In recent years, something has gone badly wrong with the way university, college and high school plays have been treated by daily newspapers.

Daily papers used to review a Rio Grande Valley play one night, then print it in the paper the next day. Most were college shows. A rare few were at high schools.

Recently most daily papers have cut back sharply on pages, space and reporters.

A close-to-home weekly, the Valley Town Crier has several editions in Hidalgo County. These continue with local coverage and about the same number of pages as before.

Now this popular, free newspaper chain has agreed to test an idea suggested by the writer of this story.

One problem is that most school plays run less than a week. (A great exception is at McAllen Nikki Rowe High, where its stunning cast played NINE performances, all of them sold out last year!)

The answer is simple, and it can work. Why not find some stage-struck veteran reviewers and ask the teacher in charge of each school play to hold a special performance between seven and 10 days before the actual production?

This reviewer need not ask for a dress rehearsal in costume. A veteran reviewer can manage with a full run-through. Directors could let the special show run in full, saving the frills for the dress rehearsal and opening night.

After the play, local critics could still have their say in the school newspapers. Daily papers even might find time to join in among their home cities’ productions, at least.

The key is to get the schools to allow advance publication, so everyone in town, including the stage-loving Winter Texans, can decide if these shows are worth seeing.

School play directors, or their publicists, who like this idea should e-mail or phone in the details to 682-5319.

Please give your play’s name, director or contact person, and the dates to be played this school year, Pick the play you prefer most to be reviewed in the Valley Town Crier.

Two strong collegiate drama departments, The University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg and South Texas College in McAllen, usually get some reviews on their plays. They, like the high schools, could now get advance reviews and more attendance.

With dozens of high school plays in Hidalgo County, this may sound too complicated. However, the high quality of Valley shows deserves reviews of the shows they want reviewed. This also might help Valley high schools to win more prizes in the state competition.