As I have heard many times from folks in the theatre, you are never as good nor never as bad as the critics give you credit for. I think that really is a healthy way to look at critics – ALL critics, even those who aren’t pros and don’t have the slightest clue what they’re talking about. But they have an opinion, and they are part of what make up our audience. Thus, I feel that it is always wise to hear someone out who wants to share his or her opinion with you about your work – except for when it is clearly coming from a mean or evil place. Then I say …. talk to the hand.
But back to audience response – especially difficult audience response (i.e. people who didn’t just “love” everything you did). I think it’s important to hear folks out because you just never know what nugget you might find in what they share. Remember, they are people carrying their own baggage with them. And sometimes honest and heart-felt communication is misinterpreted because of their baggage and sometime because of OUR baggage.
Let me share an experience I had. Not too long ago I did a show at a club in the DC area. After the show, people stuck around a bit. So, I started chatting with various audience members – thanking them for coming out, etc. Anyway, after several very favorable conversations, I introduced myself to one older gentleman who proceeded to go on about this and that regarding my show. All negatives. Well, I was a little taken aback. Even so, I somehow managed to just listen and told him I was interested in his point of view. But I never once agreed with him … until he got to my original song.
You see, I was debuting an original song (debuting the fact that I write songs, period) in this particular show. It was my first original song ever sung in public. Suddenly he became even more animated and proceeded to tell me that my original song grabbed his attention, and I had him from then till the end of the show. He thought the last half of my show was great — all because of my original song. Well now, that was worth hearing!
If I had to guess, I’d say he has a difficult time saying nice things to people. So before he could say anything positive, he had to beat me over the head with perceived (or invented) negatives. Then, once he’d built a big enough hole in my pride, he could give me something to help repair it. Guess what? I let the dishonest negatives wash away, and I kept my little nugget of a comment to learn from and build with. I was already working on additional new songs. Soon I’ll have enough original tunes to fill a whole show without doing covers (unless I choose to for the show). And if he’s in the audience next time, I’ll listen to his comments again … with a grain of salt, of course.