Saturday, January 31, 2009

If you can't say something nice, don't say.....

...anything at all--you knew the ending to that phrase.

Community theatre groups work on their plays with passion and energy to put on the best production their time, space, and funds will allow. Actors and actresses will spend hundreds of dollars on just the right pair of boots, or a wig to make them look the part that they are playing.

Our town has a lot of community theatre groups. I seem to recall that my own mother and father met in a community theatre group. So maybe that's why I've always wanted to get involved in community theatre in some capacity.

Being a widow, with no one to complain how late I arrive home, I've had lots of chances to work with community theatre groups. You either have to be a single or have a very understanding spouse, or two theatre nuts have to be married to make this theatre commitment work. Many of the people I have met are in the same situation as I am, single. I've met couples involved in the work together. One lady who played Joanna in "Move Over Mrs. Markham" showed up at our opening night last week, unable to see her husband, who played Phillip in the same play in his opening night performance on another play. Compromises need to be made in this case.

Community theatre groups always think what they have done is the be-all, end-all to any production on the boards at that given time. When I put my heart and soul into making 120 costume pieces for a play, (like I did in "The Music Man"), I think it should get a good critical review. The review was not raving, not terrible, and definitely pointed out some chinks in the armor of that play. This opened my eyes to the role that local critics play in judging the quality of plays that they see.

Our local "critic's panel" works for a radio station that fosters the arts, KDHX-St. Louis. For our latest play that was revued, "Prelude to a Kiss" the lead actors were lauded, several of the side actors and actresses were mentioned, and I got a nod from a very picky critic. "Costumes (SewWhat) were appropriate." Now was that a ringing endorsement or a simple nod that they were OK?

When I costumed Oklahoma last summer, the critic mentioned that the pig farmer's shoes were too clean--no other mention of the costumes. I think for The Music Man, some mention of colorful costumes was made. So I guess the work appropriate may be a high compliment, according to these very picky critics.

I like to say something nice about each thing I critique, no matter how small it may be. When the critics say they yawned through the entire thing, or they had a bad attitude about even coming (Last summer's Oklahoma's critique started out, WHY DID THEY EVEN PICK THIS PLAY TO DO?) And this was for a show that had two sold out houses in a 600 seat theatre! Or they couldn't even muster up a laugh when the audience was cracking up, I say it's time to turn over the critic job to someone else, you are definitely overworked and have really become jaded.

But if you want a real true estimate of the merit and flaws of what the production value of your play, these critics seem to nail it. Maybe we don't like to see the warts, just the beauty. But we are learning our craft, and pointing out flaws helps us to know what needs to be changed the next time we do productions.

But as I said, if you can't say something nice, maybe you should just shut up.

Read critique of "Prelude to a Kiss" on KDHX-St. Louis website. Go to "Community" then to "Current Reviews" page through to Prelude... Jan. 23-Feb. 1, 2009

No comments: