Archive for August, 2013

A Few Recent and Random Thoughts on Reviews and Critiques

Posted in Disentangling Thoughts on Theatre, Nuts & Bolts Stuff, Quotes on August 23, 2013 by RobALott

You are never as bad as they say you are, but you’re also never as good as they say you are.

Tim Sanders tells a story in his book, Today We Are Rich, about a sermon he gave and a solo he sang in Jr. High. Due to his voice having not changed yet, he chose to sing the solo in a soprano range, and because of it, he received some hurtful ribbing from his friends. He also got some harsh feedback from his choir director scolding him for inserting a sermon which had not been approved or requested.

A young Tim came home to his grandmother in tears.

“What’s wrong? How did your song go?”

“Everyone hated it. I was made fun of for my high voice and the choir director yelled at me for giving what I thought was a very well thought out sermon.”

Tim’s grandmother, who happened to be snacking on some nuts at the time, held up an un-cracked walnut.

“Would you ever think of eating this walnut whole?”

“Of course not.” Said Tim. “I certainly would never be able to swallow it, I would surely choke.”

“You’re absolutely right. You’d need to crack it open to get to the good part, eat the nut, and discard the useless shell.” His grandmother went on to say, “You know you have a beautiful voice, you wouldn’t have been asked to sing a solo if it weren’t true. But, you were never asked to give a sermon, and your teacher was right to call you on it and correct you.”

Take the whole nut, shell and all, find the useful tasty and protein filled part. Eat that and discard the rest.

Reviews and critiques are simply opinions. And not all opinions are right or constructive. Our job as the artist is to wade through the useless to find the useful.

I once had a director who warned us not to read our reviews. Not because he was afraid we’d be discouraged by a bad review, but because he knew we’d never be able to live up to the good ones.

A review means someone was paying attention. And if the review was perfectly glowing, then it could also mean that you haven’t done anything challenging or groundbreaking.

“Die, Vampire! Die!” -[Title of Show]

Just Show Up

Posted in Creativity, Quotes on August 21, 2013 by RobALott

“Creating is like waiting at a bus stop. You can not control when the bus will get there, but if you are diligent enough to be at the bus stop, and if you wait long enough, the bus will arrive.” -unknown

Practices, Principles, and Jumping Through Hoops

Posted in A Note to Directors, Disentangling Thoughts on Theatre, Nuts & Bolts Stuff, Quotes on August 19, 2013 by RobALott

“Dogs enjoy jumping through hoops. People don’t.” -Dan Rockwell

I often hear of the practice that so many theatre companies have adopted regarding the requirement that everyone, no matter the skill level, lines on a resume, or history with the company — everyone must audition for every show.

Having been behind the audition table, I completely understand this policy.

It makes certain that everyone in the production has chosen to be there and will give their fullest. It guarantees a sacrifice on the part of the actor (memorizing their monologue, learning the audition/call-back material, taking the time) that leads to buy in. It also eliminates any thought among the cast that there were any free lunches. Everyone earned their spot on the stage.

It also gives opportunity for everyone behind the table to have discussion and reach full agreement on the casting. It avoids blindsiding a producer or director with casting that is finished and that they had no say in. It helps the production team maintain a united front, a front that will only serve and strengthen the show.

All of this makes sense to those behind the table.

The problem is, no one ever tells this to the actor.

The accomplished actor simply feels like they are jumping through hoops, or as we say, dancing for grandma.

Having been on both sides of the table, we as artists need to be more understanding of why we are being asked to audition. And we, as producing artists, need to be clearer as to why we are requiring the audition. (Even if it means pointing them to this blog post.)

Who’ll Take the Credit?

Posted in A Note to Directors, Thoughts on Leadership on August 15, 2013 by RobALott

Throwback Thursday…

Rob A. Lott

I spent a good amount of time in shopping malls last month.  There never seemed to be a shortage of performers vying for my attention, certain they were what was missing from my holiday cheer.  Most of the choirs, and dance troupes, and hand bell choirs were fine.  A few were good.  A smaller few were very good.

But one was absolutely, how do I say this…awful.  Just terrible.  It was clear that being in the dance troupe that season was more about a trip to Orlando than it was about dedication to the art.

Now, I come from a smallish town.  A town that, while it certainly appreciated the arts, wasn’t always all that good at it.  So, I have a soft spot for small town performing arts groups.  I was taught, “the smaller the band, the louder you cheer.”  But this, well…I was having a hard time with…

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Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Posted in Got Me Thinkin', Thoughts on Leadership on August 14, 2013 by RobALott


The Push

You know the art you are making is important. And because of this, some will stand and cheer, while others will begin to speak up and demand that you keep quiet, to stop doing what you are doing. They will begin their slow Push to move you and your art out.

Do not succumb to this Push. Weigh carefully if this is the time to go. This might be the time to stand strong. So many times, because of the noisy critics, it would be so much easier to throw your hands up in the air and walk away. Don’t. This is the time to have the courage to stay and keep doing what you are doing.


Sometimes the Push is from within. You hear the cheers, but inside you know you are no longer in your sweet spot. You are no longer able to challenge yourself or your art. And with a whisper from within, the slow Push begins.

The Pull

Then sometimes, for any number of reasons — the quality of your work, the questions you have asked, the way you have carried yourself — you may be approached by other leaders and artists to leave what you are doing, to come alongside them, and to join their tribe. You have something to contribute to their art and they have a place for you. Thus begins the slow (or very fast) Pull.

But the Pull could also come from within. You know you are ready for something new. Maybe to go it alone for a while. Maybe to try something you’ve always known you’d be good at. Or to throw all you’ve got at the project to which you’ve only been able to give nights and weekends.

Do take some time and listen to the Pull.

Loyalty is often an easy out, (“They’ve invested so much in me.”, “Everyone’s counting on me.”) however now might be the time for the courage to go and start something new. (No need to burn bridges. Just start a conversation.)

The Glorious Push And Pull

It is difficult to recognize and truly weigh the pros and cons of the Push or the Pull by themselves. We advise ourselves as to how much easier it would be to stay, or what a relief it would be to go. But every now and then, the choice is made clear. There is a distinct Push and a distinct Pull – at the same time. A Push from where you are, and a Pull to where you want to be.

This is an amazing gift.

Standing your ground against the Push will make you stronger.

While, allowing yourself to be Pulled will stretch you.

There is value in paying attention to (and ignoring) both.

When the clarity of both a Push and a Pull presents itself, don’t be caught indecisive. Make your move.

A couple of questions:

Are you being pushed?

Is there also a pull?

Are you feeling a pull?

Is there also a push?

Still confused?
Me too.