A Lesson From the Fringe: Criticism

I suppose it is true that we learn something from everything we do, it’s just a matter of whether or not we see it. In my Fringe experiences already this year, I have been fortunate to be surrounded by awesome people who help point out valuable lessons when I do not see them staring me in the face. A great take-away I have found already from this years Fringe is continued progress toward best practices in handling criticism.

There are many kinds of criticism, and it seems you find that out as an artist. It is inherent, in putting out creative work for people to see, that they will have ideas about it. Some do not share, others do. Some have bad things to say, some great. We know, of course, that an opinion is just one person’s viewpoint, but it can be difficult to handle everything with a grain of salt. This is especially true when it comes to art making and creative work, because it is so close to the heart of the creator. It IS personal. To be told to ‘not take it personal’ when you receive constructive (and otherwise) criticism because the topic at hand is a part of you.

That touchy-feeliness stated, you still have to be ready for people to say anything. And as you become comfortable with the idea that anything can come at you, you become better-prepared to use what you think is constructive and to shrug off anything that is not.

So, a couple of viewpoints of my current work, Railing Forward, which is a part of the 2011 Minnesota Fringe Festival;

The Bad (-) “This just wasn’t good. There were some good people and there were some good ideas, but it just didn’t come together. I didn’t feel like the different pieces fit a theme. There was lots of awkward dead time while musical instruments were brought on and off stage. Some of the music was bad. Some of the dancing was bad. It just wasn’t good.”

The Neutral (0) “A live orchestra and a whirlwind of dancers promises well, but with this relentlessly sincere John Henry opus, composer Dameun Strange and choreographer Erinn Liebhard prove that the road to boredom is also paved with good intentions. Unfocus your attention and enjoy Strange’s skilled musicians and Liebhard’s occasional flashes of calligraphic line, or concentrate on the show’s other pieces. The personable See More Perspective contributes spoken word and beatbox, while Strange’s Langston Hughes song cycle “Dream Variations” conveys a depth of thought and feeling that the main attraction lacks.”

The Good (+) “The dancers in this performance for the 2nd dance of 6 woman in constant motion was incredible! The choreography was excellent in portraying the motion of rails, planes, cars. It was physically exhausting to watch! The spoken word of original poetry was excellent.”

The Good (+) “This was our first exposure to fringe and it was a perfect opening. I loved the mixture of fantastic dancing, inspiring poetry (and delivery), 3 piece music group and full conducted 13 piece orchestra with visualization and vocals. Thank you for opening my eyes to the potential of the arts.”

End-point: There is an old adage that states ‘You cannot please everyone.’ With art, this is particularly true. All you can do is put out your ideas in hopes of sharing something with the people who come across them. With that in mind, I Rail Forward. Come on out to the Fringe and make up your own mind! We have 3 shows left! For details, visit www.fringefestival.org.


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