I’ve posted before about getting good feedback. I’m passionate about getting good feedback, I love getting good feedback.
I want to help every playwright in the world get good feedback. Well, at least those with cultures similar enough to the American culture to make my ideas useful.
Getting Good Feedback at a Reading with an Audience
Try to get people who aren’t in the theater to come to your readings, as well as theater people. You’ll get a broader range of feedback, and that story you’re passionate about? You’ll be able to share your passion better.
Watch the Audience
You’ll be tempted to watch the actors while they speak your wonderful text. But you’ll get good feedback if you sit in the back and (unobtrusively) watch the audience.
If the audience is still and quiet, you have their attention. If they laugh, they think something’s funny. If they gasp, they’re startled.
If the audience starts shifting in their seats, looking at their cell phone, checking Facebook or Twitter on their iPod, looking at the program, or fidgeting – you don’t have their attention. When you start rewrites, look at what happened about five minutes before they started getting restless.
Appreciate the Audience
During the feedback session, thank the audience. Thank them for everything they say, whether you say the words “thank you” or listen, smile, nod, and take notes.
Train the Audience
This for the facilitator. Thank the audience specifically for what they’ve done is what you want. For example, if you asked the question:
“Which character most captured your attention?”
then after they answer, you can thank them by saying
“Thank you for being so specific about which character captured your attention the most.”
Always specifically name the behavior that you want to encourage.
Keep it Short
20 minutes is a good length. 30 minutes if people are still passionate about giving feedback. Otherwise, they can stick around afterwards and talk to you some more.
Let People Leave Before the Feedback Session
Sometimes the people putting on a reading won’t give the audience a break before the feedback session starts. I wonder if they’re worried that people will leave, and they won’t have “enough” people for the feedback session.
I say, let people leave. If they don’t want to be there, they’re probably not going to give you good feedback.
Also, if a lot of people leave, looking unhappy or inscrutable, that is feedback. Painful feedback, yes, but useful. Give yourself some time off, and take another look at your play.
Have a stiff drink or eat some excellent dark chocolate or do whatever you do to reward yourself. Listening to people talk about your play is hard. You deserve a treat.
Getting Good Feedback From Your Playwright’s Group
All of the above applies.
Except, of course, the bit about letting people leave. If members of your playwright’s group want to leave, that’s a bad sign. 🙂
Fellow playwrights are excellent sources of feedback, unless they’re tempted to tell you how to write your play. That’s when being specific about what you want really helps.
Anything I’ve Missed?
What helps you get good feedback? Post it here.