Sunday, May 07, 2006

Turning Negatives Into Positives

My show closed on Sunday. It was a good run, but it's the end of the school year, and I'm a bit fried. I need a break. So even though the show was a lot of fun and gave me the chance to work with some friends I'd always wanted to work with, I'm happy that we're finally closed.

Local critics have been less than kind in reviewing our show. It's hard to be fully objective about a show you're in, I think, but my fellow cast members and I really felt we had a good show. Is it the best show I've ever been in? No? Is it the greatest script ever written? No. But I think it was a really good production of this particular play, and we all felt good about the work we'd done. We got a D- in one review and one star (out of four, I believe) in another, and I really don't think the show is that bad. I'd probably give it a B (or a C+ at the very minimum). I just didn't think either review was an accurate portrayal of what the production actually was like, and judging from audience response, I think I'm right. I had so many people tell us they really enjoyed the show and even had some tell me it was their favorite show of the season (I don't think I would go so far as to say it was the best show of the season, but it's a nice compliment nonetheless).

Frankly, I don't really care what critics say, good or bad. I lived with a theatre critic for six months, and I can tell you that critics are just people with opinions, and he and I often disagreed on our assessments of shows we saw. But I liked him, and he still remains a close friend to this day. All I know is that I know when I'm proud of my work and when I'm not. I was in a show once that stank to high heaven, in my opinion, and yet audiences seemed to really like it. I would tell my fellow friends (and some cast members who agreed with my assessment), "just imagine how they'd react if the show were any good." And then I've been in things that I was very proud of that just got slammed by the critics. I still maintain that some of my best work was in a show that got panned by a local critic, and nothing she said makes me feel any differently. But as I said, one can't be completely objective about one's own work.

What I do know is that I can't control what is said about my work or how people feel about my acting. Most people seem to agree that I'm a pretty good actor. I feel like I am. But regardless, I know when I'm pleased about my work and when I'm not, and no outside influence can really have that much of an impact on me unless I choose to allow it. I will certainly take the feedback of people whose opinions I respect. If anything, I am my own worst critic. If I'm not measuring up to my own standards, than I'm in trouble. I'm a perfectionist by nature, which gets me in trouble with myself sometimes. But as life has gone on, I am getting better at looking at myself with a less critical eye. I was once told by my mission president that I am the judge, jury, and executioner in one, and I think I've gotten much better at not being as hard on myself.

Anyway, my point in even writing all this was that one of the reviews about my play said some rather harsh things, but the writer was very good at writing, which I don't often find to be the case among theatre reviewers. He was just very clever and witty and entertaining, and I found myself laughing at many of the things he said, even if I didn't agree with them. I decided to write him an email. I wrote, in part, the following:

I just wanted to say that even though I am one of the actors in this production that you panned, I enjoyed reading your review of it. While I am obviously disappointed that you didn't enjoy the show and even though I don't agree with your assessment of it, I do have to give you kudos for being a good writer. Your review was both entertaining and clever.
I'm also glad that I somehow escaped mention in your review. I don't necessarily take that to mean that you liked my performance any better than those of my fellow actors. In fact, I'm willing to bet you didn't. But it's nice to know that I somehow was able to evade the wrath of your acid pen.
Anyway, I don't take reviews, good or bad, too seriously. I just wanted to write to let you know I enjoy your style. I'm just sorry we didn't live up to your expectations and hope that [our next] production...will be a more positive experience for you. In any case, keep up the good writing. You've got a fine talent there.



The critic responded with the following:

You are a class act, [Cody].

It takes a certain character, especially as a member of a cast of a play I disliked, to write to me and say such kind things. I donĂ‚’t know if I'd be capable of it were the situation reversed.

Overall, I enjoy [your theater's] productions very much; this one just rubbed me the wrong way. And also, it is because I am so rarely let down by [your theater]---which is the group I look forward to seeing the most in town---that my disappointment and perhaps even anger may have been provoked to that degree. The reason you were not mentioned is because after about a half-hour of this play, it was difficult for me to find much to like anywhere in it, but you did good work in what I thought was a sub-par production. And you know that I've talked about you in reviews of past productions, as I believe you to be a genuine talent.

Please accept my gratitude for your lovely note, especially under the circumstances. You can probably imagine that critics aren't often the object of anyone's admiration. You made my day.

I look forward to seeing you on stage again very soon.

Anyway, it was agood lesson to me that one can take a seemingly negative thing and gain something positive from it.

I always say, "We can't control our circumstances, but we certainly can control our attitudes and reactions regarding those circumstances.

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