Recently, I had submitted to a couple places that send evaluations of scripts along with acceptances or rejections. It’s a rare, but wonderful treat and I’m grateful for any organization that can take the time to give each playwright some insight into both their process of evaluating scripts and, exactly, what set yours apart (for better or worse). But I was confused by some of the comments that reflected the reader's personal taste rather than whether the play worked or not.
In fact, I’ve been fielding feedback more and more often that speaks only to the evaluator’s preferences rather than an objective critique of plot, character, and structure. (My personal favorite: “I’ve seen this before.”). The good news is I’m able to parse out the good feedback from the bad. This wasn’t always the case.
There was a time when I would rush off to rewrite my play to satisfy the critic who told me what they wished my play had been instead of honing what is was, what I wanted it to be. No more. If you tell me the stakes aren’t clear, you aren’t sure what the dramatic question is, or you were bogged down by exposition, I’ll respond. If you tell me you don’t like it, I’ll ignore you. You’re not helpful.
The solution is simple, but will take time to cultivate: surround yourself with other artists who you trust, who will be honest (sometimes brutally), and who are skilled in the craft. These people will be your advisors, and you, theirs. I'm fortunate to have filled my network with wonderully talented writers who meet these requirements. So when, on occasion, my play has been exposed to readers (or listeners) who aren't removing personal opinion and can't objectively critique the work in front of them, I can call and conference with them and get a reality check.