
3. This being McAnuff's last year at the helm of the festival, couldn't you just hold off until he was gone.
We might assume that Slotkin will be reinstated once McAnuff's tenure is over - she's hoping so, anyway. In the meantime, the festival's latest power play makes it and its artistic director look beyond petty.