As a producer you will often be asked to look at people's shows and you will also be asked for your opinion. So the question comes up that if this is someone's baby and it is not very good at all, how do you address it?
The way I see it, you have two options:
1. Don't say anything. Point and say things like "Those actors had such good energy" or "How did they memorize all those lines?" This will keep you from hurting any feelings, conversely it will also keep you from improving anything.
2. Tell them. Some of my greatest mentors took a look at the things I was writing or producing and told me honestly when something didn't work, and it helped me more than I could ever imagine. It's never easy to hear criticism, but it is the only way your work can grow.
Take a wild guess which option I'm in favor of.
Ok so, let's say you go with option 2. Let's talk about some ways to keep things civil:
1. Start with the positive- Even if it's as simple as the fact that the show had a plot you could follow, there should always be something that you can start with that is complimentary.
2. Ask open-ended questions- This can be a great way of seeing where the writer was trying to go with the piece and it keeps you away from making assumptions about the work.
3. Ask the creator what they thought didn't work- Good writers are great at reflecting on their work. Encourage it and the writer may give you all the notes you were about to give. Then all you have to do is expand on the notes.
4. Ask for clarification- In the same way that a great director will ask an actor to back up the reason for an acting choice, a good producer asks a writer about a writing choice. This also again keeps things from being accusatory and makes everything more conversational.
5. Use something good to fix something bad- This is one of my personal favorites. If I notice that a particular moment in the show is really fantastic and another moment is really awful, I might say something along the lines of, "Scene three should have the kind of intensity and mystery that you gave us in scene two because I was on the edge of my seat the whole time" This keep the mood positive and also addresses the problem.
6. Ask the writer how they want to receive the criticism- I always sit down with someone and ask them point blank how they want the conversation to go. Some want you to be blunt, some want you to only address certain non-sensitive subjects. There's nothing wrong with checking in and finding out what style of criticism is most comfortable.
So there you have it. You may dread having to tell someone about that baby, but just remember that if you don't, someone else will....
And after they do, they may walk away with a show like this.