Monday, August 4, 2014

Reviews and Writing

Writers, and any other artists, have to be ready to accept the judgments of critics. I was sent a couple of nice notes regarding a negative review, from audience members (and friends) who liked the particular show reviewed, but I have to also consider the power of critics to make or break a work.

Pittsburgh City Paper: New Death... Airless and Deadly

How much do critics influence an artist? For me, that depends on the critic and his or her biases. If a critic has a history of liking a particular genre or a particular set of writers — and disliking others — then I have to ask if I fall into Column A or Column B.

Even when an artist is in Column B, and approval is a long-shot at best, I would still suggest listening and asking what the nuggets of truth are in the review and how to address those. A negative review is valuable, if you're willing to learn what you can and ignore the rest.

From the review above, I am reminded that opening nights aren't easy. Seldom does an opening occur without dropped lines, missed cues, and a nervousness that feels unnatural. That is simply the nature of new shows. Add in a new, untested script, and there's more reason for unease and mistakes.

As a playwright, I have to ask what I can do to help a cast and crew make the best of their talents. Did I tighten the dialogue enough? Did I balance the action with exposition? Did I make the most of the medium, especially as stages have serious limitations. Did I balance humor with whatever else I'm trying to convey?

I don't write farce or sitcoms. I don't aim for a joke or two a page. I write serious plays with lighter moments. When the audience starts to consider the work a comedy, that's a failing on my part to balance the early pages well.

As this production winds down, I'll look at the script and compare my notes with reviews, audience feedback, cast and crew notes, and whatever else is available. All my plays undergo endless revisions. A negative review, or a positive review, can influence the choices I make revising.

A fellow playwright say, "Not every play is for every audience." That's also something to keep in mind.

Never let negative marks (grades, reviews, audiences) stop you from taking chances. Take the feedback and move forward with the next idea. What you shouldn't do is try to please the negative voices, item by item, because then you aren't creating your own vision.

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