As an educator, teaching artist, and professor I'm used to post-assessments. For each workshop and residency I've done and continue to do, there are formal documents to complete and send off evaluating how things went (I've got a reputation for writing particularly entertaining post-assessments for the workshops I do for BAM). At the Paley Center, a day after I've finished teaching a video conferencing class, I find an email evaluation in my inbox assessing my performance. Professional Development Workshops? They send a professional evaluator in to assess my performance and then provide me with a detailed ten-page document. And much to my graduate student's dismay, I constantly make them assess and reflect on their teaching practice both verbally and in writing.
In addition, when you teach or rehearse with people under the age of twenty, ideally, you lay out your goals and objectives in a lesson plan or rehearsal plan before you set foot in a classroom or rehearsal hall. And trust me, not only does this make for a more productive session, but it also makes assessing that session a lot easier.
So, as soon as we booked the space, Robby and I laid out our goals for the reading. They were really simple:
1. We wanted to hear and see our show done by talented performers so that we could find out what worked and what didn't work.
2. We wanted to share our enthusiasm for this piece with a live audience. We wanted the audience to be a mix of friends, family, industry professionals and colleagues.
3. We wanted to force ourselves to be proactive about our project and just make something happen, rather than sit around waiting for our big break.
The week before the reading, Robby and I got even more specific and came up with a list of questions that we had about the show. Some were dramaturgical, some structural, some business-oriented and some personal, but all of them were clearly laid out in writing as we walked into the performances last week.
For any of my graduate students who read this blog, please take note of what I'm about to say. It was the most useful and best thing we could have done. Why? Because, after sharing your creative baby with audiences for the first time, you walk around in somewhat of a daze. You get hurt and puzzled by the criticisms, you relish the positives, and part of you has no idea what direction to go in next.
But if you wrote down those questions before this wonderfully disorienting time, you have something concrete and straightforward to go back to. And if you still don't have the answers, you have the opportunity to share those questions with your peers and colleagues who just saw the performance and are then able to have future readings in which to experiment with changes.
Oh, so what's my assessment? Well, we are in pretty darn good shape for where we are in the development process. We certainly met our intial goals, and while we don't have all the answers yet, we are getting closer. We are aware of what tweaks and changes need to be made, are open to doing some experimenting here and there, feel confident that we have a very solid core and have captured the right tone for the piece, and know clearly what our next steps need to be.
The best thing I would like to report in this post-assessment is that sharing our work with supportive friends, family, industry people and colleagues, as well as hearing and seeing our work performed incredibly well by an outstanding cast, have given us the enthusiasm and confidence to forge ahead.
And the baklava was a definite hit.