Thursday, September 27, 2012

Opinion: Robert Faires Asks, 'What If You Really Hated the Performance?'

Austin CHronicle, Texas

Robert Faires, arts editor of the Austin Chronicle
Robert Faires (photo: Leon Alesi)

All Over Creation

When the Truth Hurts

After suffering through a friend's lousy show, is honesty the best policy?

by Robert Faires, Sept. 27, 2012

We've all been there – well, all of us who have friends or loved ones in the arts, anyway: waiting for a relative/BFF/significant other after having just seen his or her latest creative endeavor and the damn thing made you nod off/go postal/lose the will to live. What do you say to someone you're close to when you feel like a project they were a part of – or (horrors!) solely responsible for – left a stink to make a rancid egg and sulphur soufflĂ© smell like Nana's home-baked bread? Do you give it to them with both barrels, trusting in the strength of your relationship to heal whatever emotional or psychic damage your 12-gauge honesty will inflict? Do you lie, swallowing whole your critical distaste (or revulsion, as the case may be), and offer up an unequivocal pair of thumbs pointed skyward? Or do you seek some middle ground, a remark that's hazy enough to sound like a compliment yet leaves you enough wiggle room to be neutral in expressing an actual opinion? The time spent weighing that decision can be supremely uncomfortable, even excruciating, not least because it's as close as many of us ever come to a true moral dilemma.

The matter resurfaced recently among a group of actors I was with, as one had just found herself caught again in its discomfiting grip. She'd seen a play because she knew someone in it, and she hadn't liked it – I mean, really hadn't liked it – and was torn about what to tell her actor friend once he emerged from the dressing room. She didn't want to be hurtful, and yet her response to the show was so negative that she didn't feel right chirping to him, "It was great!" This quandary, while difficult for anyone, whether they're in the arts or not, seems especially vexing for theatre people. They take a certain pride in their strong opinions and feel any moderation of their candid response chips away at their integrity. But because they know firsthand how much positive audience reactions mean to performers – it directly affects their work onstage, after all – and how crushing it can be to hear even a lukewarm appraisal of one's efforts, they're loath to dish out such cruelty to their fellow artists' faces. (Behind their backs? Now that's another story.)

Read more at the Austin Chronicle. . . .

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