Delighted Listening – n. – an exercise originally developed by storytellers Jay O’Callahan and Donald Davis, now used in the Young Playwrights’ Lab to introduce the idea of constructive criticism, wherein any feedback must begin with something about the critiqued work that the listener finds delightful. (e.g. “I was delighted with your setting” “I was delighted by how your characters spoke”)
The young playwrights at Freemansburg Elementary are an uncommonly sweet lot. They’re all eager to put on their listening faces at the beginning of a reading and put up their hands at the end to share what it was in their classmates’ work that they found to be particularly delightful. It doesn’t matter if someone else has already said the same thing; everyone wants to share.
And then there’s Anthony. Anthony is a little hesitant to speak, but like his classmates, he wants to add his voice to the mix. Only he doesn’t quite get the phrasing; where the rest say “I was delighted when…”, Anthony says, “I was delightful…”
“I was delightful that Stinky got a new job…”
“I was delightful when the zombies broke down the door…”
“I was delightful when she zapped Princess Fight…”
A few times, we think of correcting him– “Anthony, you mean delighted, don’t you?”– but don’t, not wanting to be an interruption or stem the flow of creativity.
And besides, after enough repetitions, we realize it’s true. You are delightful, Anthony. You really are.