One of the things we do as artists is to support each others work whenever possible. Support. What does that mean exactly? First of all, it means showing up at that art exhibit, that play, that film, that reading, that comedy show. Does that mean we have to enjoy it? And if not, do we tell our friends the truth? Having been on both sides of this street, I say it's a sticky situation.
Tonight I attended a play that was the directorial debut of a friend of mine. I tagged along with two other mutual friends because I knew I would probably not get there on my own. I went with an open mind ready to enjoy some good theatre. To make a long story short, I didn't enjoy the play and even though I certainly wouldn't consider myself a director, I saw some things I would have done differently. The first thing I noticed was the lead actor/playwright "mugging" as soon as the lights came up on the first scene. (Mugging: Making exaggerated facial expressions, especially for humorous effect.) The other thing I noticed was the number of scene changes which would work much better for film than for a play where every part of the stage represented a different location. Some areas were duplicated and that got a little messy at times. I'm not a critic so I won't go on and on, but at the end of the evening, my director friend asked us what we thought about the play. I noticed none of us answered directly. We just smiled a lot and said things like, "We are so proud of you" and "Congratulations". And that indeed was the truth.
When I had my run of my solo show last year, I remember an enormous amount of positive feedback, but I am sure not every single person that saw the show liked it for whatever reason. I was very careful NOT to ask for opinions, especially right after a performance, unless I really wanted to hear the truth. I have one colleague who always has to tell you how he would have done it and that's just his MO. Most of us don't pay any attention to him anyway. But the one piece of criticism I remember vividly came from someone I had held in very high esteem and considered my mentor at one time. Her comments seemed a bit mean spirited and she even brought in another person's opinion who hadn't even seen my show. She had always been telling me that she could do all these things to help me in my career and I needed to this or I should be doing that. I had literally been waiting for years to have a meeting with her to discuss this and when I finally had the opportunity all I got was mouth. No offers to help. No advice on what I could do myself to make it better. Needless to say I haven't had a whole lot to do with her since.
So what is my point? Support sometimes means just showing up. Being there. Being positive. Being sensitive. If an artist really wants your honest opinion, and it's not warm & fluffy, find a way to be kind about it. Then again, there's all types of personalities, some can dish it out and others can take it. In the words of Tina Turner, I prefer it "nice and easy". So I'm gonna keep on rollin'... Gotta go see another friend in play tomorrow night... Da doo doo doo doot...