Thursday, August 14, 2008

A word about Feedback

I have been performing with a monologue that I absolutely adore. It just plain feels good when I am speaking those words. I feel charming, quirky, warm, funny and charismatic when I deliver it, and I feel like I am at my best when performing it.

I have used this monologue as my main introduction to who I am as a performer. And because it is so solid, the feedback I have been given has been very detailed and specific, and has generally been very useful. Most recently, I have been given an astute piece of feedback, but I have been having trouble implementing it. And the more and more I worked the feedback into the piece, the more “in my head” it became, and it started to lose the spark it once had. I became puzzled- how could incorporating good feedback cause my monologue to grow stale? It really concerned me, so I put it on a shelf for a while and didn’t use it (a while being about a month.)

I revisited the monologue again last week when I had 2 EPAs back to back that required similar monologues. And I decided to give myself a little test. I would go in for the first EPA and do the monologue to the best of my ability while incorporating the feedback I had gotten. In the second EPA, I would revert back to my old style, hoping that whatever feedback I was supposed to retain would automatically show up.

The result of the 1st EPA? Flat, flat, flat, flat FLAT! I could tell that the auditor could have cared less about my piece. Places that should have had laughter were met with silence. Ick. I had had it!

So...I took a big step for my own career and determined that, while valid, the feedback I had gotten could not be incorporated in the current monologue I was doing. Period. I would take it into consideration when reshaping it from time to time, but in general I chose to go back to my original delivery.

So... The 2nd EPA... this one was a combined audition for 3 Off-Broadway houses. And. I. NAILED. It. It was delicious! I felt like myself again, and I was so proud of the work I did. As many will tell you, confidence is ALMOST everything. They felt it. I felt it. And I felt like a million bucks coming out of that EPA.

The lesson here is that feedback that you get in a class is wonderful and valid, but it might not always translate well in the audition room. In the classroom, there is room to nit-pick. The teacher is there to shape the piece as a package, but also to enhance each of the moments within the package. But in an audition, all that matters is the package. The audition goes by so fast that all they can get is a general feeling- they aren’t there to pick apart the piece and see where there could be improvements. (It would be a special audition if there was that kind of attention!) Frankly, I think the auditor just wants to know that the actor is a) a good storyteller, and b) would be good to work with. Beyond that, they’ll see what they need to see in callbacks.

In the end, you have to be able to stand behind your piece as a reflection of who you are as a performer. Outside feedback is good, but it is OK to set it aside in favor of preserving the overall presentation. This was a huge lesson for me- and a relief! It is so nice to know that even if I set aside the feedback, I am still honoring it by giving it a good, solid try. I feel released from the burden of all of the feedback I have gotten over the years. Touchdown, Home Team!


  1. Your blog reminded me of something.

    Benjamin Franklin had a system where one week he would work on one of his (in his opinion) flaws and consistently try to improve just that thing. The next week he would not worry about that flaw, he would work on something else. But he noticed, that even though he wasn't concentrating or even thinking about the previous flaw, he was still better at that previous thing.

    While this may not have anything to do with your monolog experience, it is nevertheless often the case that having worked on a problem in the past makes it possible for us to incorporate improvements unconsciously. Which is A Good Thing(TM) because when we have to do something consciously, it sometimes interferes with what we're trying to do.

  2. This is an AMAZING comment, and explains exactly what happened. Thanks, as always, for following the blog and leaving such wonderful (and fun) responses!

  3. At first I was going to say that sometimes criticism does not help us with a piece but after reading the other comment I realized he was probably right. We probably internalize all criticism (good and bad). And it's when we stop over-thinking the criticism that it begins to work for us. Interesting topic!


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