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D&D Roadshow 2013 - BRIGHTON

How can we talk better about the work that we make - and its content?

Orla Flanagan - 12 September 2013

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Subtitle: How do we receive and give feedback?
This discussion began as a conversation about how we discuss work in development and talk to each other about its progression, and whether audiences can have a role in that etc. and the discussion then moved into how do we talk about our work once it is made -and also how do others talk about our work, and what tools can be used - and for they friend and foe…
We asked - what type and structure of feedback do we want? Someone said they they welcomed encouragement and constructive criticism. One artist talked about how sometimes they are overloaded with feedback to the work, and it is somewhat ‘dumped’ on them - and she wished it could be more responsive feedback to her questions and instincts, and therefore more useful. How do we facilitate feedback? We discussed sharings and work-in-progresses involving audiences, and whether that is useful (we felt it was generally, if they are carefully facilitated) and someone mentioned a post-show discussion format run by Maddy Costa, called Dialogue Theatre Club, which focusses on generating audience feedback, without any of the artists or makers in the room.
We discussed how a piece of work is never finished -how by its nature everything is finished and yet nothing is finished. How do we respond as an artist to criticism? How do we choose which feedback is useful? How do you process professional critiques? Do you engage with them? Do you utilise bad reviews to help promote your show?!
Someone mentioned how in Brighton it feels like there is a lot of talk about doing something in Brighton but not always a whole lot of doing..Another comment was about how there is no organisation in Brighton focussed on creating and producing work. Someone referenced how frustrating it is that there is no opportunities for developing outdoor work in the past few years here. We discussed the pros and cons of on-line critical discussion - and how anonymous comments allows people to say things they wouldn't say directly. Someone advised to embrace the critiques, make something of them (if they are really poor)… Does online responses enable any sort of dialogue? Social media seems to have a growing hold on critques and reviews - in terms of the starring system etc and how those are then spread. Someone shared how they really miss a proper dialogue about theatre - proper analysis rather than short/bitty reviews and 140 character tweets. In Holland every show has a pre-show and post-show discussion, and there is a more accepted intellectual approach and rigour to experiencing and responding to shows. Someone mentioned a sharing platform for new writing called Writers Avenue at the Pleasance (?) - where the first 8 minutes of a number of new works are shown, and the audiences are invited to respond anonymously to what they watch, answering specific questions about what worked and didn't work for them.
Another comment was about programmes and providing info prior to a show to add context etc which is somewhat dying out as a trend, and whether that is a loss? Do we make the most of programme material? Can we be more active about sharing it on-line and in advance if we have gone to the bother of commissioning a piece or collating it. Can that information enhance people's engagement with a show? Someone referenced the titling and explanation of work in visuals arts - and how it is a very different approach of explaining artists intentions and inspirations. Perhaps there is something to be learnt from their approach of framing art and aiding people in accessing it etc.
Marketing copy is always an interesting issue - we discussed how sometimes there is a real gap between the marketing copy (sometimes done before the work is made) and the work itself. By working closely very early on, with the artists and marketeers and ensuring early conversations take place, this can help. Someone suggested designing a marketing pack from your venue which asks the right questions and extracts crucial info about your show early on. Big debate followed about the ups and downs of social media -and new ways for audiences to have a voice and respond. If you are under 25 you are considered a digital native and if you are over 25 you are considered a digital immigrant…
It was agreed that one must develop a thick skin as an artist, and one must be ready to roll with the punches (as well as the pats)…

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