The Playgoer: "So... What'd You Think?"

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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

"So... What'd You Think?"

Is there any more anxiety-inducing question than this after a friend's show?

Luckily, Christopher Shinn bares all and offers helpful advice on how to address this inevitable test in your friendship with a playwright. Among the don'ts:

The Magician: The magician disappears at the end of your play. You wait and look for him to no avail. Six months later, when he finally calls or emails to get together, no mention is made of the show. He’s made the play disappear!
And the do's:
The Anti-Narcissist: The narcissist believes his opinions are objective truths. He is afraid of speaking them only because he is afraid that his godlike judgment will irrevocably impact the recipient...When the anti-narcissist says he doesn’t like the play, it almost feels like an act of love. He says in a gentle voice something like, “I’m not sure I always understood what you were trying to say, but I’ll keep thinking about it.” The anti-narcissist knows what he felt but is also suspicious of his own reaction. With him, the playwright experiences a world of compassionate others who are tolerant and accepting even when critical.
Anyone else prefer to be flat-out lied to? Or do you just not invite your friends at all?


Mike Mariano said...

This is a truly wretched article and shows a really terrible mentality to have as a playwright. Shinn shows real contempt for these example friends because they aren't convincing enough when they lie or evade to stroke his ego.

That "Anti-Narcissist" example is his worst: "I disliked your play, but that means I'm flawed, not your work." Should all playwrights have friends who cower in the shadow of their genius?

Only "The Pal" seems like good advice: "Your play is bad, but you still get a hug."

Zev Valancy said...

Only ask your friends what they thought if you really want to know, and only tell your friends what the flaws were if they genuinely ask. Seems like a simple enough solution.

Jack Worthing said...

The same whinging tone present in all Chris Shinn's work.

Matt said...

I just did a reading of my play, and got a couple "Really great work," then nothing. Where does this fall? Also heard one "that took a turn I wasn't expecting."

RLewis said...

This is why I love Liz Lehrman's critical response techinque - she focuses on saying what you saw... what stood out... what you most vividly recall afterward, no matter whether it's a dance, play, painting, whatever. Then it's left to the playwright to decide if that's a good or bad thing. It says a lot to me if someone can't even recall a part of my play that I thought was important, and vice versa.