- OnStage Minnesota Columnist
“Did you enjoy the show?” quite possibly one of the worst questions to ask someone who just saw your show. Of course you want your friends and family to enjoy the show you were in but by asking this question you are extracting a yes response. It essentially prevents honest opinion and constructive criticism.
I recently encountered this while attending a high school production of students I teach theatre to in the summer and co-direct their one act competition piece. A sophomore who was in the ensemble asked the question to which I responded “yes,” which a hint of hesitation. I quickly recovered by asking her if she was having fun and she began to tell me about her experience. Of course after our conversation I felt bad, not because I hesitated but because I neglected to tell her the truth. I avoided discussing the show with any other kids that came by to chat, instead deflecting to their time working on the production. Part of the reason we respond positively is because we don’t want to hurt their feelings. I understand that…but isn’t lying doing the same thing?
The theatre I work for recently opened our end of the season musical and I heard the same question echoing around our lobby during our reception and evoking the same trite response. Whether or not the patrons enjoyed the show they were asked a basic question and the possibility of actually talking about the show was denied. I’m sure some people openly discussed the play but from what I could hear no one asked for specifics. Yes, it’s community theatre but vague responses will not improve the quality of productions presented each season.
This is seen far too often and I think there needs to be a shift. For example, when my brother and I are in shows we ask each other “What did you think?” This then leads into a discussion of the pros and cons, including technical elements, and very specific aspects about our performance. Of course, this is my brother and we have one of those inseparable bonds where we can brutally honest about our art and not get offended. I’ve been trying to asked friends and other extended family members this same question and it seems to evoke more than a “Yes, it was good,” but still isn’t to the quality of review I want from those whose opinions matter.
We should be able to talk about our art and receive genuine comments about the production. If we start asking “What did you think?” instead of “Did you enjoy the show?” maybe our performances can improve? By asking a more open-ended question it will invite the patron to express what the experience meant to them. After all, theatre is meant to elicit emotions and thoughts and having the ability to discuss those in a welcoming environment can only heighten our theatre going experiences.