Purpose of the Comments:
The adjudication comments have three purposes:
- as the education component of the system, in your feedback to the producing theatre company
- as the justification of the scores you have given
- as a way of clarifying your own thoughts on the work you have seen
With the last item in mind, the advice is not to have come up with a final score until after you have finished writing your comments. As you use the criteria and scoring matrix you may contemplate and write about elements or issues that weren’t thought of in your first overall impression of the production.
Guidelines when writing Comments:
All comments should be written with the following in mind. Each comments should be:
- Constructive: even when the message is negative it can be stated positively Ex: "The actor showed zero emotion" vs. "The actor needed to show much more emotion to be convincing"
- Extensive: for comments more is better. 5 detailed sentences or more for each comment is a good rule of thumb. Short comments typically do not meet the 3 purposes listed above
- Praising and Critical: provide at least 1 good note, and 1 critical note
- Detailed: Give at least 1 example of a very specific item that did or didn't work for you.
Releasing of Comments:
After each NH Theatre Awards show, adjudicators comments will be anonymously be released to each producing Theatre Company. Please review the release details of releasing the comments by clicking HERE
What to write in the comments:
The comments should be a personal response to what you witnessed, and yet be as objective as you can make them.
- use the key adjectives from within the criteria and the matrix to ground your comments.
- make specific remarks as well as generalized comments. Although you may want to have a general over-view of the ability of the nominee in the category, specific examples of what they have done to fulfill or not fulfill the criteria will both help to inform them educationally and also will justify the overall comments. Eg: The director’s overall concept fully realized the potential of the play (general comment). The chosen eerie music and sound of water dripping, the low lighting level that made the audience strain to see the emerging image coming out of the dark, and Michael’s dragging foot immediately set the tone for the rest of the play (specific example). Or: Amelia’s performance lacked emotional commitment (general). In her solo song Somewhere That’s Green one felt little empathy for her as she was not emotionally connected to the words or the sense of what she was singing (specific example).
- The response should be constructive criticism. Although trite sound bites may be the norm for marketing of Broadway shows or Hollywood films, use as your role model the professional reviews found in the better quality papers. But be aware that even here many individual contributions to a show might be summarized in a single sentence as the reviews tend to focus much of their attention on the material and the author of that material. “The show was just plain bad!” says little about why. “She is far too old to be playing this role, particularly in that outfit” is just mean! Or “I love his performance, he can work with us anytime” similarly doesn’t explain (or indeed justify) what you thought was so good.
- The use of appropriate experience or research may help to make insightful comments. It may also help you speak with authority.
- It is appropriate, on occasion, to offer your own insight or advice, as long as the adjudication does not become a comparison to a production you were formally involved with, or the entire adjudication becomes “I would have done it this way”!! This advice can be a significant element of the NHTA educational mission.
Examples of Comments:
Below are a couple examples of adjudications of a fictitious production of Death of a Salesman.
Leading Actor Category
Peter’s performances of Willy Loman did nothing for me. He wandered around the stage feeling sorry for himself and shouting for no reason. He is too young for the role as well. I couldn’t always hear him.
On the first page of the script, it says that Willy Loman is past 60 years of age (research). Although Lee J. Cobb was only 38 when he originated the role in 1939, you still might expect a more mature actor to play the role. Peter looked to be middle aged, too young to have sons their ages, and also too young to feel he has no life left, nothing to give his family and therefore has no option but to take the final misguided action he takes. Peter made little attempt to play the character with any aged weariness either, which undermined one of the central traits of his character. At times, he seemed to be unfocused and his movements had little purpose, particularly in the scene with Howard. Although Willy is frustrated and agitated in this scene, Peter’s unclear movements came across as if the actor, rather than the character, didn’t know what to do (specific example) As a native New Yorker himself (research, program notes) Peter’s accent was secure throughout, but his outbursts of shouting seemed motiveless as they were not matched physically or psychologically. It was during these periods that his clarity of diction was lost and subsequently we, as an audience, had a sense of being pulled out of the story. I would have liked to have seen him try to express his frustration and desperation without always having to resort to shouting (offer of advice). However, on the whole, the portrayal of the character was mostly consistent (grounded comment from matrix), even the motiveless shouting was a consistent trait. Willy’s tragic spiraling fall from grace was communicated with some success to the audience (grounded comment from matrix) even if we couldn’t fully believe in all he did. (specific example).
Scenic Design Category
I didn’t get it. They seemed to be indoors but playing football. There were other women in the son’s bedroom when the boys weren’t there. Very messy.
It is conceivable to design this show without using the multi-leveled set as described in the text and as designed by Jo Mielziner for the original 1949 production (research). I saw a very simple but effective one-level design at the National Theatre in London. (appropriate personal experience). The problem with this design was not its lack of levels but its confused sense of place and the inability of the actors and director to be able to use it effectively. While the design had its own reasonable aesthetic (grounded comment from matrix); observing it pre-show it appeared to be creative and quite beautiful; it did not service the entire needs of the play (grounded comment from criteria). As the house took up the entire space, there was no possible way to perform scenes in front of this. So scenes taking place supposedly in the yard, the restaurant, the hotel room and at the office all seemed to take place inside the house (specific examples). As a concept, this might work for the dream and flashback scenes, as they take place in Willy’s head, but are much more confusing for the present day scenes in other locations.