A Third Ear

Kitty Felde – January 22, 2011

It’s so helpful to have someone else read your work. 

I know that’s obvious, but I’m always surprised when I do share my plays with someone else.  They see things in it that even I did not.  And ask questions that either I’ve been avoiding or never thought of asking myself.

The challenging part is finding the right person and the right environment. 

We’ve all been in situations where the feedback for the playwright was less than helpful.  I attend lots of readings.  (Yes, I know it’s a theatre’s excuse NOT to fully produce new work…) It’s helpful to me as a playwright to hear how someone else is tackling a problem and getting themselves out of it.  Or not.  And it’s easier for me to look objectively at THEIR work and see what needs to be done.   I’m rarely shy about sharing what I think is a helpful observation.

But I cringe in a feedback session when an audience member gushes, “don’t change a thing!”  Few plays don’t need a thing changed.  That kind of feedback is almost worse than a critique.

The hard part is listening with an objective ear.  And discarding most of what you’ve heard.  Those few nuggets that ring true are the ones to hold on to. 

But perhaps the most valuable third ear is that of a trusted dramaturg, director, or fellow playwright.  Not too many of them.  Too many voices can confuse and cause you to shut down completely.  But find the ones you trust.  

I miss my LA playwriting group, which was my group of third ears.  I haven’t yet found a group here in DC.  But my weekly Skype meetings with Omaha playwright Ellen Struve are my lifeline.  She sees things I have missed and asks questions I hadn’t thought of.  And she knows when to leave it alone until I can figure it out for myself. 

Do you have a trusted third ear?