Opening weekend

So, your friends came to see your show. Did they like it? No, did they REALLY like it? How can you tell?

Well, the first thing to know is that everyone hated it and you were terrible. They will say nice things, but unless they are A) screaming, B) openly weeping, or C) bodily shaking you, they are unquestionably lying to indulge your fragile pathetic ego.

In case you don't believe me, I've written a handy guide to translating audience responses.

First of all: beware enthusiastic, unqualified praise. No one likes EVERYTHING. For instance:
"That was fantastic/great/awesome!"
This is a simple one: your friend does not have the heart to lie to you.

"You were great!"
No, you weren't.
Also, watch out for specific or itemized praise. This only means they've found a way to spare your feelings by mentioning the ONE thing about your show that was NOT an absolute abomination.
"Great job!"
This is a common one. Sometimes it means your friend actually liked YOUR work and hated the show itself.
But often it was the first vague, positive thing that came to mind that wasn't a direct lie.

"The show was great!"
Read: you, however, were terrible.

This is the worst. This really just means 'I can't find anything to praise, but you seem to still be alive after participating in that debacle, so... good for you for THAT." Usually followed by an abrupt conversation change.

"I loved the (specific scene/design detail/moment of the play)!"
... which is a direct contrast to how fiercely I hated everything else.
You can also gauge audience responses from strangers. For example:

Stranger makes eye contact and smiles briefly.
Sympathy for how you have just embarrassed yourself.

Stranger avoids eye contact completely.
Empathy for how you have just embarrassed yourself (this is an important distinction. THIS person feels it so deeply, they have absorbed your embarrassment and can't even bring themselves to look you in the face. The other person was kinder, but slightly more patronizing).

Stranger smiles, says "good job."
The above apply, but Stranger feels need to say SOMETHING, and he/she doesn't know you so doesn't really mind lying to you just a little bit.

So, there you go. Enjoy the run of your show. Please feel free to add anything I've left out. I'm sure I'll continue to edit this post.


Ryan said...

Well, what are people allowed to say if they actually freaking like it?

Cesar Torres said...

Lacy, I hope you also write versions of this post to cover responses after the premieres of commercials, roles in movies, and friends who are published, both in non-fiction and fiction forms.

Reader: "Cesar, congratulations on your blog postings!"

Cesar: "Uh....thanks." (Remembers Lacy's list of responses)

Reader: "No, really! Congrats!"

Cesar: "Bartender? Make it a double. My ego just committed suicide."

Now I know how to read it!

Halena said...

The classiest guy I know has found a way to get past my intense dislike and unforgiving judgment of the "immediately after show responses", now you can all be classy: Leave immediately, causing initial freak out BUT THEN, call and leave a message right away so they get it when they turn their phone on later, say "I hate all that after show stuff but I really wanted you to know how much I ...blah blah blah". This works for me because I figure he didn't have to call, so maybe he's not being condescending or playing some elaborate joke on me because I deserve it because the show was terrible and I made it worse. I also like it because I don't have to fake smile and say "thanks" and then say something demeaning about myself. Try it today!
PS-once after Equus, someone told me I was really "brave" for doing the naked scene because "you know, you’re not petite." You can imagine how I interpreted that.

Lacy said...

I thought you were fantastic in Mud, by the way. And it was really brave of you to do that play because ... you know, you're not Equity.

DinaBear said...


Yeow, that's the worst one, I've gotten it, I feel it. I know it. I am also very guilty of picking a specific scene/moment/production value to praise, often racking my brain in between post-show and actor friends emergence from back stage to be ready to say something nice, make them feel good.

I try desperately to avoid all the key words/phrases you have listed here--but then--when I DO really love a show, when I DO really think it is awesome, I am overwhelmed by a feeling that no matter what, no matter how eloquently I express my love for their performance and the production, no one will believe me, that they think I'm just being nice! There's just no winning, is there?

Lacy said...

it is a no-win situation! The worst one I ever defaulted to was "those costumes were fantastic!" ... for a play that my date had 1. fallen asleep during and 2. then left at intermission.

But you're right! When I really love it, I want to grab the person and be like - NO! I REALLY! LOVED IT!

at least it's all coming from a place of WANTING to support our friends.