We have had some official feedback on As Far As We Know, and the feedback has been good, which is enormously gratifying. I know reviews are not supposed to mean anything; nevertheless, they do, and not just as regards ticket sales. No, in spite of making every effort to judge my work by the process and personal standards, it remains work that exists to communicate with others, and when the dialogue is one that the audience is showing their appreciation for it make it far more worthwhile. As you know from previous entries (8/8/07 & 8/15/07), New York Magazine began by citing us as 1 of 5 of the most promising-sounding shows of the Fringe Festival, and we had a very nice 'blog review from an audience member who attended opening night.
As a result of Tuesday night's show (ironically enough for me [see 8/15/07]), we now have two more good responses: one from American Theatre, the other from Time Out New York. Actually, the one from TONY is a fantastic review, save their confusion over who is now playing the character of Connie. I do believe it's the first time anything I've worked on has ever been assigned five stars. Actually, it's probably the first time stars have been at all applied to something I've worked on, what with that generally being a restaurant rating system. And a kindergarten incentive. But I digress.
The idea is not so much that you're not supposed to care what the critics think. It's more that you're supposed to care about and believe in your work so much more. Let's face it, though: We can only have so much objectivity about our selves. People need mirrors, and the mirrors that matter most are the ones that write scathing reviews in newspapers, or 'blogs. (Picture that, if you will. [I picture a hand mirror doing that weird floaty thing Disney inanimate objects sometimes do, wrapping its handle around a quill pen.]) Anyway, when it's all said and done, I'd just as soon only ever hear about the glowing reviews. Somehow that never happens though.
Lots of actors refuse to read reviews prior to the closing of the show, most of them on the argument that they don't want it to influence their confidence or performance. And it's true--simply hearing observations on one's work in this regard, good, bad or mixed, tends to make one self-conscious, and that would be terrible to take on stage with you. This used to be my philosophy, but it's changed recently, and not because of these good reviews. In fact, it changed because of bad ones.
Back in the spring I shared some feelings here about the reviews and feedback I was receiving for my performance in A Lie of the Mind (see 4/25/07). I found them demoralizing, when taken all together. I knew that it was not my best work for a variety of reasons (not the least of which was my learn-as-I-go process with Shepard's writing), yet the reviews made me feel as though I had no right to be up on the stage at all. The show closed with good feelings all around, and some rallied to support me when I expressed this angst, for which I am still very grateful, but I had to take some time to evaluate the experience. As Far As We Know has been my first show since, and I decided to read the reviews as they came in.
My reasoning is that I don't want to work in a bubble. Art is an interaction, and I feel that as an artist (God, it still creeps me out to call myself that) I ought to allow myself the opportunity to respond to all kinds of feedback. It's true that acting is a delicate creation, and the urge to please can quickly override the sense of truth in an actor's work, but if I can't maintain my priorities in the face of opinion, just how skilled an artist am I? Some may even argue that actors in this culture don't get enough time to develop their work in rehearsal, and need to insulate themselves from uninformed feedback well into performances. Poppycock, say I. (I say it all the time, actually, which is I think part of why nobody ever wants to watch sports with me.) Once you've put yourself in front of a paying audience, you're no longer in the safety of the rehearsal room, and you better realize that. It's just a different phase of discovery, one that requires that audience. Besides, "uninformed feedback" is what we care about most. If we only wanted to perform for theatre professors, we could just stay in our little rehearsal studio and accept the sound of patting our own backs for applause.
Naturally, it's up to the individual performer whether or not he or she will read reviews during a run, or at all. I just say that it's not blasphemy to choose to hear what people are saying.
Oh, and reserve your tickets for As Far As We Know. We are a ***** show.