Write a performance review
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I. Contents of write a performance review
Because the performance of any play is such an ephemeral experience, writing a play review can be an exciting, though difficult, task. You have to be both spectator taking in and enjoying the performance and critical analyst of the production itself. You have to be able to provide a very brief summary of the play, a close objective analysis of the performance you attend, and an interpretation and evaluation of the entire ensemble of staging, acting, directing, and so on.
The review assignment asks you to analyze in an objective manner the relative success or failure of a given production. Note that you are not asked simply to summarize the plot or give an opinion regarding the text of the play being mounted; your review must be grounded in the production itself. Your job is to describe the production accurately, and then to render a value judgment of it based upon what you have seen and what you expected. The assignment will test your skill as a reader of the play and as an observer and critic of the production.
In addition to grounding your review on the production you witness, you must be careful to limit your review to a few essential observations in support of your thesis (which will be discussed below). You must concentrate on a few important ideas and aspects of the production and focus your attention on only what you consider the most significant parts of the production itself. Unlike a newspaper review, which can be loosely structured and superficial, your assignment is quite definite. You are not asked to cover a wide variety of production elements (i.e. performance of every actor, every costume change, every set change, every directorial decision, and so on); instead, the assignment demands that you develop a few key ideas in thoughtful detail.
Remember, too, that your stance is to be objective and critical, not impressionistic and merely nasty. A critic is not someone who simply “criticizes,” but a person who studies, analyzes, and then renders a rational judgment of what he/she has seen. Your tone will be very important in making your review reliable and intelligent.
Read the play before going to the production. (It is important to be prepared for the production you plan to attend; otherwise, you run the risk of having to see it several times.)
- In your mind, have a good sense of how a “standard” production might look, complete with a sense of what the characters might look like, the type of costuming that might be used, a suitable set design, and an appropriate rendering of the theme and tone of the work.
- Pick out, as you read, several critical or problematic points within the play that may be of particular interest to watch for in the production you are about to attend. If your instructor has asked you to pay particular attention to certain elements, make sure that you are prepared to recognize them in performance.
Attend the play with an open mind, a willingness to accept the play as the director has presented it in production.
- Note any deviations from your concept of a “standard” production and try to find a good explanation for that deviation. (Is the director trying to “say” something new or different? Was your sense of the play somehow inaccurate, or were you shown new insights by the director’s production?)
- You may want to consider some of the following:
- Why the choice of costumes, and why the set design?
- How did the actors deliver their lines (seriously, comically, realistically, formally)? Were there any significant actions or gestures that contributed to the play’s meaning?
- Were any “special effects” utilized (consider lighting, sound, audience participation, machinery)?
- Were any significant cuts made in the script?
After the performance, jot down the details you recall and talk about the performance with friends. You’ll need these details for your paper in order to substantiate your argument.
Evaluate the performance.
- Did the director miss any important opportunities to convey something you were able to see in your reading of the play?
- Would you have liked to have seen more attention paid to what you perceived as critical passages, passages the director seemed less interested in?
- Why would you have preferred this attention, and why do you think the director avoided giving the passage such attention?
Consider the following practical aspects:
- What kind of stage does the director have at his disposal? What kinds of restrictions does the stage impose on the director concerning movement and set design?
- Are the actors professionals, amateurs, or students? What restrictions does this impose on the director? Are the actors capable of dealing with the script’s requirements? (Be fair to the actors in your assessment of their talents and the level of their “craftsmanship.”)
II. Useful materials for write a performance review
• 11 performance appraisal methods
• Top 28 performance appraisal forms
• 300+ performance review phrases
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