A Webzine for Those With a Passion for Art
Dan Rottenberg wants to bring a level of refinement to critiquing the arts in Philadelphia - and he doesn't think he's alone.
"I had an idea there was an audience - I guess I would call it a highbrow audience - that none of the other media outlets are serving," said the 63-year-old.
To address that community, the man launched Broad Street Review in January, a Web-based magazine that highlights theater, art, music and dance in the city. The site delivers reports from informed writers, as well as allows readers to respond to every article.
"It's not really a guide of where to go and what to do," explained Rottenberg. "It's a salon of critics and art-lovers exchanging opinions to get people to talk about the local arts scene at some kind of sophisticated level."
Rottenberg was able to get some help from knowledgeable writers like Daniel Webster, The Philadelphia Inquirer's music critic from 1964 to 1999, in addition to former dance critic Lesley Valdes; they freelance for the site.
"We've [also] benefited from all the buyouts at the Inquirer," admitted Rottenberg, who runs the site with the help of a small grant from the University of the Arts.
Just Loves Journalism
Rottenberg was always determined to be a journalist, even as a child growing up in New York.
"I just love newspapers," said Rottenberg, who wanted to be a journalist from the age of 8. "When I was a kid, I always wanted to spend my whole life writing for newspapers."
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, he wrote for various newspapers in the Midwest, and subsequently went on to work for The Wall Street Journal, the Welcomat (now the Philadelphia Weekly), which he edited, and was, for a stint, executive editor of Philadelphia magazine.
He's also written nine books - one was a guide to tracing Jewish ancestry; another chronicled a Jewish community in Muncie, Ind.
Aside from his brief stints in smaller Midwestern towns, Rottenberg has spent most of his life in big cities like New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. He has lived in Center City since 1972, something he thinks gives him an edge over other people who cover arts here.
"I'm a city boy," he said plainly. "I like the convenience of cities, the spontaneity. I live four blocks from the Academy of Music, and a block-and-a-half from the Kimmel Center."
With a growing number of theaters in the area, he described the arts scene as budding.
Rottenberg pointed out that in the old days, actors couldn't even make it in Philadelphia, but these days, there's enough work to make that career a possibility. The fact that the cost of living is much lower than in New York also helps.
Rottenberg said he believes that Broad Street Review will attract a large number of Jewish readers, who he feels constitutes the core audience at many of the events covered in his publication.
"There is a tradition and an intellectual fervor and hunger, [which] is one of the things that characterizes Jews," said Rottenberg, a member of Society Hill Synagogue.
But will these arts aficionados - generally an older crowd - enjoy reading an online publication, rather than perusing something they can hold in their hands?
"This is the Internet for grownups," came the reply. "We're appealing to an audience of college-educated people who have a real sophisticated and passionate interest in the arts."