Coaching Hacks: Taking notes on a show
Part of my responsibility at AdLib Theatre is training our next generations of coaches and teachers. Going from watching a show to taking notes on a show to provide feedback to a team is a learning process. Here are some tips I share with our coaches that I hope you find helpful.
Know the objective/goals of the team-- The team you are taking notes on should have a goal or objective they strive for in performances. They should have a style, probably a form, and a mission statement about who they are as a group. Knowing these details helps you, the coach, take notes. Just blindly picking out what is working puts a lot of burden on you.
Keep the big picture in mind-- You won't be able to transcribe every detail and that's not the point of notes. This show is never going to be seen again so it's the big picture we need to keep track of. Something went completely awry in a set? What can the team do for the next time they find themselves in a similar situation versus what they should have done in this set.
Create your own shorthand-- I use the player's initials and one word about the scene to keep track of scenes. Then I have symbols I've designated as "working", "not working", and so on. This doesn't have to be shared with anyone and is a great way for you to write quickly and under pressure.
Keep It Simple-- If the set is 20 minutes, you do not need to spend another 20 minutes in notes. Keep it brief. Focus on the broad strokes, talk about what worked, if there were missteps, address those and if anyone has questions, answer them. If the team is getting bogged down in the details, remind them they are going to perform again and to not dwell too much on this set as it is now behind them.
Of course there are other tips you will find work for you as you watch more shows and take more notes as a coach. For now, hopefully, these will help you as you begin your journey into the world of note-taking and improv performances.