You’re standing in the lobby of the theater…the audience is leaving and a few are staying behind to greet the performers. Finally your friend emerges from the theater face flush from the rush of performance.
They look to you…their eyes widen a bit and their eye brows rise up….they’re asking for your thoughts…your opinion …your evaluation of their performance…your validation of their performance.
If you love the show and the performance it’s a no brain-er….you know exactly what to do and say. But what if …well…it just didn’t resonate with you? What do you say now?
You know it’s not appropriate to launch into a critical dissection of the script, direction, production and acting ensemble. Even if you are correct, it’s just not appropriate at this moment. But not saying something can be as damaging.
Here area a few suggestions of what to say;
1. My acting coach at Boston University used to say this comment after a ‘rough’ bit of acting, “Interesting, very interesting”. But she said it very slowly as if it was a thought provoking performance. The danger is that it begs a follow up question from your friend: What did you find interesting?
2. Harpo Marx in his wonderful autobiography said that he never saw a performance that he didn’t like. But that was because if the performance didn’t hold his interest, he’d shut his eyes and fall asleep….keeping him from seeing the performance.
3. My college roommate did a show with Orsen Bean (actor, TV Personality and author) who suggested that you simply lie and lie big. According to my roommate, Orsen suggests that you look at them with a big smile and say that it’s “the best thing I’ve ever seen you do.”
4. A musician friend offered me the best advice when he said the best thing to do was to look them in the eye, offer them a big grin and say, “Well, you did it.”
He says that they always agree and then go on to talk about their process or what it is that they’ve done….thereby saving you from telling a lie or upsetting your friend.
What do you say in this situation?
Is it different after a business presentation that didn’t work well?
William Hall is an actor, trainer and improviser living in San Francisco, CA. He works with companies to engage and involve audiences at Trade Shows, Conferences and Training Sessions. He is a founder of BATS Improv and the author of The Playbook: Improv Games for Performers.