I am an educator, a director, an actor, a creator... all of these things. I have my opinions, theories, my own style, my own biases and beliefs. One of my beliefs is that critisizm cannot be constructive unless it focuses on what needs to be improved as well as what does NOT. If you don't mention the good along with the bad, if you don't praise as well as critique, if you don't point out triumphs as well as problems then you leave those you are trying to help with only negative comments. And after enough of that, they may begin to lose heart in what they're doing, because even though they did 20 great things, only the 3 shaky ones were discussed publicly.
I bust my ass to point out the positive as well as the negative when I'm giving feedback to my improv group. I don't do it because I want to make them feel good, I do it because I honestly believe that it's necessary for creative growth. You have to take care of the lawn while you pull out the weeds or you'll just have a plot of dirt with holes where the weeds were.
I don't think I've communicated this to them as well as I'd hoped. Sunday night we sat down and reviewed last week's show. The show was a good show. Sure, it wasn't perfect, but it was a good show. And yet most of the focus for them was on the negatives. Everyone talked about what needed work, and where mistakes were made. I felt like I was the only one pointing out the good stuff most of the time, so it was difficult.
And then it came to the point where we discussed the MECHANICS of the show itself. This is where my evening took a turn for the worst. I'm not sure that anyone realized that every time they suggested/demanded/requested a change to how we do things, they were directly critiquing ideas and plans that I had brought to the group. They were basically telling me "this thing you had us do didn't work so let's change it." My experience with actually DOING this stuff professionally was forgotten, and because something wasn't perfect the first time out, everyone seemed to think it needed to be changed to make it better regardless of the fact that practice alone would automatically MAKE it better. By the time people were done suggesting changes to how we do things I felt as if I'd been the guy lying in the bunk when everyone puts a bar of soap in their pillowcase and wails on them repeatedly. Not a single positive was brought up the entire time. Only things that didn't work perfectly and needed to be "fixed" were brought up. It honestly felt like people expected me to make them perfect, and when that didn't happen everything I've contributed seemed to be pitched out the window in favor of mob consensus because everyone else knows what works better than the guy who used to get paid to do this.
I'm not saying that I'm the be all end all of improv. Not by a long shot. But I've been there. I've seen what works and what's necessary to make it work. And changing everything that doesn't work the first time it's done is NOT what's necessary. Impatience is NOT going to make the situation better. Showing up on time will help. Focusing will help. Paying attention while other people are speaking will help. PRACTICE will help.
But then, I'm just the Artistic Director. I don't have ultimate authority, so I guess the group consensus will drive us where it wills. I just hope I don't give up the ghost before we get where we're going.
Deciding to post anyway