I have been in many plays/movies that "didn't work." I've also written 3 plays and a movie, all of which in some way did not succeed (either by my standards or others). Here's what I gleaned:
  1. Creating something is very very very hard and a shit ton of work. Always. Regardless of how it turns out.
    Have some compassion when you're judging someone else's art. It probably took everything they had just to make it that good.
  2. Bad reviews feel bad, even if you don't read them. Good reviews only feel good for a moment. You'd better enjoy doing your work, rather than looking for external gains.
    To put it better, from Anne Lamott's "Bird By Bird": "I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all that it is cracked up to be. But writing is. That thing you had to force yourself to do--the actual act of writing--turns out to be the best part. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward."
  3. In the long run, the external success or failure of the thing matters less than whether you feel proud of your work.
    I got good reviews for a play/production I was not happy with. I got bad reviews for a play/production I loved. With the perspective of time, I feel much better about the latter than the first.
  4. Communication is crucial.
  5. Things go better if you get some sleep.
  6. Chose collaborators you respect and whose company you enjoy.
    Life is too short.
  7. Things go better if you have a strong idea of what you want.
    Knowing what you want, and being able to say yes or no with conviction, is not pushy or bad. It is a recipe for healthy and productive collaboration! Who knew??
  8. It is not always generous to cede control.
    Sometimes you gotta speak up or take charge. Even if it might lose you friends. Even if you are the youngest person in the room. Even if you are the only girl. Give yourself the power of what you know.
  9. On the other hand, sometimes you have to step away and let other people do their jobs.
    I had an actor constantly ask for more lines. I should have let the director handle it in scene work. Instead I gave him more lines. Not good for my play, not good for the actor, not good for the dynamics of the room.
  10. In the long run, you will be happier if you can take responsibility for things that didn't go well.
    Blaming everyone else/bad luck = tasty and empty, like cotton candy. Examining what went wrong and claiming your part in it = ultimately better for you. Eat your metaphorical spinach. You will learn something and it will make your failure feel productive.
  11. They aren't really failures at all.
    You created something and brought it into the world. Maybe it isn't perfect. Maybe it didn't get rave reviews or make a lot of money. Still. Give yourself some love and a whole lot of credit. (This is the one I most have to remind myself of. It is also maybe the most important).