Reviewing Reviews

I was recently chatting with one of my favorite actors about reviews. She has been starring in an amazing Off-Broadway play that has done very, very well. Not just in terms of box office, but in terms of reviews. Like, really great reviews.

She has seen none of them.

“I don’t look at press,” she told me. “Especially during the run, I don’t pay attention to any of it. I don’t even do my own social media while I could bump into what others are saying. I hire someone to take care of promoting my show, retweeting rave reviews, and engaging with fans, because that *is* important. But no good can come from my seeing reviews during the run.”

When we talked more about this, it turns out it’s not just the bad reviews she’s avoiding; it’s the good ones! “It ruins the magic,” she told me. Turns out, she has had on-stage experiences in which it’s clear when someone in the cast (herself included) has heard their performance is phenomenal. Suddenly, there’s a self-assurance that wasn’t there before. And it changes the performance.

This is not to say that confidence is a bad thing! Not by any means! But there’s a vulnerability that exists when you’re not sure whether what you’re doing is “landing” exactly as you intend it to land… and that’s where the muse can dance most freely. That’s where inspiration incubates. That’s where creativity lives.

I like to extend this wonderful lesson from my actor friend to my own life, which by nature of its roots in the South, has always been up for review — especially by those to whom I am related. You know the drill, right? The “when are you gonna stop this foolishness and come home” question that haunted me ’til the well-meaning aunt who asked it passed away? Yeah. That.

Just like my Off-Broadway actor friend, I learned never to consume reviews of works-in-progress. And, welp, my LIFE is a work-in-progress. So is yours.

Sure, seek out and get advice. Absolutely, learn about ways in which you could improve your craft, your marketing tools, your approach to the next tier. Be open to feedback that could help shape you beautifully. Of course! All of that.

But especially if people are unapologetically weighing in about your life’s choices in a way that proves they simply have no understanding of what makes up “your happy,” consider making “how I’ve chosen to live my life” one of those topics like politics and religion, in certain circles. It’s simply off the table.

Here’s where that choice can become really powerful down the line: When you decide not to “read the reviews” of those who don’t get you, you also learn not to “read the reviews” of those who are crazy about you. Because, just like my Off-Broadway friend observed, when you do, the level of the performance can change.

Absolutely, do good work. Create brilliance. Stay passionate along your journey. But let neither unsolicited criticism nor unsolicited praise impact your work-in-progress. Take notes from your director. Huddle with your mentor. Listen to your closest friends whose opinions have always been valuable in your life. But tune out noise and always leave room for the muse to dance.

Consume your reviews after the creation is complete. While it’s being built, anyone’s uninvited feedback is coming from a less-connected place than where your art is born.

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

Originally published by Actors Access at Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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