Responding to a Production

THE GOALS FOR RESPONDING TO BOTH ASSOCIATE AND PARTICIPATING ENTRIES:

  • To celebrate and explore the theatrical process through the benefit of a response from a reasonably objective colleague.
  • To recognize excellence in college theatre by providing opportunities for showcases, commendations and events for both student and faculty theatre artists.

THE GOALS FOR RESPONDING TO PARTICIPATING ENTRIES:

  • To choose the best work to represent the region at the Regional Festival, so the National Selection Team can evaluate it for the National Festival.
  • To choose the best and most interesting work for the benefit of all who attend the Regional Festival.

NOBODY SAID THIS WAS EASY!
If you remember ONE THING about your respondent training it is this:

YOU ARE NOT OFFERING A REVIEW OR A CRITIQUE, BUT A RESPONSE.

A BASIC MODEL FOR YOUR RESPONSE:

  • Identify yourself as a representative from KCACTF, and thank the company for participating. Some of the students you’ll be talking with have probably never attended (and may never attend) a Regional Festival. Remind them that they’re vital participants in the Festival even now, by virtue of being involved in an entry at their own school. Your being there, seeing their show in their space, and giving them an immediate response IS the heart of the Festival.
  • Remind them that not only are there the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarships but awards for design, management, directing and play-writing as well.
  • Remind the company that you are not more knowledgeable about their production than they are, you simply have the advantage of seeing it with fresh eyes.
  • Remind them not to “change” anything based on what you say, unless their director instructs them to do so.
  • Be sure you try to specifically discuss ALL of the following topics:
    Direction
    Acting
    Design including: scenic, costume, lighting, makeup, sound, properties. 
    Technical Elements
  • As soon as possible, complete the “Respondent Form.”

SOME WELL-TESTED “DO’S AND DON’TS”

  • DO find out what you can about the show BEFORE the performance. It’s important for you to just listen and find out what they want you to know. The more you know before you begin, the more appropriately informed your response can be.
  • DO your best to remain positive about the work you’ve just seen. Egos are always very fragile immediately following a performance when everyone is sometimes still on an adrenaline/applause “high.” Your goal is to celebrate and explore the work.
  • DO be thorough, but don’t be long-winded. It’s very possible to do a complete response in 20-30 minutes. It’s fine to go longer if you perceive that everyone is really “with” you, or there’s a lively dialogue going on. But 10 minutes is probably not long enough and an hour is probably too long!
  • DO work from positive statements; ease into negative aspects carefully; it’s sometimes good to couch them as questions, rather than definitive judgments.
  • DON’T let the encouragement to emphasize what is positive be misconstrued into an instruction to remain superficial or patronizing in your comments. Be sure you are honest and thoughtful and thorough.
  • DON’T feel that you need to articulate every negative aspect of the production. Pick the key points you wish to make, and focus only on those. Really encourage questions and comments; if you can get the company talking, it helps to diminish the sense that you’re there to pass judgement, but encourages them to see you as a peer who is interested in what they are doing.
  • DON’T rely on these “GUARANTEED-BAD” OPENING STATEMENTS:
    “Well, that was fun!”
    “You were all just great.”
    “How was it for you?”
    “The biggest problem was…”
    “I just directed/acted/designed this show and…”
    “When they did this show in New York/London/Kalamazoo…”
    “I’ve always thought this play as being an example of…”
    “Geez, this is the sixth production of this show I’ve seen this year.”
    “This has always been one of my least favorite plays/playwrights/styles.”
  • As soon as possible, complete the “Respondent Form.”

PLEASE REMEMBER:

  • Don’t redirect the play. This is not about you, or about your history with the play. It’s about the production you just saw. Respond to what you actually experienced. Offer opinions and questions, not judgments and credos. Avoid conjecture. Talk about what really happened in the performance.
  • Avoid personal criticisms of students (i.e. “too young/old/pretty/skinny/etc. for the role,” or “you’re just the wrong type for this”). Work to use a vocabulary you believe is both appropriate and will be accessible for the students involved. Some respondents make it a point to specifically mention every actor in the production. While this is often considered courteous and appropriate, it may not be feasible in a show with a very large cast. Do specifically discuss all the actors in major roles.
  • Don’t spend a lot of time addressing a playwright who isn’t there. While it’s fair to mention that you have some questions about the text itself, don’t spend the majority of your time discussing textual issues apart from the acting, directing, design, and production choices that were made with the script (unless it’s an original play and/or the playwright is present). If you have some problems with the script by Edward Albee, or Moliere, or Arthur Miller…mention them and then MOVE ON.

DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU!
The two most common complaints about responses are:

  • Design and technical elements are glossed over, ignored, or merely an afterthought. Maybe it’s a good idea to START with them?!
  • Nothing of substance is really offered. The response was merely a bunch of platitudes: “Gosh, it was great and I really liked it.” Even if the show WAS terrific, be sure you are specific and give them something of substance to consider and talk about later.

IRENE RYAN NOMINATIONS

  • Each Associate entry may receive up to two Irene Ryan nominations. Some schools may choose only one candidate.
  • Each Participating entry may receive up to three nominations; one each from both of the respondents, and one by the director.

It is EXTREMELY important for respondents to consult with the director immediately after the performance about Ryan nominees. Respondents need to have as much autonomy as possible in choosing the person they think is the most deserving of the nomination, but PLEASE work within whatever guidelines the director may give you. For example, if you’re seeing a show in the spring semester, then the school may not want to nominate graduating seniors who will be unable to attend the Regional Festival the next January. Or some students in the cast may have been nominated from an earlier entry; if the school would like you to nominate someone else, so as to spread the nominations around, PLEASE do so. Finally, be sure that the actor you’re thinking of nominating is in fact an eligible student.
It is NOT your responsibility to fill out the Ryan nomination form; the student’s school should do that. The Irene Ryan Nomination Form is available HERE. It IS your responsibility to make sure the school knows who you are nominating ASAP, preferably before you leave the theatre after the show. Also please choose alternates and list them in order of preference in case candidates cannot attend the festival.

If you have any questions regarding the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Audition process, contact the region’s Irene Ryan Chair.

MERITORIOUS ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS
Be on the lookout for ANY areas that are worthy of a special “Certificate of Merit” from the Region to be given out at the Festival. This should be an area THAT IS NOT ALREADY RECOGNIZED BY REGIONAL AND NATIONAL AWARD CATEGORIES. This is a way to recognize exceptional production work of any kind, whether it be by faculty or student, in additional areas.

Your recommendations for these certificates of merit are to be noted on the respondents form, BUT PLEASE DO NOT REVEAL THESE TO THE SCHOOL AS THE FINAL DETERMINATION ABOUT WHETHER A MERIT AWARD WILL BE PRESENTED LIES WITH THE REGIONAL LEADERSHIP.