Friday, June 12, 2009

Feedback- where is it?

a Friday musing...

Where do we, as artists, whether established or establishing, get our feedback?

This question has come up numerous times over the last few weeks in different conversations in different venues, so I thought it might be an interesting discussion here.  

As the summer approaches (or so it says on the calendar, although in New York, we wouldn't know for all the rain...), many are in fatigue-mode, exhausted by the many auditions and no responses; the many mailings and drop-offs and no acknowledgement; the calls and emails and no response to the follow-up.

How do we balance the "non-feedback" in our business life?

Ah, perhaps this is the answer in the question!  It is our BUSINESS life, not our artistic one, that is often not being acknowledged.  Many times, due to the VOLUME of submissions/mailings etc that has become the business of theatre: not even a "thank you for submitting/coming out/auditioning" but rather, nothing at all. 

Do I agree with this "nothingness"? no. SOMETHING would be nice.  HOWEVER - what would that be? What kind of feedback would you, the performer, the emerging artist, WISH to have?  And who, legitimately, can give that to you?  Be careful what you wish for!

So, there are two questions of importance here: one, what kind of feedback would give you something concrete, and secondly,  from whom would that feedback make sense to you?

Praise? Validation? what is it that would give you a sense of completion at an audition? 

I honestly don't believe anything of TRUTH from an artistic perspective comes out of an audition.  Therefore, the feedback would be hollow at best.  An audition is a very limited and single dimension surreal environment for everybody involved.  HOW you process it, and how you acknowledge those limitations will perhaps give you a slightly different perspective that is less fatiguing!

I have said it before, and I will keep saying it: YOU CANNOT TAKE THE AUDITION PROCESS PERSONALLY!!!! But, you MUST take your WORK SERIOUSLY.  Your preparation, your development, your craft has to be larger and more significant than the simplicity of the audition process.  Yes, I said it.  Auditioning doesn't have to be complicated, it just has to be acknowledged for what it is, how it stands, and treated as a prop.  You cannot control the process, but you CAN control the preparation and the mindset and the psyche that enters the room.  If the WORK becomes central, and BEING in that space to DO the work is paramount, then the feedback in the room truly becomes irrelevant.

People can do great work and still no callback. Still no response. Why? Who knows! And frankly, it is up to YOU to establish WHO CARES!  Did you prepare? Did you present? Are you READY?  Then, why is that feedback in the room so important?

I think I will answer that one - we would just like to be recognized even for a split second that our work and our time and our focus and our preparation MATTERED.  A simple and truly sincere "thank you" could make all the difference.  

This could also slowly start to change the American Idol-ism of our business - and the riff-raff that just go to auditions cause they "like" to do it, but have no craft or intention of building any might slowly begin to disappear!  

I WANT to acknowledge the artists who are trying to make a difference and have something to offer.  All it would take is paying attention more fully.  Establishing artists, and even those of us who are further along in our craft, really just need a sense of sincerity and quick realization that what we bring into a room is worthwhile.  

And THEN, my dear emerging artists, perhaps it wouldn't be about feedback at all, but rather, then, about self-validation and creating those few you trust that create your circle - your teachers, coaches, mentors - that can continue to challenge you, encourage you, demand from you - so you can challenge and demand from yourself.

I don't need a treatise in the audition room from someone on the other side of the table who does not know me or my story or my journey to begin telling me what I need to do or what I should be singing.  I would like a simple acknowledgement that indeed, I was noticed, I was listened to, and I was respected for that 16 bars.  

So, let us, as artists who are just beginning or have continued to audition, recognize and develop the difference between acknowledgement and feedback.  

Let us be acknowledged in the audition room.  Let the feedback come from the professionals around us who KNOW our journey.  Acknowledgement does not require understanding. Feedback does.


  1. I completely agree with you. I don't want a medal or a gold star for going in and giving a good audition--auditioning is my job. But too many times, I go into the room only to sing to a table of sullen faces who look like they're getting root canals rather than listening to (presumably) professionals sing their piece. Then I get a "Thank you" that sounds more like "Get the hell out of my room." All I can think every time I see that is, "Why is this absolutely joyless person in the business of entertainment?!" At open calls, I am willing to bet that I awoke at least 3 hours before anyone behind the table, and have waited in a crowded, obnoxious holding room before going into the audition room. I think the least I deserve is common courtesy--a friendly greeting, and a polite thanks for my time. To be fair, most people give me at least that. I've only been to one or two auditions where I've gotten actual feedback, and I valued it greatly. I would be so grateful if someone would say "That's a great song for you" or "That song doesn't really show you off" or "I love your dress" or "Why don't you try this..." While one person's opinion doesn't really make ALL the difference, it makes me feel good that they were paying attention and not just staring at my resume while vaguely hearing my voice. I also understand that these people have a full day of auditions to go through, so I certainly don't EXPECT lengthy feedback. But as an actor, I already feel like an object that's either fitting or not. To feel that someone appreciates your work as an ARTIST is incredibly validating.


    Completely true! You have inspired me to blog about opera & oratorio soloist auditions. Lots of similarities, also some important differences.

    Great post, Susan!

  3. Cara - thanks for your comments! Some interesting things here...although again, be careful about making a determination between feedback and acknowledgement. Some of the "comments" you have suggested are feedback comments - not what I would consider legit in an audition situation - a workshop FOR audition but not for the audition itself. To say "that is a great song for your voice" assumes the person has voice knowledge and knows your voice well enough to make that assessment. But "that song really came alive in your presentation" would be the acknowledgement needed. We MUST discover the difference - especially for you who are young artists - and DEMAND it.

  4. Gretchen - looking forward to reading your blog - definite differences, but the premise remains the same.

  5. Hi. Yes, I agree! Mostly I was thinking about the 16 bars in a theater audition vs. 5 or more arias for opera.

    Also, I've played for several auditions where a panel member would tell the singer how to sing high notes! Auditionees really need to know what to listen to and what is crap.