Giving and Receiving Criticism Notes for the Director OVERVIEW Every production engenders a response. Directors need to grow by listening seriously and thoughfully to the feedback your production generates Performance • A production is never finished until an audience watches and responds • Feedback allows the director to grow • Dedicated directors not only listen, they also hear Two sources of feedback • You must hear • You must listen Goal Understand why compliments are rewarding to hear but that real directorial growth comes from hearing what needs additional attention How to use feedback Criticism is, like art, a form of self-expression • Use that criticism that is helpful • Reject that which is not • But, if someone tells you that a moment didn’t work and they were not sure why, you have the beginning of a useful conversation… Receiving criticism • Tuck your ego in your back pocket • Listen • Take notes • Ask question • ASSESS…especially useful when considering contradictory notes Giving criticism • • • • • • Be direct Be specific Ask questions Be honest Be kind Respond to successful aspects Goethe on criticism “I had a fellow as my guest Not knowing he was such a pest, And gave him just my usual fare; He ate his fill of what was there, And for dessert my best things swallowed, Soon as his meal was o’er, what followed? Led by the Deuce, to a neighbor he went, And talked of my food to his heart’s content. ‘The soup might surely have had more spice, The meat was ill-browned, and wine wasn’t nice.’ A thousand curses alight on his head! ‘Tis a critic, I vow! Let the dog be struck dead.” Goethe’s 3 canons Critics in many fields tend to agree that the principles of Goethe (1749-1832), a German philosopher, critic, and playwright, provide a sound basis for criticism. 1. What was the artist (author, actor, director, designer) trying to do? 2. How well did the artist accomplish it? 3. Was it worth doing? George Jean Nathan • Criticism is the windows and chandeliers of art: it illuminates the enveloping darkness in which art might otherwise rest only vaguely discernible, and perhaps altogether unseen. • Criticism is the art of appraising others at one's own value. • To ask of a critic that he dismiss his personality and its various facets from his criticism is an affront both to him and to criticism itself. (1888-1952) Brooks Atkinson The most fatal illusion is the narrow point of view. Since life is growth and motion, a fixed point of view kills anybody who has one. “There is no joy so great as that of reporting that a good play has come to town.” Michael Billington (b. 1939) What makes a good critic? The ability to write An insatiable curiosity A point of view Stamina Frank Rich (1949-) “I found a method for preserving the spontaneity of theatergoing, so essential to the joy of the experience. I didn't read about new plays before seeing them (or read their scripts); I didn't listen to friends either. This allowed me to still feel that rush of anticipation and surprise when the curtain went up…I gradually aspired to write reviews as stories evoking the play's impact rather than as merely report cards leaning on adjectives and plot.” Daniel Sullivan Los Angeles Times, 2009 It may sound strange for a theater critic to say this, but it’s time somebody did: 1. Life is not theater. 2. People are not characters. 3. Truth is not the same as a nice moment. 4. The business of America is not show business… What I like about going to the theater is that you know it’s going to be fiction. Jeremy Barker NY Times, 2012 Reviewing serves its purposes. But it shouldn’t be mistaken for criticism, thoughtful work that explores cultural endeavors and grapples with history, trends, ideas, formal developments in the arts and the relationship of the arts to the broader culture. If professional critics really are the experts they’re supposed to be, then surely they have something more to offer on this front than advice on how best to spend one's Friday night.