Wednesday, October 01, 2008

What a Critique Means To Me

When I appeared in Angels In America over a decade ago (my debut in professional theater), the reviews about my performance weren't very encouraging, so much so that I cried, nearly bawling my eyes out. I only got one glowing review--from the Manila Chronicle--which likened my performance to William Holden on Sunset Boulevard.

While that piece of positive feedback did elevate my spirits, it wasn't enough to convince me that my performance was worth something in the entirety of Tony Kushner's opus. I only resolved to do my best in the remaining performances, and accept the truth that I was the "professional newbie" who didn't have years of hard theater acting experience compared to my fellow cast members. And there have been no regrets--1995 was still the best year of my life.

(The image below was lifted from The Bachelor Girl. That's me on the top left--yes, I had hair. Also in the picture (clockwise, from top left): Tami Monsod, Lorna Lopez, Ebong Joson, Monique Wilson, RS Francisco, Jamie Wilson, Lourdes Faberes, Michael Williams, Joshua Spafford)

Going back to critique. Whenever I would read a review of my work, I'd always feel anxious over what the reviewer has to say. There's a slight pinching in the chest because of the anticipation. On one end, I would hope that I get the marks. But, on the other end, I would also hope to see a different perspective dished out in a constructive way. It doesn't matter whether or not the reviewer was "qualified" to pass judgment. (This is not to say that I wouldn't get hurt--I do get hurt, but the appreciation is still there.)

Of course, there is the argument of the odd man out. A furor erupted some time ago over the credentials of one theater critic because of a scathing review he wrote in his blog. To many in the theater industry, this critic was out of line and didn't have the right to write reviews, moreso sit in the jury of an award-giving body. Battle lines were drawn, and acidic remarks have been flung.

But from an outsider, there lie the concerns: The theater critic was definitely qualified by virtue of education and experience, when compared to the other members of the award-giving body. The critic's only fault was his horrid deficiency in the English language. Otherwise, his credentials granted him a relatively more discerning perspective than his fellow jurors. These fellow jurors, some of whom are not practitioners in the industry, luckily did not suffer the wrath of the theater veterans.

Sometimes I'd wonder if the local comics industry was ready for solid critique. Yes, a thumbs-down can easily discourage, especially if one has toiled through sleepless nights, headaches and stiff wrists, plus the agony that comes with low sales. And negative criticism can just as easily steer aspirants from the arduous comics-making journey. But what is passion if not the conviction to press on despite the negative feedback? (I have a friend who's really talented in his chosen field, but after nearly two decades he hasn't had a big break. But he's still at it, bless him.)

If the local komiks awards were revived, would we be as unforgiving to jurors we've never heard of before? Would we lambast a comic book enthusiast for issuing negative criticism, especially if he sat in the komiks awards' panel? Would we push for veteran practitioners to judge? Would we allow the panel to be composed of members of the academe, particularly those who've never made a comic book in their life? Or do we wholeheartedly accept the idea that criticism can come from anyone who can make constructive judgments and offer rational perspectives?

But I guess I'm getting ahead of myself. There aren't a lot of local comics to critique. There ought to be a deluge.

(And, yes, I've started drawing pages again.)


lorna said...

Hi roomie! Carlo, I've been trying to catch you forever to tell you that I'm so proud and happy for you and all your accomplishments! Josh also found me through the web! Mwah! :))

-Lorna Lopez aka TheBachelorGirl

Carver said...

LORNAAAHH!!! huggies, roomie. :) Phillip is now in Belgium. May bahay na siya doon. :) I hope things are well with you. May mga shows ka pa ba?


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