I remember scrambling a month ago to write a press release for our show and asking a friend for help. He transformed it into a captivating invitation for the media to check out our show. Right, so when does that happen exactly? At the press preview. When is that? How do we send it to them? Who’s in charge of inviting the press? As a very new production company, with no one on our team with any experience in producing a play or a Fringe show, we made a bunch of rookie errors.
Two days before our press preview, we scrambled to invite members of the media. Hopefully five people would show up. So, when more than 30 people, including reporters from the Weekly and the Sentinel, were in the audience, it felt amazing. It was our first full run through and it went great. The audience laughed and cried and they were with me. They clapped and thanked me afterwards.
A reporter for a hyper-local blog interviewed me afterwards and gave me a ton of encouragement and confidence. He said I should look for his review in the next few days. The next morning it was in my inbox. This review implored everyone to go see my show because I won him over in the first five minutes. It said I was more #woke than some black folk, such as Trump appointee Secretary Dr. Ben Carson. I was on cloud-9, wherever that is. I could see our show going viral. Everyone was going to love it.
I entered the show as a skeptic. Within the first 5 minutes, I found myself nodding in agreement with the insights Ms. Selikoff shared with the mostly white audience.
-David Porter, 32805 Blog
And then the next review from a well-known and respected local source came out and it was critical. Biting and stinging and I felt dismissive. Sure, there were some valid points of things we could improve, but come on give us credit for trying to do something really hard: talk about race as white people to white people. I was devastated. I was pissed. At the critic and myself. The critic because it felt too critical and myself because I forgot that if you do a play, you should expect to be reviewed. Also, you should expect to be reviewed and critiqued if you invited the entire local press to preview your show and do exactly that.
Amy never truly turns her microscope on herself, acknowledging but not fully exploring her personal complicity in white privilege.
Seth Kubersky, Orlando Weekly
Somehow, I had forgotten that, or hadn’t realized how hard it was to have the thing you loved and created and worked for years on to be judged and taken apart and printed in the paper for everyone to see. And it is a one-sided interaction: I perform, they write. There’s not a back and forth; I didn’t get a chance to clarify or justify certain decisions. And for an entire day I was undone. I wanted to give up before we had even started. There were still five performances to come, but would anyone show up?
It was at this point, a very low point, that our team decided I wouldn’t be looking at reviews until after Fringe. By the end of Fringe, we would have four reviews, two positive and two I have trouble viewing as anything but negative. But I think that’s part of the life of a critic; you’re going to make a lot of people unhappy because your writing is authoritative and definitive. And that’s what I need to keep in mind, the critic is important, but the critic is just one person’s opinion. So, focus on the upside, many first-time show don’t get four reviews or the press exposure we received.
In theory, I think critique can be useful; in practice, I think the critics are full of shit and I take it personally, very personally. Press coverage is a double-edged sword: it gets the word out, but then you focus on the coverage, not your craft and the truth you’re bringing to the world.
This feeling and thinking would haunt me all throughout Fringe. Other one-person shows were getting great reviews and press. My jealousy was palpable. But the comparison game is where creativity goes to die. I tried to tell myself that it was all okay, but to be honest I was panicking. Imposter syndrome on overdrive: who am I to be here, who am I to perform, how did I think a white lady could do this, what am I doing with my life?
But then my questions shifted. Why did I write this show in the first place? Who is my audience? What is the truth I have to speak? Do I know the answers to those questions? Yes; mostly. So, then I have to be true to those things, my values, and the talent I’ve been given and leave it there. Critics be damned. So, to speak.
Easier said than done though.
I was wondering why this was the topic of my first post since Fringe and I think it’s because criticism has been such a big part of my story. I think it’s also a good bell weather sign to check my intentions. Am I just after accolades or exposing the deep, dark truth of racism? As my therapist would say, how can I be kind to myself and not fall into perfectionism and self-contempt?
So here goes nothing:
- we had six performances;
- four reviews;
- one sold-out show;
- almost everybody told us they appreciated the show;
- many people asked how they could take their next steps;
- I cried at 4 of 6 performances during the Philando story;
- we were brave;
- we took big risks;
- we talked to hundreds of people (though it felt like a million);
- and we were people with a purpose.