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1000 Playwright Interviews The first interview I posted was on June 3, 2009.  It was Jimmy Comtois.  I decided I would start interview...

Aug 14, 2007

For some crazy reason I started reading some of the bad reviews of my
previous plays. Don't ask me why. It's amazing how many voices in
our day to day writing life say "no" and "bad" and amazing how many
people want your play to be something other than what it is. If you
listened to these people and let them in and believe everything they
say, you would implode.

Sometimes you just have to be like, fuck you. this is my play. this
is the way i want to write it. Your idea will not help it. I do not
need to know you don't like it. i do not need to know what you need a
play to be.

You can't create anything new if you are worried about pleasing people.

At the same time, there are smart people sometime who know what they
are talking about and can help you and when they speak they are maybe
not saying what you want to hear about your play, but you know they
are right and you know you should work towards the things they are

Survival in this field is all about navigating these voices. I got a
show coming up and maybe I should go back to not reading reviews
again. I know what this play is. I know its strengths and weaknesses
and I will learn everythign I need to know by sitting in the audience
and feeling their energy. Do I need to read what someone thinks of
the show? Not really. Who said that if you believe the good reviews,
you have to believe the bad reviews? I'm not sure how you can do that
when they contradict but again, i'm taking everything too literally.


mbh said...

The voices have power, so diminish them by diminishing what they say.

Rejections and bad reviews get shredded... it's fun.

The voice makes negative comments? Write them down... then shred them.

Adam said...

yeah, although it's hard to shred the everpresent internet.

Jaime said...

Sometimes you just have to be like, fuck you. this is my play. this is the way i want to write it. Your idea will not help it. I do not need to know you don't like it. i do not need to know what you need a play to be.

I wish people said this more often.

Adam said...

they do, jamie. They just never say it out loud.

but i agree there are people who need to learn to say it.

August said...

An interesting question is if there has ever been a 'bad' review that you valued for the level of engagement it offered with your play. The 'bad' reviews I've recieved haven't been so much bad as just dismissive, as if the reveiwer had something better to do than actually talk about the play he or she'd just seen. I have also had 'good' reviews that seemed like they were talking about a different play. One such praised my play as "a pleasing palliative", when the play ended with a woman beating her male lover to death.
In the sum of reviews I've recieved as an actor and playwright, there have only been two (one for each) that actually made me feel like my work had been fully considered. I understand that in print, there are severe constraints in word-count, but that only makes the increasing online presence of criticism all the more important. And yet...so many of the reviews I've read lately online don't seem to take that opportunity to really engage in a deeply critical way. They either blandly rave or blindly pan and that's that. Do we really need one more rave that ends with some variation of "XYZ is a playwright/company/actor to watch out for?" Or one more pan that ends with some oh-so-witty/catty dig that offers no real insight into why the play doesn't work? Has anyone read a review recently, online or otherwise, that actually had one tenth of the value to the field as the work they were critiqueing? Is it too much to expect even an ounce of Woolf and Pater, who wrote the kind of criticism that actually made you want to create?

Mac said...

Hi Adam,

Truthfully, I don't mind a rigorously bad review, one that really applies itself to a negative argument or analysis, so much as I object to a *lazy* bad review, one that dismisses a play without really taking it on. I've read reviews where a critique was supported by citing part of the plot - but innacurately. I'm always like, "Don't I have any recourse for this? If the critique is *factually disprovable*?"

But I always have this feeling like I can't possibly look credible complaining about a bad review, so I gag myself.

Mac said...

Awesome. Gus and I just wrote the same comment at the same time.

August said...

Nice (and psyched to see your show this week, Mac!)

Mac said...

Psyched likewise for yours and A-Szy's!

My friend Brent draws my attention to an artist who regularly takes on his critics:


Adam said...

I had a bad reviewer who actually clearly had read another bad review of the same play and used some of the same imagery.

i wish we could review reviewers, but honestly, most of the time I don't even read them.