What Filmmakers Can Learn From the New York Theater Workshop About The Art Of Collaboration

On August 8th, 2012 PBS's Media Shift published Christa Avampato's interview with Jim Nicola, longtime (since 1988!) artistic director of New York Theater Workshop (NYTW).

The NYTW process for a new play includes a public staged reading - where the audience is invited to experience the new work as the actors perform it - often with script-in-hand.

Immediately after that public reading, the NYTW uses a feedback technique - called the "Critical Response Process" created by Liz Lerman - where audience members are lead through a series of questions.

"1. The creative team asks the audience, "What ideas did you walk away with?"

2. The creative team asks the audience their opinions of specific artistic elements in the show. For example, "How did you feel about the minimal number of props that were used in the show?"

3. The audience asks the creative team specific questions about the motivations behind any artistic element in the show. For example, "Why was everyone wearing green hats?" The creative team may not have the answers right away.

4. The audience shares its opinions and recommended fixes with the creative team."

The goal of this exercise is to unite the company around a set of artistic decisions. "A writer can write," Nicola said, "and a painter can paint independently. Theater is different. Everything we do here has to be an act of collaboration. And here, everyone counts."

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