Teaching Drama

Did you like it?

That’s a question I get all the time from student actors. Did you like our play? Did you like my monologue? Did you like our scene? Did you like what I did? More often than not, (and actually there’s never a ‘not’) I answer in the affirmative. And it’s not a lie. Because in a high school production what I like has little to do with the final product.

  • I like effort.
  • I like choices.
  • I like risk.
  • I like it when a student gets on stage for the first time and feels accomplishment.
  • I like actors having fun.
  • I like hearing rehearsal stories.
  • I like energy.

So when asked, did you…… it’s very easy for me to say yes because one of the above, or all of the above is happening.

I recently got the question in an adjudication context which is different. I was the adjudicator, and the question asked was whether or not I liked a certain take on one of the characters.

An adjudication context is different because it is about the final production. You’re judging what you see on stage. And also, while it’s important to be positive and constructive, you can’t run around saying you love everything, either. It’s been over 25 years and Craig STILL remembers the adjudicator who told his high school cast that they loved everything about a certain production and the show ended up with no awards. Which means the adjudicator was lying. Ask Craig what he thinks about that adjudicator. He won’t mince words.

But here’s the problem. If I say yes I like or no I don’t like what does that mean? Does that mean the actor was right or wrong? Does it validate or wipe out the choices made? Like and dislike are so intangible and, particularly with theatre, so subjective. And sometimes when a student asks, “Did you like…” they are also saying “Did you like me?”

And this particular time when I was asked, I didn’t like what the actor had done with the character. So what do you do? What did I do?

It all comes down choices. If the actor is making choices, and able to defend the choices made, I can very easily say, “I like that you made a bold choice. It wasn’t my cup of tea but I respect the choice.” Because I do.

It was good for me to get that question and be pinned down to answer it (I tried to avoid answering initially) because I have to have a truthful answer in that situation. I cannot say one thing and do another. I cannot say “I loved it!” and give no reward. I have to have a tangible response. Always learning, always learning…

About the author

Lindsay Price

2 Comments

  • At the moment I am attempting to teach this concept to my year 11 Drama students. Tomorrow they are going to a production and I am not entirely sure they will ‘like’ it. I haven’t seen it myself but what I know of it it has some … more sophisticated use of theatrical conventions etc.
    But they have to review a live piece of theatre as part of the curriculum. What I am trying to teach them is that it’s not a review as in, I like it, it made me feel good, it was funny. It is a review of the actors choices, interpretations, the way he manipulates expressive skills to create character, his choices on theatrical conventions and dramatic elements. They can not enjoy the content but still state that the actor was covincing because of his use of facial expression etc. I hope I don’t read 12 reviews on it being wonderful or terrible.

  • It’s a hard concept to grasp, especially the notion that just because someone doesn’t “like” something doesn’t mean it’s bad. We can go further too to say that what we should be looking for is did the production have a vision, and how is that vision fulfilled? What is the production trying to accomplish and are they successful with their intentions?