This is a guest post by Sean Pratt
Not only should an actor learn how to deal with what critics think of their work, but also how to use these reviews to their advantage.
For most actors the dread that is associated with reading a critic’s review of their work ranks right up there with getting a root canal at the dentist’s office. Their insecurity, coupled with their desire to have everyone like them, leaves them vulnerable to the emotional rollercoaster that comes about from the writings of some capricious critic. Many actors simply refuse to read them at all, or wait until after the show has closed to peruse them. Either way they’re missing out on a great opportunity to promote themselves and boost their career.
Like Oscar Wilde says…
“There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about.” He really hit the nail on the head as it concerns marketing and advertising…and yes, he was thinking about it in those general terms. It’s true, there’s almost no such thing as bad press. A painter I once modeled for, Sylvia Sleigh had a wonderful response to garnering a bad review for her work. She would pull out a ruler and measure the column length of the critique, delighting in how much magazine or newspaper space was taken up with the article. “Love me or hate, but please just write about me,” she’d say.
She and Oscar had the right attitude. They understood that no matter what the critic thought, the fact that their names were in print meant they were just that much more recognizable to the public at large…and all from this free advertising. You too can capitalize on this with just a little extra work by creating your own promotional “review sheet.”
Extra, Extra, Read All About It!
Simply put, a review sheet is a collection of reviews and photos from your latest show, used to create a flyer. Yes, I know that you don’t put much stock in what a theatre critic might say about your work and while that’s smart and mature, it’s not the point. Frankly, what you think or feel about those reviews shouldn’t matter. Stop looking at these reviews through the lens of your ego, and begin to see them from the point of view of a marketing and/or publicity director.
The point is that other people will read them and form opinions based on them. You do the same thing when reading movie reviews; two thumbs up, or two thumbs down can have a big influence on whether or not you go to that film. The concept is known as “Third Party Endorsement”; someone else saying you’re a good actor is always better than just you saying it.
As long as the critic liked some aspect of the show, you, the cast, the performances in general, or the interpretation of the play, you have material that you can quote. So you pull an excerpt from one review that praised the show overall, but didn’t mention you, and place it next to a blurb that singled you out for praise but gave the show a so-so rating. Now on some nice paper, copy and paste these quotes along with photos of you from the play, the logo of the show, the icon of the theatre, etc.
Arrows in Your Quiver
Now you have a flyer to send out to agents, directors, producers, etc., highlighting your work on a particular project. But just as important, if you start to do this with every show, you can begin to use these review sheets for your future marketing efforts. For instance, if you’re submitting for a summer-stock Shakespeare company, along with your headshot and resume you can include several review sheets from your previous outings with the Bard. At a glance the reader will begin to see you through the lens of those reviews and photos; the third party endorsements giving you credibility and legitimacy. So start gathering those reviews and pictures right now!
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Sean Pratt, (AEA / SAG / AFTRA), has been a working actor for over 20 years. Sean was a member of the resident acting company at The Pearl Theatre, an Off-Broadway classical repertory theatre and has also performed at numerous regional theatres around the country. Major films include – Gods and Generals, Tuck Everlasting and Iron Jawed Angels. Television work includes – The host of HGTV’s, Old Homes Restored, and supporting roles on Homicide, The District and America’s Most Wanted. Audiobooks – He’s narrated for 15 years and has recorded nearly 550 books in just about every genre. He also teaches classes on and writes articles about the business of the Biz.