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RESPONDENTS GUIDELINES


This document is being sent to those who have agreed to serve as KCACTF respondents.

THE GOALS FOR RESPONDING TO PARTICIPATING ENTRIES:
  • To choose the best work to represent the region at the Regional Festival, so the National Selection Team can evaluate it for the National Festival.
  • To choose the best and most interesting work for the benefit of all who attend the Regional Festival.
THE GOALS FOR RESPONDING TO BOTH ASSOCIATE AND PARTICIPATING ENTRIES:
  • To celebrate and explore the theatrical process through the benefit of a response from a reasonably objective colleague.
  • To recognize excellence in college theatre by providing opportunities for showcases, commendations and events for both student and faculty theatre artists.

NOBODY SAID THIS WAS EASY:
  • Understand before you begin that oral responses immediately following a performance are extremely difficult assignments. Don't take the responsibility lightly as it requires considerable effort to do this kind of thing effectively.
  • You are NOT doing official peer review for use in retention, promotion and tenure procedures unless you are formally asked to do so, and you agree to this role (and you understand the liability you engender). Even if this is the case, KCACTF and the Kennedy Center are NEVER involved in this process. Any written report you provide for such purposes cannot be presented as representing KCACTF.

A BASIC MODEL FOR YOUR RESPONSE:

A. It's good to re-identify yourself as a representative from KCACTF, and thank the company for participating. Some of the students you'll be talking with have probably never attended (and may never attend) a Regional Festival. While it's great to encourage them to attend the Regional Festival, remind them that they're vital participants in the Festival even now, by virtue of being involved in an entry at their own school. Your being there, seeing their show in their space, and giving them an immediate response IS the heart of the Festival. All schools were sent the official 'booklet' which lists all the KCACTF awards...please refer to this and let them know that not only are there the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarships but awards for design and playwriting as well. IF you need one of these books let us know and we will get one out to you.

B. It's good to remind the company that you are not more Knowledgeable about their production than they are, you simply have the advantage of seeing it with fresh eyes. They are to understand that yours is only one opinion, and that they shouldn't listen to your response as any kind of final word. Remind them not to "change" anything based on what you say, unless their director instructs them to do so.

C. You might consider starting with an overview of the production, perhaps including the challenges of mounting this particular piece, and working to highlight how those challenges were met.

D. Be sure you try to specifically discuss ALL of the following topics, and NOT necessarily in this order:

  1. Direction - topics might include: concept, casting choices, overall stylistic choices in acting, pacing, staging, overall production unity, etc.


  2. Acting - topics might include believability, honesty, technical skills such as vocal production, movement, stylistic choices, interpretation of character, sense of ensemble


  3. Design - topics might include contribution to, and integration with the overall production concept, artistic excellence. IMPORTANT: Be sure you cover all areas of design: scenic, costume, lighting, makeup, sound, properties. Oftentimes there are students in these postions who look forward to this feedback.


  4. Technical Elements - topics might include execution of designs, attention to detail, stage management and running crew assignments.


  5. Additional Elements - these might include (but are not limited to) original music, front of house operation, lobby display, program/program notes.


It's almost always a mistake not to at least mention ALL of the areas above; they exist in virtually every production and someone worked hard on them. Do your best to be thorough in your response.

E. It's a good idea to ask for questions or comments from the group. Encourage them to ask for clarification if they didn't understand something you said, or to ask about a topic you neglected to mention specifically.

F. Always do your best to be gracious and cool; you are representing KCACTF, and we appreciate your being able to "sell" the Festival, even as you are giving an honest and specific response.

SOME WELL-TESTED "DO'S AND DON'TS"

A. Find out what you can about the show BEFORE the performance. It's great if you can have dinner with the director before the show and just let them talk about their program and their production. It's important for you to just listen and find out what they want you to know. If they have a very young cast whose members are inexperienced and eager, that could color the tone of your response. If they have a well-seasoned cast of graduate students doing their MFA final projects, that might affect your response in a very different way. If you can't get together with the director for an extended conversation before the show, you should try to do it on the phone. When you call to say which performance you'll be attending, you might ask them about the production, or about the play if you don't know it, etc. The more you know before you begin, the more appropriately informed your response can be.

B. Do your best to remain positive about the work you've just seen. Egos are always very fragile immediately following a performance when everyone is sometimes still on an adrenaline/applause "high." Your goal is to celebrate and explore the work; TRY TO APPROACH THE TASK AS A COLLEGIAL COLLEAGUE RATHER THAN A JUDGE. Your words are not carved in stone, and you should remind everyone of that. NEVER intentionally embarrass or demoralize a faculty member or student during the process.

C. Be thorough, but don't be long-winded. It's very possible to do a complete response in 20-30 minutes. It's fine to go longer if you perceive that everyone is really "with" you, or there's a lively dialogue going on. But 10 minutes is probably not long enough and an hour is probably too long!

D. Work from positive statements, and be specific and thorough in your praise. Ease into negative aspects carefully; it's sometimes good to couch them as questions, rather than definitive judgements. Remember that for many people any negative comment resonates much more loudly than a positive one. Some respondents seem to be in too big a hurry to get to the problems; don't forget to elaborate and celebrate what worked.

E. However, don't let the encouragement to emphasize what is positive be misconstrued into an instruction to remain superficial or patronizing in your comments. Be sure you are honest and Thoughtful and thorough. A common complaint from schools about respondents is that "They talked for quite a while, but they didn't really SAY anything."

F. Occasionally, you will see a production that seems greatly flawed. Don't feel that you need to articulate every negative aspect of the production. Pick the key points you wish to make, and focus only on those. Remember, your task is not to teach the company everything there is to know about theatre in your response. Nudge them to the next level, and then call it a day.

G. Really encourage questions and comments; if you can get the company talking, it helps to diminish the sense that you're there to pass judgement, but encourages them to see you as a peer who is interested in what they are doing.

AVOID THESE "GUARANTEED-BAD" OPENING STATEMENTS:
"Well, that was fun!"
"You were all just great."
"How was it for you?"
"The biggest problem was..."
"I just directed/acted/designed this show and..."
"When they did this show in New York/London/Kalamazoo..."
"I've always thought this play as being an example of..."
"Geez, this is the sixth production of this show I've seen this year."
"This has always been one of my least favorite plays/playwrights/styles."

PLEASE REMEMBER:

A. Don't redirect the play. Avoid your personal perspectives. This is not about you, or about your history with the play. It's about the production you just saw. Respond to what you actually experienced. Offer opinions and questions, not judgements and credos. Avoid conjecture. Talk about what really happened in the performance.

B. Don't be clever for the sake of being clever. You're not doing an on-stage performance. Be sincere, thoughtful, honest, encouraging, even humorous - but don't "perform."

C. Avoid personal criticisms of students (i.e. "too heavy for the role," or "you're just the wrong type for this").

D. Work to use a vocabulary you believe is both appropriate and will be accessible for the students involved.

E. Some respondents make it a point to specifically mention every actor in the production. While this is often considered courteous and appropriate, it may not be feasible in a show with a very large cast. Do specifically discuss all the actors in major roles.

F. Don't spend a lot of time addressing a playwright who isn't there. While it's fair to mention that you have some questions about the text itself, don't spend the majority of your time discussing textual issues apart from the acting, directing, design, and production choices that were made with the script (unless it's an original play and/or the playwright is present). If you have some problems with the script by Edward Albee, or Moliere, or Arthur Miller...mention them and then MOVE ON.

G. Do NOT forget to discuss all areas of design and technical production.

DON'T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU!
The two most common complaints about responses are:

  • Design and technical elements are glossed over, ignored, or merely an afterthought. Maybe it's a good idea to START with them?!
  • Nothing of substance is really offered. The response was merely a bunch of platitudes: "Gosh, it was great and I really liked it." Even if the show WAS terrific, be sure you are specific and give them something of substance to consider and talk about later.

IRENE RYAN NOMINATIONS

  • Each associate entry may receive up to two Irene Ryan nominations; the respondent should make these choices in conference with the director immediately following the response session. Some schools may choose only one candidate. Also please choose alternates and list them in order of preference in case candidates cannot attend the festival. Each participating entry may receive up to three nominations; one each from both of the respondents, and one by the director. It is EXTREMELY important for respondents to consult with the director immediately after the performance about Ryan nominees. Respondents need to have as much autonomy as possible in choosing the person they think is the most deserving of the nomination, but PLEASE work within whatever guidelines the director may give you. For example, if you're seeing a show in the spring semester, then the school may not want to nominate graduating seniors who will be unable to attend the Regional Festival the next January. Or some students in the cast may have been nominated from an earlier entry; if the school would like you to nominate someone else, so as to spread the nominations around, PLEASE do so. Finally, be sure that the actor you're thinking of nominating is in fact an eligible student.
  • It is NOT your responsibility to fill out the Ryan nomination form; the student's school should do that. The form is available from the home page of the region website.  It IS your responsibility to make sure the school knows who you are nominating ASAP, preferably before you leave the theatre after the show.
  • As soon as possible, complete the “Respondent Form” which is available from the region’s home page.  If you have any questions regarding the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Audition process, contact the region’s Irene Ryan Chair:

Liisa Yonker
lyonker@qcc.cuny.edu

MERITORIOUS ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS

Be on the lookout for ANY areas that are worthy of a special "Meritorious Achievement Award" from the Region to be given out at the Festival. This should be an area THAT IS NOT ALREADY RECOGNIZED BY REGIONAL AND NATIONAL AWARD CATEGORIES. This is a way to recognize exceptional production work of any kind, whether it be by faculty or student, in additional areas: Was there excellent original music? Notable achievement in props construction? Terrific ensemble acting? Knockout lobby display? Keep your eyes and ears open for excellence in any area of production typically not able to be recognized with a nomination to present at the festival in DTM, NPP, SDC, Irene Ryans, Musical Theatre, Dramaturgy or ITJA. Your recommendations for these certificates of merit are to be noted on the respondents form, BUT PLEASE DO NOT REVEAL THESE TO THE SCHOOL AS THE FINAL DETERMINATION ABOUT WHETHER A MERIT AWARD WILL BE PRESENTED LIES WITH THE REGIONAL LEADERSHIP.




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