Giving and Receiving Criticism Notes for the Director

Giving and Receiving
Notes for the Director
Every production engenders a response. Directors
need to grow by listening seriously and thoughfully to
the feedback your production generates
• 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
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
• Use that criticism that is
• 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
Receiving criticism
• Tuck your ego in your back
• 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.
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
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.