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Oct 07

How to Critique Your Classmate’s Monologue

Pop Quiz! What’s the foundation of a great audition portfolio?

Answer: A collection of perfected monologues!

As many theater students know, getting great feedback is the key to perfecting a monologue.

But what about when you’re in a classroom setting and you have to give feedback to other people? How do you do it?

Don’t panic! There’s a simple strategy for peer feedback and constructive criticism. Just remember the acronym SUPShort. Upbeat. Precise.

When watching a friend’s monologue, remember to:

  1. KEEP IT SHORT. After performing a monologue, actors don’t want to sit through time-consuming, repetitive feedback. Get to the essence of what you’re saying. Just think about what the performer did, what worked/didn’t work, and what they could do to improve. Construct a 2-3 sentence summary of your ideas, deliver it respectfully to the performer, and then STOP. Remember: you don’t have to ramble in order to seem knowledgeable. Less is more.
  1. KEEP IT UPBEAT. Performing a monologue takes courage. Opening up to peer feedback takes even more courage. In your feedback, try to include upbeat comments about the fresh and interesting choices your classmate made, or your favorite part of their piece. This doesn’t mean you have to stick to compliments all the time, but frame your comments in a positive light. Instead of saying, “I couldn’t understand a word you were saying. You really need to articulate more,” instead try, “Hey, you spoke with much more clarity this time! Let’s try it again, with even more!” Phrasing your comments positively might seem silly at first, but you’ll be amazed at how much more appreciated they are. People are more likely to improve if they hear positive feedback!
  1. KEEP IT PRECISE. As an actor, it’s very difficult to polish your monologues if you’re not sure what you need to improve. Give your classmate precise feedback! Take notes during their monologue, listing specific lines that need fixing. If you can’t remember the entire line, use key words. That way, when you give your classmate the note, they can connect the advice (ex: slow down) to the specific lines that it applies to. Consider the three essential questions: What did they do? Why didn’t it work? What can they do to improve? Speed, volume, tone, facial expressions, physicality, gestures, and emotion are all excellent topics that are fair game for monologue feedback. If it’s possible, listen to their monologue more than once, and focus on different aspects every time. Don’t waste time with conversational fillers like “Ummmm,” “Sooo,” “Like…” This takes away from the impact and authority of your feedback. Just breathe, gather your thoughts, and then say what you want to say.

Feedback is primarily about the performer, but it’s also about the audience! By learning how to critique your classmates’ monologues with constructive criticism, you’re also learning an essential life skill: how to better communicate with everyone else in your world.

Now, doesn’t that sound SUPer? 🙂

Share your constructive criticism tips in the comments below!

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