Actors’ egos are very fragile, especially volunteers that may not have had a lot of experience. Often the excitement of performing is more potent after a performance than before; if it went well, the cast could be keyed up. If they think it didn’t go well, they’ll spend hours trying to figure out what went wrong. They need specific, individual encouragement after a performance.
One of the most effective ways to encourage your actors is the post-performance meeting. This helps the actors remember that the performance isn’t over—they can’t change it, but they can learn from it. There are two principles that enable the postmortem to be an encouraging time of evaluation and growth:
1. Develop a preshow focus
Before the cast performs, they are nervous about all the different elements. Help them relax by giving them a focus: “This week let’s work on volume.” Then as soon as the performance is over, let everyone get a drink and sit down. The meeting begins by addressing the focus: “Did you feel you
could be heard?” This allows the discussion to open with how the people who were actually onstage felt, and lets them know that their experience is as valuable as their performance.
2. Develop a language for evaluation
Write out a list of four or five questions that your team discusses after every performance. This way everyone knows what the standard is, and they’ll look forward to talking about the ways they meet and exceed the standard.
The question should reflect where your group is. Beginnings might start with:
- Did we remember our lines?
- Did we project and enunciate?
As the group grows, so will the questions:
- Did our actions come from the words?
- Did we listen and react honestly?
An upbeat way to lead the meeting is to use the phrase, “Yes, and…” Did we remember our lines?
“Yes! You got most of them, and the way you covered that one mistake was perfect!”
While the postmortem should be limited to the cast and crew involved, if you have a drama meeting, it is an opportunity for feedback from the entire group. Make it part of your agenda to review the sketch in your meeting. Leading off the discussion with “Let’s have a big round of applause for Sam and Kim, who did a great job this weekend” sets the tone.
Make sure your group sticks to discussing how the sketch affected them. Feedback from peers can be most encouraging. Be aware of the number one rule in the theatre: Actors never give others actors notes. Notes are comments reserved for a director only, because notes are given to change a performance. Steer your group away from comments like: “I would have done it this way…” The “Yes, and…” approach here keeps the conversation supportive.
The drama director has gotten used to the ministry pace—Sunday comes every week! But for the actor, performing is a big event. A handwritten card to first-time performers is a real boost. Try to remember something specific that happened in rehearsal or performance and recall it in your note. A weekly e-mail or phone call can be a great way to keep those that are faithfully committed feeling good about their input.
Drama participants give a great gift to the ministry. They sacrifice their time. Then they put themselves in a very vulnerable position—at the altar, giving their gift to the congregation—so their performance time can be draining. Be sure to give back to team members through consistent encouragement from the cast, the drama team and the director.