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 Posted: Thu Jun 15th, 2006 09:09 pm
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Paddy



Joined: Fri Jun 9th, 2006
Location: Kitchener, Ontario Canada
Posts: 2844
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In Writer's Bloc, a playwright's group I belonged to that was associated with a professional theatre, we had an amazing Dramaturge, Henry

Henry developed a set of guidelines for read-throughs.  I've amended it to work for critiquing.  Henry could tell you your play was crap and make you feel wonderful about it.  Assuming most of the plays posted here will either be new or in-progress, these guidelines should help.


 

Lab Notes Re: Critiquing other people’s plays.

© Henry Bakker (amended for critiquing)

 

1)      Your response to these plays is of vital importance.  Each writer needs your response, needs specific information so that they can move forward in their particular process.

2)      How the feedback is delivered is also crucial.  Please try always to respond in a way which is ‘empowering’ to the writer.  Always try to provide response which can fuel the next step, ‘enable’ the work to move forward.

3)      Bear in mind that most of the work being responded to is ‘unfinished’.  We may be talking about a portrait in which the jaw-line has yet to be defined, or a landscape whish is still determining its exact point of horizon.

4)      Rather than delivering a final verdict or judgment {or even an on-the-spot brilliant interpretation} – register a response:  “I was confused because you had ‘A’ happening at one point and ‘B’ happening at another and I couldn’t put them together.”  “I was very moved at this specific moment because…”  “Perhaps I missed something, but I didn’t follow how you got from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’.  I didn’t see the bridge.”

5)      Make an effort to “hear with your eye” and your “kinetic ear.”  Reading a play tends to privilege the dialogue and under-privilege the non-verbal, visual, kinetic worlds of the play.  Try to ‘read’ and ‘hear’ the stage images and choreographies.

6)      Don’t write your own play.  Don’t start a statement with, “What should have happened is…”  It does not help the writer to be told he is like another, more famous writer; nor to be criticized because the material has been treated elsewhere.  On the other hand, it is important to tell the writer what was enjoyable about the play and why.  Once he understands what works, it is easier for him to deal with what does not.

7)      Avoid questions which require a direct response from the playwright.  The playwright should be ‘listening’ to what you have to say, not launching into verbal explanations that distract from that focus.  The playwright has already ‘talked’ in the script – now it is your turn to do your part by giving the writer as much helpful feedback as possible.

8)      You will start to know who’s advice is good for you, and whose may not be.  Don’t always exchange plays to be read with the same person.  Sometimes you will find the best advice from the person who for them, your style is a departure.  There is a danger in taking advice too much to heart.  It is your baby.  Perhaps the vision is clear within your mind, but not that of the reader’s.  If you believe in something, just stick with it.

9)      This process will be more valuable if you submit plays that you are working on, rather than plays you’ve already had produced.

10)   Have fun.