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Friday, 19 August 2005



I always think that "congratulations" is a sweet, tactful, considerate way to say "wow, i hated your show".

And then a hug.


I will only give you my old one because I am still using my new one.

"There was a LOT to like about that show."

Subtle, non-commital and technically not insulting.


My husband's & my fave post-show comment to a friend who comes out to the lobby after a pretty mediocre show or role:

"Well. {smile) It looked like you were having fun up there."


"There were many moments that I found very moving..."

They don't whether I mean "moved to tears" or "moved to joy" or just "damn, I wish I could've moved right out of this theatre!"

heihachi mishima

"Nice try, dude!"
"I could tell you mostly had your blocking down."
"Dude, most people have never even seen the bottom of the barrel, you've just made every show I'll see from now on seem that much better!"
"Cool lighting!"
"Are you at least banging the hot chick?"

If something's bad, I tend to know going in that it's bad. Sometimes I'm wrong on this, but not usually. I think they (actors/directors/designers) do too. It's better to 'sugarcoat' it in a humorous way, but still tell the truth. It's a stupid artists morality I guess, but artists tend to get so much glad handing & back patting that I try to be honest, empathetic and straightforward as much as I can bear to be when I'm the critic.

"Yeah, it was a tough show to sit through, but you were one of the best parts of it. I've been there. How do you feel about it?"

Sometimes I'm a little dense, and hearing them talk about the show and the intentions or vision behind it make it seem that much better (if still not good). And sometimes they might re-realise the vision of the show and do whatever they can to promote and refortify that vision.

I've been in long tours where the shows had to constantly revamp just for our sanity. There's nothing wrong with seeing that you aren't getting where you intended and need to get some fresh directions. Depending on your relationship to the rest of the production team, you may have to fly solo to make changes and keep your sanity and ego(haha, so loaded) in place, or hopefully, you can work with everybody else to iron out the issues....

Be honest, most actors can spot a BS a mile away and will just resent you for it. Yours is just an opinion, share it as such.


Oooh, let me play. I love this one. Some of my faves are:

"Wow, how did you memorize all those lines?"

"You were really working up there."

"That was...something else."

"You did it again!"

My all time favorite.....

"You were unbelievable up there. UN-(take a pause)-BELIEVABLE."


"Wow. You were really up there."
Always works...If the actor in question KNOWS the show is poopy, which is often the case, I prefer..."I'm so sorry."
My standard is usually.."I have to leave before I say something."


When I was new to DC theatre, I made a horrible faux pas: I left a show at intermission. My friend and I simply hated it so we left. I mean, I'd walked out on "Cats" at intermission, I didn't think this'd be a big deal.

Well, I was roundly chastised by a few colleagues, and it was explained to me that it was incredibly poor form. I felt appropriately horrible and apologized to the artistic director. Lesson learned. The play went on to win several HH awards, so obviously my opinion was just plumb WRONG. This was, oh, five years ago, and just today I was told that a member of that theatre still hasn't forgiven my rudeness.

So now, if I find myself sitting in a show that is not to my liking, I go over monologues in my head, or I practice abdominal exercises that are invisible to everyone else (butt squeezes tend to be noticeable, I've found). And I always find something nice to say that isn't terribly transparent. "I'm so glad I came...You looked great up there...It really made me think about a lot of stuff," or, when really at a loss, "I need a while to process this."

I'd prefer to assume we all can handle honest and/or dissenting opinions. Seems to me a bit condescending to assume our egos are so fragile that we can't handle it if someone doesn't like what we're doing. Flattery gets us all nowhere. Personally I think it's disrespectful, unproductive, passive-aggressive, and breeds complacency and self-indulgence.


I would rather see a person, I know is in the house and have them be honest than for them to walk out. I have had people tell me that they weren't there when I saw their asses in the second row before intermission. We all know what kind of shows we are in and it is the rare person who realizes not everyone likes everything.


I tell 'em I didn't like it.

I'm nice about it, and I give them fair warning (if they know I'm coming) by letting them know that I'll tell the truth about my opinion, so don't ask for it if you don't want it.

If they don't know I'm coming, then I just smile and make sure I am always in a group of people -- let them do the talking while I hang behind, looking pretty.

Plus, I was told that the best friend you can have in the theatre is one who is honest and sympathetic -- they don't sugar coat the truth, but they try and let it go down easy.

"go down easy" ... tee hee


Oooh: I have to post again--I actually came to see what was new since I think this is an interesting topic--and I have to say (in response to an earlier comment) re: not liking a show that later won awards so that the opinion (that the show was bad) was "just plain wrong"--NO OPINION is wrong. If you don't like a show, you don't like it, and it doesn't matter how critically acclaimed it may be. I think American Theatre (not the magazine!) is terribly burdened right now with the belief that if a play is SMART it is GOOD. And while a play may be both smart and good it doesn't mean you are wrong or stupid as an audience member if you don't LIKE it. It does NOT!

And in truth, I usually try to leave as many shows as I can right after the show--unless a super close friend is in it or I have made plans to meet someone at the theatre after the show--because I don't feel like I should be obligated to say something nice about a show just because I sat through it. While sometimes the fun of theatre is talking about the performances or direction, sometimes it's important to let the experience linger WITHOUT saying anything. The very worst faux pas I have ever experienced in this biz is, after a show I really enjoyed and found touching on a personal level, I ran into one of the actors on my way home: he ranted and raved about the artistic director, the other actors, the terrible script, how little he was being paid--and utterly destroyed in ten minutes the power that play had for me. And sometimes THAT is why I don't wait around to give compliments: because I DID like it. And want to keep the magic alive just a little bit longer.

And yeah, it is a small town: unfortunately it is hard to leave during intermission. In NYC I like to leave bad shows at intermission simply because I believe I give power to the audience--you won't give me my money back, but you can't have another hour of my time! It's a shame, though, that you feel like if you DO leave someone can hold a grudge. That's so ungenerous.

Okay, I promise, no more postings, although it is an interesting topic. Obligation Theatre, someone said? Hm. I like that.


Yeah, I was being sarcastic when I said my opinion was "just plain wrong." A few times I've told this story, someone has countered with the fact that the show went on to win awards, as if it proved the show was good and my opinion was flawed.

Still, it was rude and foolish of me to leave at intermission, and I felt badly that I'd upset people or hurt anyone's feelings. I honestly was surprised anyone had even noticed my presence (or absence), as I wasn't close to anyone involved with the show in any way. Ick.

It's just troubling to hear five years later that I'm still demonized for this, even after I apologized. Seems silly to me.


LuckySpinster: Say 4 Our Fathers, and 5 Farting Virgin Marys.

Sir Lurksalot

See, I, on the other hand, would LOVE to be demonized for something so petty as to distract from all the things for which I richly deserved to be demonized. Go figure.


For the last decade or so, I have served as an adjudicator for the Maryland, Eastern States, Jersey or New York State Theatre Fests, those things that serve as a kind of playoff of one-acts for the Amer.Assc. Of Community Theatres. We get to travel a little (ESTA has twice, now, put us up on the Eastern Shore) and get to see some amazing theatre (seriously - some of the best stuff I have seen in the last ten years has been on these stages) but there is a... let's call it a wide range of training and experience in the ranks. Not only do the adjudicators have to talk to the performers, to their faces, as a group, immediately after a performance, but we have to do it in front of an audience! AND - this is in the rules - we have to be positive and constructive. This has led to a whole new lexicon I refer to as - Adjudispeak:
"Wow, how original, I never would have even THOUGHT of that choice! (what were you smoking?)
"Thanks so much for introducing us to this play!" (now could you introduce us to some actors?)
"What a strong voice! Even with my ears covered I could STILL hear you! (...)
"Well, you really made a choice and stuck with it!" (Think the war in Iraq)
"You guys have got the first half of this play down pat!"
"What an ambitious choice!"
"I only wish the playwright were alive to see this " (so s/he could sue your a__!)
and of course, when all else fails...
"Great Lighting!"

(as an aside - this is a great venue for new plays to get a workout - these companies are always looking for untried pieces to do as one acts, and if they decide to do YOUR new play there is one less company contemplating the advisability of a one act comprised only of the Mitch/Blanche scenes from Streetcar...)


I had a case where I wished that an audience member had left at intermission. I was in the late show at a small theatre in Adams Morgan. The earlier show was produced by the same company as my show and one of the performers stayed to see our show. She spent most of the first half nosily and noticeably sharing a large pizza with her companion. I was on stage for the last chunk before intermission. During my section she finished the pizza and settled in for a long winter's nap. She did not doze off; she wriggled down in her seat, got comfortable, and closed her eyes. (BTW-The show I was in was 100% direct address to the audience.) I figured she would leave at intermission having realized that she was not as up to staying for our show as she had thought she would be. But no, she returned, I think moved forward a row, and proceeded to tuck herself back in and return to her nap. I would much rather someone sensibly take herself home to bed in that sort of case.


Oh no...no way, no how...
I would have gone up, eaten a piece or two of her pizza during a long and rambling monologue, then kept the crust, so I could throw it at her when she started to drift off to sleep!
YEARS ago, there was a performer who worked at Burn Brae and Toby's Dinner Theatre named Phyllis Goldblatt. She once went up to a table in the front row and grabbed the program out of the hands of an audience member who was reading it, and said.."No one reads while Phyllis Goldblatt is performing.."
The stuff of Legends...


The weirdest audience story I have was a Sunday evening show last Fall. There were about a dozen or so members in the audience. I'm doing a two-person show where both characters speak to the audience the whole time. At one point, I look midway up the center section and there's a little dog sitting on a woman's lap. He seemed to be enjoying it, though...perhaps we can tie this in with the soon-to-be written play "There's a Big Dog at the End," with the addendum, "and his little dog too."


When I adjudicated scenes at the Maryland High School Theatre Festival, my boss in the education department gave us a list of adjectives entitled "When Words Fail." Things like "creative" and "intense," though my favorite adjective was always "beneficial." Ultimate theatre BS.

The line I recently used at an unfortunately cast two-character show was "Wow, those characters just drive me crazy!"

dramaturg boy

I wasn't onstage for this one, but at a performance of Oni Faida Lampley's Mixed Babies at the Stage Guild (a show that went on to win the Charles Macarthur Award), ONE person was in the audience. He offered to come another time, but the five women in the cast gamely went on and had a ball. At curtain call they applauded him, and the wonderful Gwen Briley-Strand swooped off the stage, hugged him, and said, "what's your name, honey?" (Fortunately, he seemed to have enjoyed the show.)

As for post-show comments, it depends on who it is and whether I think they really want to know what I thought, or are just looking for affirmation/reassurance. If it's the latter, then yeah, "Congratulations!" usually serves the purpose. But even with a close friend who wants the awful truth I won't dissect things in the lobby. "Let's talk later on," sometimes accompanied by "I have some questions" seems to work. The door is open for discussion, and if they don't like what they hear, well, I hinted that it wouldn't be a rave, didn't I?

Then there's June Hansen's solution: "My dear, good isn't the word!"

(I'm pretty open to hearing what folks think, although total strangers who say only that they couldn't believe how much talking I did are not my favorite people in the world at that very moment. I try to tell myself that I've so dazzled them that they aren't really coherent just yet.)


I always try to find something positive to say about atleast one element (usually a design element, since there is an abudance of good design in this town). However, my staple is "You should be very proud of all of your hard work." At the very least, you want to acknowledge the time and effort that it takes to put on a show - good or bad.


...or you could just say..."Hey...you're tits looked great!"...
...don't scoff...I've used it before.


Oh, yes? Who was the boy?


Not a boy, unfortunately. Although Will's tits were perky at Urinetown last night. The gym has done him well!


Ain't it? Dr. Hottie and I were giggling at the curtain call -- the recap, with Gartshore frantically doing his pushups during intermission...

Oh, and by the way, folks: Stephen's weekend posts on his own blog were dead right: Urinetown's gonna be all anybody's talking about this week.

Speaking of which, nice blog. Shame about the poop.

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