Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Post Performance Depression

In the throes of rehearsal and performance it's easy to claim objectivity, but the truth is if you're not 100 percent committed to your choices, your subtext and your belief that this is the best performance you can give, you're sunk. Objectivity comes once the show closes. You walk away from the emotional investment and the dissection begins. Too often I'm tempted to just walk away leaving any serious reflection on the performance to be overwhelmed by the anxiety of "What's next?"

When asked recently by a friend "How'd it go?" it occured to me there are really three different aspects to consider. Personally, it's incumbent on you to examine your own process and ask yourself: "Did I do everything I could to prepare? How do I feel about the choices I made? Did I learn anything about my process, my limitations, my strengths? All very self-centered, but very relevant. It seems to me, self-examination is crucial, but it can't end there.

Adjudication of a production maybe one of the things I miss most about acting school productions. The value of getting perspectives of other 'qualified' practioners seems to be lost in the world of professional theatre. There's a tendency to either hand out polite congratulations or assume the tiring and equally useless know-it-all stance. The art of constructive and impassioned discussion of productions is left to critics, good ones anyway, who still accept the possibility that something can be flawed but still worth seeing. Critical analysis of the craft is dangerously missing from the dialouge and it can only be assumed it's because we learned all there is to learn and that if you don't get it...well that's your problem not mine.

I'm sure there are many an audience member who will take offense and being lumped outside the category of the critically minded, but I think there's a distinction worth noting. If the critical component is rooted in craft and the cold rationality of analysis, the audience occupies the emotional side of the equation. Their reaction is the gauge, the payoff. Anyone who claims to not care what the audience thinks is missing the point of the craft which on some level has to be about the communication of an idea; it's the intersection of having something to say and someone listening. The humble acceptance of audience's participation, whether good or bad, is fundamental. If it isn't why do it at all.

The actor, the craft and the audience all deserve our attention. With a little distance from the production, I hope I can think about those with a clear more objective eye.