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CRITIQUING  Rating:  Rating
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 Posted: Thu Jun 15th, 2006 09:09 pm
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Paddy
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Mana: 
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 feed back 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 privelege the dialogue and under-privelege 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 the their turn to do their 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.

 

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 Posted: Thu Jan 4th, 2007 02:05 pm
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Edd
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Mana: 
This is important and should be read by all members.  This morning I read a response to a post that rewrote the author's work into an agenda having nothing to do with the original work.

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 Posted: Thu Jan 4th, 2007 05:17 pm
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scenedreamer
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Mana: 
Boy this critiquing stuff is hard.  Almost as hard as writing a play.

I'm a total klutz at it.  If I like the play, all I can say is, "I like it," and I'm usually not sure why.  Though that may be the nice thing to do, it may not be helpful. 

If I like a play, but think it could be better, I go off the deep end and start trying to re-write or in fear sometimes come across as too critical. 

Actually I'm half afraid to critique someone's work.  I don't want to be nasty and I also don't want to post nothing but sweet pablum either. 

There has to be a happy medium somewhere. 

Maybe those of you who are good at it (and there are many here) could help the rest of us out.  Perhaps in private messages to avoid the "piling on" that sometimes happens.

sd

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 Posted: Mon Jul 9th, 2007 11:58 pm
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mikej
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Mana: 
yep, i like to start with a moment reflecting what the author wants to say and then find a suggestion as to how i can point her/him toward focusing and sharpening that statement.

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 Posted: Fri Mar 21st, 2008 05:40 pm
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Deirdre
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Mana: 
Is it too burdensome to post an entire full length play for read through comments and critiques?
I appreciate that it's a big committment in time and it seems like most of the plays posted are excerpts or shorter than full length.



D

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 Posted: Sun Apr 6th, 2008 11:19 pm
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theatralite
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I consider your advice on critiquing very sound but I thought

I might briefly share a slightly weird experience I had earlier

this year re feedback on one of my plays.

I went to a meeting of a group looking for one act plays to enter

into a festival. There was an open invitation to take plays along

to be read for consideration.

So I took along one of my own one-act plays. The reading went

extremely well. Perhaps not surprisingly since all present were

experienced actors/actresses. It was interesting to hear the play

read and see whether the dialogue worked or not.

 

 



At the end, however, the play was greeted with a long silence.

Whether they were trying to spare my feelings or not I don't know?

They quickly moved on to another play and that was that. OK at the

end of the meeting the organiser thank me for bringing my play along

but that was that! I rationalised that at least I'd got a reading out

of the group. But I shall never know whether they loved or hated it,

or why?

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 Posted: Tue Dec 23rd, 2008 05:16 pm
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Edd
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Mana: 
Again it is time to bring this to the surface.  This morning there was a critique posted that had no other constructive criticism other than to say, "I hated it."  Postings of this nature will not be tolerated.

Thank you,
Edd

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 Posted: Tue Dec 23rd, 2008 08:21 pm
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Mary Alice
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Mana: 
  I agree with what has been written here, but find it very general.  What is useful to me may not be useful to the author of the play I have taken the time to read and critique.
  I have read many of the posts here and respond when there is something I find stimulating.
  I have found all of the comments and critiques of my work useful.
  Perhaps it would be helpful, if critiques are desired only by specific individuals, for the post to be directed to those individuals?

Mary Alice

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 Posted: Fri Jan 9th, 2009 08:18 am
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Marc-Andre
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I like when someone takes the time to write a constructive critique that helps me (regardless of whether it is in response to my own post or not) on the technical aspects, to develop the craft. Critiques on moral or values easily become "judgemental" and I find this especially unfair when it's done on a work-in-progress. I do like to have feedback on clarity though.

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 Posted: Wed Jul 22nd, 2009 02:29 pm
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erslyman
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Mana: 
I understand the dislike of a critique that doesn't explain much about why something failed. Leaves us guessing.

On the other hand, such a response, however negative, is a legitimate response. The critique may not know how to improve a work. And not a flame. Flaming is another thing altogether

I am grateful for any critique because it's a response. No response gives me nothing. I'm grateful because I've been critiqued before. A too polite critique often may come off polyannish, sweetly cloying.

I'd rather hear the harsh critique response. Critiques are just responses. Very little else. Our reponse to a critique varies from playwright to playwright.

Disagreement about a play's worth occurs. We should try to identify more specifically why we find a work shallow or not whole.

Though the critiquer isn't perfect. And critiquing critiques is rather worthless. I see you posted guidelines. I thought they were good. I also thought they were wishy-washy in some instances.

The real writer hasn't got a thin skin. He/she's capable of enduring responses of every kind. It's all grist for the mill.

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 Posted: Wed Jul 22nd, 2009 02:45 pm
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Paddy
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Mana: 
There is a huge disadvantage to being a bit blind here on the internet.  I agree that if all you say is kind words, it's not helpful and this would become a mutual pat on the back society.

However, in a room with people you know, you have a sense of who they are.  In a playwright's group, you know who's opinion you value, and whose you don't - and the ones you don't may simply be because your tastes are so different.

As an example...I don't like Kitchen plays.  I try to avoid commenting on them, because it's a style of theatre that does't appeal to me.

In a sense, it's more difficult to receive harsh critiques when you cannot actually connect with a person.

Personally, I feel better when someone hates something I write, than I would feel if they said it was lovely - the kiss of death for me.

There are now 1000 people on this site, and although there are probably thirty or so who regularly post here, it is difficult to get a sense of who people are.

Perhaps if people really like people to get gritty with their critiques, they should say so at the end of their post.

Paddy

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 Posted: Fri Jul 24th, 2009 04:25 am
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nic
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Mana: 
It's a good point Paddy. I don't usually let anyone see my work until I think it's finished. But with a play I'm working on at present  I  know it isn't going anywhere and I don't or didn't know why. I took it to a friend who's opinion I value and he agreed that it was crap and then together we tried to work out why...  a whole new play is starting to open up.

 The point being that I knew I needed help and was prepared to turn to someone who's opinion I value.

 The best Nic

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 Posted: Fri Jul 23rd, 2010 01:58 pm
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Christine Rossetti
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Mana: 
Hello,

This is the first time I am using this website, I have tried to send a new topic with an attachment however every time it was said that they were an error with the attachment. I tried many times but the same thing happened.

Could you kindly help me or tell me how to proceed.

Thank you so much

 

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 Posted: Fri Jul 23rd, 2010 02:00 pm
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Edd
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Mana: 
I have never had luck with attachments either.  Always best to cut and paste.

Welcome to our forum, Christine.  You'll find our members friendly and helpful.

~Edd

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 Posted: Fri Jul 23rd, 2010 02:29 pm
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Paddy
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Mana: 
Try cut and paste into word pad or something like it, then cut and paste that into your message.

If you're lucky, the formatting won't be so spread apart, which makes it annoying to read.

Welcome.

Just a note, if you are brand new, and haven't posted before, I'd suggest taking a bit of time to comment on a few things, or read other people's work. Those of us who've been here for a long time have had a lot of experience with new members who post and run. You spend time reading and critiquing their play, and either they don't come back, or the only reason they join was to post work. It's very much a give and receive here. Because of this, if you post a play too quickly, it's unlikely to be read by man.

Paddy

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 Posted: Fri Jul 23rd, 2010 02:42 pm
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Christine Rossetti
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Mana: 
Thank you for your quick reply. I have done what you have adviced. Hope it will be okay.

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 Posted: Fri Jul 23rd, 2010 02:44 pm
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Christine Rossetti
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Mana: 
Thank you. I have read some of the posts and also the vistors comments. However as you have mentionned when I have cut and paste my work it was not good, maybe we will hard to read as you have said. Is it possible to cancel the post and do it again ? Thanks for your help.

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 Posted: Fri Jul 23rd, 2010 03:29 pm
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Edd
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Mana: 
Just highlight everything and hit delete on your computer and then re-paste.  It's going to be changed, but we're all used to it.  Other than that I have no other advice.

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 Posted: Sat May 25th, 2013 09:57 am
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lafseo
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Mana: 
SPAM deleted. I have forgotten how to delete the spammer. Paddy, would you take care of the culprit. Thanks. XO

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 Posted: Mon Sep 11th, 2017 04:32 am
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noviceplaywright
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As a novice playwright, I don't feel qualified to critique others' plays, nor do I ask others to critique my own, because writing and playwriting is subjective.

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 Posted: Mon Sep 11th, 2017 05:56 am
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Edd
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Novice, then who are you writing for? Yourself? The like-minded, or an audience that could be any, or all of us? Best to learn early on that theatre is a collaboration. And keep in mind that it's not about you—it about the play. Hey, you wouldn't believe how many others helped my plays appear far better than they would have otherwise. Subjective my ass. ;-) Listen to honest and caring reactions. You can critique by telling how it felt to you. That's pretty much as far as the general audience goes.

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