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This post topic was inspired while I was having coffee with a friend one day and we were talking about theater. At one point she asked me if I had ever gotten a bad review, and if I did, how did I handle it. 

Here is my experience-

During my acting career in the theater, I received both positive and negative reviews about my performances. And to be frank, whether they were positive or negative, they each came with their own set of challenges.

In my career, I was fortunate to experience a lot of rejection from the start, so it was something I got used to. Rejection either paralyzes you or propels you forward. For me, it caused me to rely on my own intuition and move forward. And although rejection and negative reviews can sting, the stinging sensation doesn't last as long the more you get stung. 

Positive reviews are a learning experience as well because you have to watch yourself by not putting too much emphasis on someone else's praise, or you begin needing that praise more and more. If you're not careful, positive reviews can start becoming a priority; causing you to lose sight of what's really important, which is the work. I think the healthiest perception one can have of reviews is to know yourself and your talent well, and not strive for positive reviews nor rest on them. 

If you receive a negative review, it often makes it uncomfortable for your fellow-cast members because they don't know what to say to you, other than avoiding eye contact in the dressing room and saying nothing. And if you receive a positive review, that too can create an uncomfortableness of tension and jealousy among cast members. 

I've experienced both of those things.

So as I said, positive and negative reviews come with their own set of challenges.

One day last week, I curiously googled two theater productions that I was a part of to see if I could find the newspaper reviews. And by George, I did! Furthermore, I chose two completely different reviews so that you could experience the contrast. I took a partial screenshot of each headline, and then copied and pasted the reviews for you to read. 

I'm going to share the negative review first ...


Larry Kramer obviously put his whole heart into writing The Normal Heart, his autobiographical play about the onset of the AIDS epidemic. But he should have paid more attention to his head.

All too often, political diatribe and battering-ram rhetoric obscure the human aspects of his story. The Normal Heart doesn't so much touch the heart as try to tear it asunder.

The Tropical Theatre production reflects the dichotomy of Kramer's script. It is at its best -- compelling and emotional -- when focusing on the relationships between the central characters. But such scenes offer too brief a respite in what adds up to a three-hour marathon.

Ron Carnival plays Ned Weeks, an outspoken gay activist and writer who starts an AIDS support group in New York City at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. Ned is alarmed that his friends are dying. But mostly he is angry -- angry at the media for not writing more about AIDS, angry at the city's health officials and politicians for ignoring the problem, angry at members of the gay community who refuse to curb their promiscuity.

Ned is at odds with everyone, including himself. He has never had a long- term lover, never really been in love. But then he becomes involved with Felix, a New York Times reporter, who is able to see the vulnerability beneath Ned's porcupine exterior.

But the audience has seen Ned as a nice guy all along, because of the way Carnival underplays the role. He's not angry enough to support the script in the first act. Then, in the second act, he's too angry, railing on and on at friend and foe alike. There's no modulation and little variety in his performance.

Others in the cast fare better, particularly Tom Nowicki as Bruce Niles, whose hesitancy to publicly admit that he's gay hinders his effectiveness as president of the AIDS support group. Nowicki lets us see Bruce's confusion and pain. He also contributes the play's most poignant moment as Bruce relates the excruciating details of his lover Albert's death from AIDS.

As Felix, Tre Laughlin gives an empathetic, if somewhat mannered, performance. Kate Bradbury is a forceful presence as Emma Brookner, a doctor who is treating a large number of AIDS patients. Also good are J. Andrew Richards and Tommy Boatwright as two members of the AIDS support group, and Jesse Charles as Ned's straight brother, Ben.

David Gerrard's staging is effective, but his direction lacks authority and continuity. There were problems with timing, too, on opening night, mainly because some cast members didn't pick up their cues quickly enough.

The Tropical production, as well-intentioned as Kramer no doubt was, is effective as a consciousness-raiser. That it ultimately fails as good theater is not the fault of the cast and crew. They can't bypass The Normal Heart's congenital defect -- a cumbersome script.

My thoughts: As hard as this review was to read, I was honest with myself and agreed with it. This play and role were a huge undertaking for me. It was a three-hour play with 16 scenes and I was in 14 of those scenes; therefore, I was constantly onstage talking. And the reviewer was correct, my performance did have little modulation and variety because I didn't really know what I was doing. At that time, I didn't have the experience I needed to take on a such a complex role. I pretty much just flew by the seat of my pants. But hey, you live and learn. Which I did. So, I'm grateful for this experience and would never wish to exclude it from my performance history. 

And now, the positive review...


There's a moment at the beginning of the Osceola Players' Cabaret, as Ron Carnavil's Master of Ceremonies takes the stage, when everything seems about to go just right.

Carnavil, his lips rouged and his eyes dark with mascara, wears a wicked leer on his face as he welcomes customers in the audience to his cabaret in 1930 Berlin. His voice is shrill and hollow, his manner fey. Even when his expression changes from a pout to a disingenuous grin, something about this man suggests a hint of evil to come.

Nothing else about the Osceola Players' Cabaret quite fulfills the promise Carnavil brings to the first scene. Still, this dispassionate production re-creates some of the flavor of the 1966 Broadway musical for those who have never seen it, and Carnavil's chilling Master of Ceremonies lays bare what the original production was all about.

Director Nicholas G. Rinaldi, who was stage manager for that first production of Cabaret and now works as a show director at Disney-MGM Studios, has made a valiant attempt to bring the original Cabaret back to life. The director has banished anything more than the smallest hint of a realistic set. Instead, the Kit Kat Klub's all-woman band (here, with a couple of male musicians hidden in the back) surveys the goings-on from a balcony above the stage, and an apartment is suggested simply by a couple of Kit Kat tables and chairs. A large mirror, suspended from the rafters, is lowered from time to time to show the audience that we, too, are the Kit Kat's patrons.

More than two dozen actors are garbed (by costumer Lana Carnahan) to recall the extreme dress of 1930 Berlin, and the cast members' blond hair and well-scrubbed looks suggest German origins almost as much as they do daytime jobs at Disney World.

Unfortunately, Rinaldi seems to have chosen to re-create every word and note from the original show, and many of his cast members aren't up to it. Too many of the songs - especially those outside the Kit Kat - come off as pointless padding, and too many of the performers either sing well or act well but don't do both.

That's not the case with several of Rinaldi's leads, who (like much of the cast) are either making their local stage debuts or have been seen in the area only at Disney. Russell Jordan, blond and bespectacled, is earnest and appealing as Cliff Bradshaw, the show's American hero, and he has a lovely voice. So does Rich Tryzbiak, who makes the story's most prominent Nazi every bit as attractive and ominous as he must be.

Jan Peterson and Ron Santulli, who play the German landlady and her German-Jewish suitor, are more problematic. Peterson has a nice gleam in her eye but no singing voice, and Santulli, whose voice is agreeable, overacts. (Santulli also sounds as if he has spent his life in New York, not Berlin.) And the character of Sally Bowles, the nightclub singer who calls herself "strange and extraordinary," is nothing of the sort. Actress Mavis Turley is wholesome, not glamorous, and her strong, brassy voice simply can't make up for allure that isn't there.

Osceola's production, in fact, has few of the niceties that one might expect. But it does have Carnavil's Master of Ceremonies, who, in his cabaret numbers, can ogle two women or a gorilla with equally creepy glee. The rest of this mild-mannered show could use some of Carnavil's menace. Too bad he can't bottle it.

My thoughts: I waited 16 years for the opportunity to audition for the role of Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret. And I almost didn't get it because the director initially did not want to cast me in the role; he had another role in mind. But I refused to be in the show if he didn't cast me as MC. That was one time in my career when I stubbornly fought hard for a role because I knew in my heart I was meant to play it. So naturally, I was very happy with this review. However as I mentioned above, a review like this can be challenging as well because it often manifests tension and jealously.   

Things I Learned From Live Theater-

My time in the theater taught me so much about real life because in a very profound way, live theater mirrors real life. It truly does. And here are a few similarities...

-Don't anticipate. Take each moment (scene) in your life as it comes, and stay present.

-No two days (performances) will ever be the same, so be open to whatever happens and adapt to it. 

-Know yourself, and allow others to have their own opinions (reviews) of you. 

-Life isn’t a dress rehearsal before the curtain goes up, it’s the main show. So live it. 

-And life, much like theater...

Have a stellar rest of your week, everyone! 💗⭐

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