Recently I saw a show at a local community theatre, and it was just dreadful across all aspects of theatre. I have friends that worked on it, so what do you do? Do you tell them “great job, I really enjoyed the show” or do you tell them the truth? This can be even more difficult when you know people have put a lot of work into the project in question. You may not what to hurt anyone’s feelings or you want to protect the company. I am sure you have heard this a million times; the truth is always better.
There are two steps you might want to take when giving feedback. One, you must do so with candor, and two, focus on the idea.
Let’s first talk about the person receiving the feedback. In order for me to grow and to become a better theatre maker, I rely on feedback, both positive and negative. I never take feedback personally. I trust that the criticism that I am receiving will better by methods and practices. I also detach myself from my ideas. Ideas come and go, there are bad ideas and good ideas, and you don’t know which one is which until you test them in front of an audience.
People need to grow and learn from their experiences, a lot of that can be internalized, but some of that has to come from external sources. Being candid is paramount. Merriam-Webster’s definition of candid is: “1) a) marked by honest sincere expression b) disposed to criticize severely c) indicating or suggesting sincere honesty and absence of deception 2) free from bias, prejudice.” When responding to creative pieces of work, it’s good to respond to how something makes you feel. Does it make you happy, uncomfortable, sad, etc. and if the way you feel was intended then great, if it’s not, then maybe there needs to be some adjustment.
When you challenge or praise an idea it is critical that you focus on the idea. As artists we invest ourselves in our work and when something you have created gets criticized it is easy to take it personally. In the theatre world our work is collaborative. When we give feedback on a design element, directing, or acting, does the idea support or hinder the story that is being told. So, focus your feedback on whether the idea helps the story or process.
Theatre is crazy. We spend months working on a show to get it ready for an audience, the show runs for a little bit, and then it’s gone. We do our work for the audience, to tell stories, make an impact, and hopefully change the world, let’s do it the best we can.
“Don’t wait for things to be perfect before you share them with others. Show early and show often. It’ll be pretty when we get there, but it won’t be pretty along the way.” Ed Catmull, Creativity Inc.