When it comes to reviews...it's complicated.
The other day I got my first positive review as a composer in the NY Times. Should be cause for celebration, right? Well when it comes to reviews...it’s complicated.
You see, the show is an anthology piece with five creative teams contributing - and the review was more or less a pan. And while the reviewer did make some reasonable points, some of my colleagues didn’t fare so well - and others weren’t mentioned at all. And I love and admire my colleagues. So…complicated.
Ok let’s talk about reviews.
The first thing to know is that when you’re the subject of the review, the good ones feel good and the bad ones feel bad.
The next thing about reviews is that good ones can help your project and bad ones can harm it.
The third point is that while both positive and negative reviews can be entertaining to read, the negative ones can sometimes be more entertaining - unless you’re the subject. This is a subtle point, and touches on the complex emotion known as shadenfreude - which we all feel from time to time.
The next point is slightly complicated, so bear with me. Some people, when faced with the prospect of being the subject of reviews, refuse to read them. And others make a point of reading them. Of the people who read them, some people dismiss them entirely, both the positive and the negative - and others celebrate the positive and discount the negative. I chalk that one up to human nature - and a particular kind of probably very useful defense process.
As for me…
I read reviews. When I’m the subject, the bad ones hurt and the good ones feel good. I’ve seen projects get sunk by a few bad reviews, and others which were able to survive them. I’ve experienced shadenfreude reading amusingly bad reviews - and felt bad about it afterwards. And I too have dismissed the bad reviews and celebrated the good ones.
I think the healthiest place to be in all of this is to treat reviews as what they are - someone else’s opinion. Like anything else, sometimes we’ll agree with that opinion - and sometimes we won’t. And while some opinions may carry more weight than others, as human beings we all have the right to form our own.
In the case of BREATHE, I believe the piece has far more to admire about it than was evident from review in the NY Times. I think my collaborators have done glorious work. And I think the piece is worth watching.
I hope you won’t let one negative review deter you from experiencing what I think is a very worthwhile couple of hours of theater.
But that’s just my opinion…