Clearing out stacks of old boxes recently, I re-discovered my old theatrical reviews. The crumbling newspaper clippings instantly transported me back to the ’70s and 80′s: the 25 years I worked as a professional actress.
Re-reading the notices, I marveled that every single production was still with me, but something was missing… I had no memory of the good reviews. One flattering phrase after another felt as if I was reading love letters I’d never seen before, yet I knew that once upon a time I had treasured every word.
The bad reviews? (Those from… how shall I say, “Outer Critics”?) It felt as if they’d been on CNN this morning.
Partial amnesia regarding reviews is one of the occupational hazards of being a performer. Most actors, especially early in their careers, tend to believe the good OR the bad, but not both. With me, unfortunately, the bad always came out ahead. I’ve always been very hard on myself, and the negative reviews sounded as familiar as the ones I dreamed up for myself.
The negativity became more and more depressing, however, and one day my dear husband suggested that I create my own system to evaluate my work. As Roger said “It gives you feedback you can trust.”
How did it work? Before and during rehearsals, I kept track of everything I was worried about:
1. Belief that I was miscast
2. Working with a new dialect
3. Tension with the director
4. Physical costume challenges
5. Too much or too little chemistry with my leading man
The list went on and on, and as I invented ways to become comfortable with my usual crazy-making stuff, my Inner Critic appeared. She and I built benchmarks based on habits and pitfalls I’d supposedly learned to manage.
1. Ease (or lack thereof) getting off book
2. Number of crying jags (joyful)
3. Number of crying jags (furious)
4. Sore throats, rashes, headaches, mystery pains
5. Degree of neurosis during tech rehearsals
I tend to refer to my Inner Critic in the third person, as if she is real. Actually, she IS… a real and trusted part of myself.
When I was thinking about shifting careers to do something other than performing, my Inner Critic was invaluable. Almost everyone I knew was shocked that I might “walk away”, and many tried to talk me out of it, but she was with me. We weighed the points of my colleagues, friends and family, and ultimately took a leap into the unknown side-by-side. I knew then that she was a friend for life.
So as I was rifling through those boxes, reading my old reviews, and was catapulted back into believing the bad ones, I wondered where the hell she was!
But not for long. She made her entrance just in time to set me straight.
She’s on my shoulder now. And I am so grateful that she’s here.
For Reference:Critic \’krɪ-tɪk\ noun* 1 a: one who expresses a reasoned opinion on any matter especially involving a judgment of its value, truth, righteousness, beauty, or technique b: one who engages often professionally in the analysis, evaluation or appreciation of works of art or artistic performances 2: one given to harsh or captious judgments [From Latin criticus, Greek kritikos: able to discern; from krits, judge, from krnein, to separate, judge] * Merriam-Webster® An Encyclopedia Britannica Company