UPDATED SEPTEMBER 2022
Critique Process Guide For Workshop Meetings
Created in 2022
Critique is an art in itself, and is arguably the most important component of the Workshop. Each one of us plays the role of Artist and Responder while at the Workshop, and periodically, we may find ourselves in the role of Moderator too.
This guide is for all characters in the play, so to speak. Please take the time to familiarize yourself with this evolving process, and try to step into all three pairs of shoes as you read this document.
Some General Guidance
A robust and fulfilling Workshop critique is best achieved through constructive criticism that gives the artist the impetus and positive motivation to improve their work. It is just as important to let Artists know what is working. When giving feedback, whether positive or negative, strive to make it very specific. If a response is “I loved it. It was great,” the Moderator should probe, “what specifically did you love? Tell us more.” Generally, questions that spark discovery in conversation between Artist and Responder are allowed, but Moderators should be ready to step in and steer conversation away from explaining or defending something away. The Artist is expected to listen and resist the urge to explain and defend. A question does not always need to be answered, but the fact that the question was posed can inform the Artist.
The Three Steps
With new members coming into the Workshop regularly, it is important that the Moderator explain the three-step process as we progress through critique. Often members forget that there is a process in place that has a purpose, a process that is based on the science of human responses*. Reminders are helpful. It is expected that members respect this process and give it a chance to work. When followed properly, Artists and Responders get a lot out of the critique.
Part 1. Statements of Meaning: Responders are asked to share their experience of what was stimulating, interesting, meaningful, compelling, moving, or exciting about what they just saw. Before calling on anyone, the Moderator will remind the Responders that this step is asking for that brief, specific prompt. The Moderator might say: “What moved you, excited you, struck you about what you just saw? Please remember that all other comments will be held until step 3.” If a Responder begins to bypass the first step by giving additional critique, unprompted, the Moderator will politely stop them and ask that they hold that thought until a bit later in the process. Moderators should not linger too long on this 1st step, to allow for more time to be spent in steps 2 and 3.
Part 2. The Artist Asks Questions: The Artist asks a specific question(s) for the Responders, i.e., “What emotion did you feel at the end? How was the pacing? How did the main character come across to you? What part were you most engaged in? What part were you least engaged in? When did you suspect who the killer might be?” Remember to stay on topic during this step. For instance, if the Artist’s question is about pacing, Responders should not make comments on anything but pacing, until step three. Artists - really think about what you are looking to get out of sharing your work. Preparing your question(s) ahead of time will make the critique experience more beneficial for all participants. Helpful tip: open-ended and content related questions lead to better discussions.
Part 3. Further Feedback: The Moderator opens the floor for further feedback, deepening the experience for both the Artist and the Responders. Helpful tip: If a Responder is not sure if the Artist is open to hearing their feedback on a certain aspect, it is helpful for that Responder to ask permission. Usually, at this point, the Artist will say yes because their defenses are lowered, and they feel more ready and open to make discoveries.
For Presenters: Before your presentation, please give a brief introduction to your piece. Be sure to check in with the meeting Moderator and the Responders regarding any specific critique parameters you might request Responders to follow before critique begins. For instance, you may only be looking for feedback on your performance, and not on the writing or the directing of the piece. It is your responsibility to let us know, but it is also the Responders’ responsibility to honor your request. Keeping to your request(s) will be steered by the Moderator. Contrarily, you may be open for feedback on all disciplines, such as the directing, the performance, as well as the writing. Please be sure to say so at the start of the critique.
For Responders: Please try to stay within the order of the 3 step process. Responders will be gently guided to keep their responses on topic to the question that has been posed. The goal is, that once we’ve all gotten to step three, a free flow of critique has been earned and both the Responder and the Artist are more open to discovery. An underlying premise of the Critical Response Process (which our process borrows from) is that people learn best when they are not defensive. Steps 1 & 2 lay that groundwork.
This critique process was inspired by and developed from Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process. We have made modifications to fit the needs of Theatre Artists Workshop. This is an evolving document.