Have you ever tasted “Note Stew?”


Well, let me tell you . . . it tastes like the bottom of a dog’s paw.

Wait, you don’t know what Note Stew is?  Allow me to explain.

I read a script for a client recently and was asked to give a set of notes, which I did.

Two weeks later, I was asked to read the next draft.  In the new draft, there were some changes based on the notes that I had given.  There were also at least four other major plot and character changes that had the play going in four different directions.  It was one of those rare occasions when the second draft was not only worse than the first, it was longer than the first (by a whopping 18 pages).  Wrong direction, right?

In my meeting with the client to discuss the second draft, the first thing she said was, “Did you see how I took your notes?”  “Yep,” I answered . . . “now, who else did you get notes from?”  “Well, my agent, my mom, the actor who did the last reading, the director, the dramaturg at the non-profit theater back home, my boyfriend, and, you know, a few others.”

Now, before I comment, let me say, I love me some feedback.  I did a reading for Somewhere in Time yesterday, and the surveys for anonymous feedback went out before people could even get out of the studio!  (Every reading I do comes with a post-performance survey now – and yours should too – they are quick and easy and always helpful.)

Everyone who gets into any business, should be constantly asking for feedback, from oodles of people.  The problem that this writer ran into was that . . . she was simply too nice . . . and tried to be too accommodating.  She listened to everyone’s comments, and tried to accomplish everyone’s notes.  It was like she put all the notes in a pot with her original draft and stirred it up.

And what she got wasn’t a better play.

It was thick and dull, Note Stew.

Get feedback.  But then filter that feedback through your own instincts.  Notes are suggestions.  They are not edicts.  And the more people you try and satisfy, the less you’ll actually end up satisfying.  (Here’s a tip that I use when evaluating notes and feedback:  whenever I see the same comment said three times by three different people, I know I’ve got a problem.)

Always remember that you are the chef of your own show, and at the end of the day, its ingredients are up to you.


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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.