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…