Good  criticism  defines  and  clarifies

Reviewing  and  Critiquing             INTRO  TO  THEATRE     Good  criticism  defines  and  clarifies  the  theatrical  experience.     Dramaturg:  a  creative  literary,  performance,  and  cultural  researcher  with  an  eye  towards   production.     A  reviewer  guides  public  opinion  and  shapes  the  market  for  a  production   A  critic  hopes  to  shape  the  dialogue  about  a  work  of  art     “Reviewers  should  be  very  astute  and  attentive  audience  members.    They  need  to  be  extremely  observant   of  all  the  details  of  a  performance.    Professional  critics  get  press  packets  when  they  come  to  a  show.    These   often  include  previous  reviews  of  the  show,  background  information  on  the  artists,  notes  from  the  director   or  dramaturg,  and  other  relevant  material  to  inform  their  judgments.    Almost  all  professional  reviewers   come  to  the  theatre  with  pen  and  paper  and  make  notes  about  the  elements  of  production  during  the   course  of  the  show.    Theatre  reviewers  need  to  be  educated  about  the  theatre  to  write  with  accuracy  and   understanding.    Not  only  do  they  need  a  thorough  knowledge  of  theatre  history,  dramatic  literature,  and   theatre  criticism,  but  they  must  also  know  about  acting,  directing,  and  design  elements  in  order  to  discuss   their  contributions  intelligently.”    (p.400,  WOT)     In  the  course  of  writing  a  critique,  you  will  want  to  give  your  reader  good  reasons  to  understand   and  perhaps  agree  with  your  point  of  view  on  the  performance.     Engage  with  the  emotional  and  intellectual  intentions  of  the  production  to  have  some  sense  of  the   standards  by  which  to  judge  it.       STYLE     Unity  of  elements:    what  is  used  consistently     Emphasis  of  elements:    what  is  used  selectively   THESIS     Create  a  central  claim  that  your  ensuing  arguments  will  advance  (usually  a  claim  about   the  play’s  function,  effects  or  meanings.)         Step  1:  Organizational  Structure   How  is  the  work  put  together  as  a  whole?    Make  a  segmentation  (plot  outline)  as  an  aid.  

We  will  be  experiencing  “typical”  narratives:  it  will  have  a  plot  that  cues  us  to  construct  a   story;  it  will  manipulate  causality,  time  and  space;  it  will  have  a  distinct  pattern  of  development   from  opening  to  closing;  its  narration  will  choose  between  restricted  and  unrestricted   knowledge.  

  Step  2:  Identify  the  Salient  Techniques  Used     Describe  what  you  see.    What  techniques  are  available?    What  techniques  are  necessary?       Step  3:  Trace  Out  Patterns  of  Techniques     Analyze  how  techniques  are  used  systematically,  as  a  pattern.    Synthesize  observations   and  descriptions.    Identify  techniques,  trace  out  patterns  of  use  and  propose  functions.    Also  look   for  unique  use  of  techniques  that  may  stand  aside  from  a  pattern.    Connect  patterns  of   techniques  to  the  thesis  you  have  developed.    Do  not  try  to  analyze  all  techniques,  but   certainly  those  that  have  the  most  effect  on  your  thesis.    

Step  4:    Propose  Functions  for  the  Salient  Techniques  and  Patterns  They  Form     Interpret.    Connect  Technique  to  Function  to  Meaning.     “A  direct  route  to  noticing  function  is  to  notice  the  effects  on  our  viewing  experience.”     “Meaning  is  only  one  type  of  effect,  and  there  is  no  reason  to  expect  that  every  stylistic   feature  will  possess  a  thematic  significance.    One  part  of  a  director’s  job  is  to  direct  our  attention,   so  style  will  often  function  simply  perceptually.”    -­‐    YOU  are  to  focus  on  those  elements,   however,  that  DO  connect  to  the  functions  of  meaning  and  are  to  comment  on  those.       Critiques:        

DO:    Provide  striking  opening  that  foreshadows  your  judgment  and  the  work’s  

meaning    Identify  salient  techniques  –  describe  accurately,  synthesize  uses  and  

relationships  of  techniques    Utilize  writing  skills  of  arresting  openings,  pointed  wrap-­‐ups,  vivid  descriptions    Identify  your  judgment  of  the  INTENTION  of  the  play  and  the  relative  success  of  

achieving  that  intention.    What  did  the  play  set  out  to  do.    Support  this  judgment  with  incisive  examples  

  DO  NOT:  

 Concentrate  overly  on  performance    Compare  extensively  to  other  plays    Drivel  on  about  likes  and  dislikes,  personal  biases  and  contentions  with  the  

meaning  of  the  work  –  assess  what  IT  set  out  to  do  and  if  it  did  it,  NOT  whether   you  agree  with  the  meaning  or  not.  


TREE:      Thesis  supported  by  Reasons  which  rest  upon  Evidence  and  Examples.        

Play  Viewing  Critique  and  Rubric    

NOTE:    rubrics  are  intended  as  GUIDES.    They  have  been  designed  to  identify  what  is  of  importance  and   how  it  is  assessed,  NOT  as  strict  “True/False”  assessments.      

The  successful  Critique  will  identify  salient  TECHNIQUES  of  the  medium  used  as  an  application   towards  final  artistic  MEANING.    Techniques  include  story  structure  and  genre,  performance  style,  use  of   language,  aspects  of  mise-­‐en-­‐scene,  and  sound.    Meaning  is  derived  through  analysis  of  these  techniques  of   medium  and  must  demonstrate  an  understanding  of  referential,  explicit,  implicit  and  symptomatic   meaning.  

The  quality  of  a  critique  is  based  upon  clarity  and  insight  of  writing  and  evaluation.    A  successful   critique  will  provide  a  qualified  evaluation  of  the  work.    A  plot  synopsis  or  segmentation  should  NOT  be   included  in  the  critiques  for  UCD  departmental  productions  –  however,  elements  of  structure  and  plot  that   support  the  clearly  stated  thesis  of  meaning  should  be  included.  The  evaluation  will  be  balanced,   identifying  positive  and  negative  aspects  of  the  work.        

While  most  reviews  concentrate  upon  acting,  our  analyses  will  expand  to  concentrate  on  a  wider   set  of  aspects  of  the  medium  we  are  studying  (Narrative  structure,  form  and  language,  Directing  and  Acting   (live  dynamics  and  continuous  staging),  Mise-­‐en-­‐scene  (design),  Sound).    Analyses  must  be  concisely  and   eloquently  written.      

Critiques  must  be  2  -­‐  4  pages,  Courier,  Times,  Bookman  or  Times  New  Roman  fonts,  10  –  12  point.      

Play  Viewing  Critique  Rubric    

  Superlative   Proficient   Adequate   Unsatisfactory   Grade  “equivalent”   A   A  to  B   B-­‐  to  C-­‐   Below  C-­‐   Writing  style  (25%)  

• Organization   • Technical   • Creative  


Stimulating  read;   Thesis  of  Meaning  is   clearly  stated;  Very   few  or  no  technical   mistakes;  Body  is   logically  organized;   Stimulating  use  of   language  (imagery,   metaphors,  etc.)  

Easy  to  read;   Thesis  of  Meaning   is  clearly  stated;   Few  technical   mistakes;  Body  is   logically  organized;   Good  use  of   language  

Reasonable  to   read;  Thesis  of   Meaning  is  clearly   stated;  Some   technical  mistakes;   Body  is  adequately   organized;   Reasonable  use  of   language  

Difficult  to  read  or   follow;  Thesis  of   Meaning  is  not  clear;   Many  technical   mistakes;  Body  is  not   logically  organized;   Ineffectual  language   use  

Content  (75%)   • Identification  

of  Meaning     • Balanced  

assessment   • Specific  

examples   • Identification  

of  techniques    

Meaning  is  clearly   identified;  Evaluation   is  balanced,  clearly   stated,  including   positive  and  negative   aspects;  Thesis  is   supported  and   synthesized   eloquently  through   breadth  and  depth  of   specific  examples,   covering  a  range  of   techniques  and   demonstrating  quality   of  observations,   providing  a  logical  and   convincing  argument;   Multiple  areas  of  form,   style  and  technique   are  addressed  in   support  of  thesis    

Meaning  is  clearly   identified;   Assessment  is  clear   and  balanced;  Thesis   is  supported  and   synthesized  well   through  breadth  and   depth  of  specific   examples,  covering  a   range  of  techniques   and  demonstrating   quality  of   observations,   providing  a  logical   and  convincing   argument;  Several   areas  of  form,  style   and  technique  are   addressed  in  support   of  thesis    

Meaning  is   adequately   identified;   Assessment  is   reasonably  clear  and   balanced;  Thesis  is   adequately   supported  and   synthesized  through   specific  examples,   covering  several   techniques  and   demonstrating   reasonable   observations,   providing  a   reasonably  logical   and  convincing   argument;  Several   areas  of  form,  style   and  technique  are   addressed  in  support   of  thesis    

Meaning  is  only  vaguely   identified;  Assessment  is   unbalanced,  uncritical;   Thesis  is  feebly   supported  or   synthesized  through   specific  examples  -­‐   examples  are  non-­‐ existent,  generic  or  do   not  relate  to  assessment,   lacking  a  demonstration   of  observation  skills   and/or  ability  to  provide   a  logical  or  convincing   argument;  Areas  of  form,   style  and  technique  are   not  addressed   meaningfully  in  support   of  thesis  or  are   disconnected  from   meaning