length of critique: 600-800 words Submit in the designated DROPBOX 100pts.
(These guidelines are based on “Theatergoer’s Guide, a handbook for students” by Alvin Goldfarb, Scott Walters, and Edwin Wilson, as well as information in the text.)
Prep for theatergoing
The experience of attending theatre is usually delightful, and can be even more enjoyable with some preparation. It might be possible to ahead of time read a script of the play you will see, or google the title and see what information might be gathered about the play and/or the playwright. Many larger theatres will put information on their own website about the play including a history of its development if it is a new work. If you do read a critic’s review before attending (which I do not recommend), keep an open mind. Your response may be completely different from that of the reviewer who probably has a long history of theatergoing to influence his/her reaction and taste.
You should also pay attention to information about the venue (the location and physical presence of the theatre). Is it in a swanky section of a city so that you should not wear those jeans with holes in the knees? Usually weekend performances will see dressier audiences than weekdays. Other theatres use old warehouses or barns for performances so that any dress is acceptable. When in doubt, “business casual” is good.
An usher will hand you a program as you enter the seating section of the theatre (also called the “house”). The program often includes information on the playwright and actors, as well as a brief description of the setting and time of the play, acts and scenes, the length of intermission. Often there are notes about the play from the author or director which can be very helpful in anticipating the meaning of what you are about to see, if you read them before the show begins, or in comparing what is said to your own responses if you read them after.
Be aware of the etiquette that seems appropriate for the theatre venue you are in. Sometimes eating and drinking are perfectly acceptable, especially for cabaret style theatre, but often even something like opening candy wrappers during a show can be rude and distracting for others near you. Do not use your cell phone during any show for texting. If you feel you want to take notes during a show, keep a small pad handy and just jot words that will aid your memory later. During intermission or right after a show is the polite time to quickly jot down things you want to remember about the production.
Keep in mind that a playwright is usually trying to get an audience to see something from a perspective other than what might be usual. Try to limit judgment until you’ve had some time to think and write. Instant rejection will keep you from seeing things about the play that might really be interesting to you whether you agree with any overall message or not.
Writing the Critique
A good critique is a combination of subjective response – how you “felt” – and objective analysis. Just saying that you liked or disliked a production is not enough. The question is “Why?” did you feel a certain way. Here are some questions to help you answer the “why?”
ELEMENTS OF PERFORMANCE TO CONSIDER: read these over before you see a production so that you have an idea of on what to focus, on what to make notes…
Acting: believable? Why? Virtuoso or a complete failure? Why? Be sure to note the actor’s and his/her character’s name from the program rather than “the guy who played the lead.” Relationships between/among actors?
Directing: can you discern the director’s “concept”? ie. His main image or thought he wanted to get across to the audience? Did it work? Was there a moment when you wondered why the actors did a certain movement or expressed something in a particular way? Was that moment successful even if you…