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Sample Adjudicator Briefing



The purpose of this orientation is not to tell you how to judge, but rather to explain the mechanics of this festival, as opposed to other festivals you may have attended as a participant, observer, or adjudicator, as well as to review what will be expected of you as an adjudicator.

Guidelines for Judges

Plays are to be judged on the overall production, the major elements of which are ACTING and DIRECTING. The best show is the one which is most fully realized.

Among the criteria to be considered are:
Is the acting believable?
Is the acting technically skillful?
Are the characters well interpreted?
Does the company display ensemble work?
Is the material appropriate for the company?
Is the concept appropriate for the material?
How well is the concept realized by the company?
Do the actors display effective timing?
How well has the structure of the play been controlled?
How effective are movement and stage pictures?
Is the play well paced?
Do the technical elements support the overall production?
What was the total effect?

Please remember that the listed criteria may not be of equal weight or importance, and the relative importance of the listed criteria may vary with each production. Since the participants choose their own material, the judges should not question the choice of material, but only comment on how well the group presented the material that was chosen. The judges' personal likes and dislikes are not to be mentioned in the adjudication, i.e., "I hate this play.....I hate this playwright". Please do not ignore production values - settings, set pieces, costumes, properties, sound, color, lighting - in your critiques or your evaluations. A blank stage or a complex set can be equally effective, if appropriate to material attempted. The key of course, is "what does the material require?". Because of the difficulties of touring, the participating groups have been asked to consider the technical aspects of performing "on the road" when choosing a selection. To this end, it is appropriate to comment on the group's ability or inability to solve physical and technical problems posed by the material. The participants should be evaluated on the appropriateness of the choices they have made, as well as the quality exhibited in execution. It is equally important to evaluate the participants on the appropriateness of a choice to not present a physical or technical element. For example, if the group presents a bedroom farce, and you feel that the performance is somehow affected by the absence of doors to slam, then by all means, comment, and evaluate the performance on that basis.


The Festival Staff is responsible for timing productions, and determining whether each participating production has operated within the limits for set-up, performance and strike. Timing is not the responsibility of the adjudicators. Should a group go over the time limit, the performance will not be stopped. Judges will critique the performance as scheduled. The timers will notify the Festival Chairperson, who will disqualify the group. A production that has been "disqualified" remains eligible for all awards except Best Production. The total length of each individual production may not exceed 60 minutes. If a performing company elects to have a curtain call, it must be included within the 60 minute performance time. There is no minimum performance time. The relative length of a production is not a valid criteria for adjudication. Set-up from the on-deck space and strike back to the on-deck space may not exceed 10 minutes each. If however, set up or strike is intended to set mood, establish character or entertain the audience in any way, this time is considered as part of the 60 minute performance time.

Public Critiques

After a performance, you will have a few minutes to collect your thoughts and review your notes. Judges will rotate the order as to who goes first, but each adjudication is delivered independently. Each of you will have a set amount of time, usually five to seven minutes depending on festival restrictions, to discuss the production you have just seen. Judges may not hear the critiques preceding, but may hear later adjudications, if you wish. Judges will not confer or discuss with each other any of the plays they have seen at any time in the festival prior to the ranking of the productions. Although your comments are to be addressed to the company, remember that the adjudication process is a learning process for the audience as well as the participants. Keep your focus on constructive solutions to problems that the company may have with the production. Bring alternative possibilities to their attention. Remember this performance may be going on to other festivals, and the company should benefit from your comments. However, PLEASE DO NOT RE-DIRECT THE PLAY.

Selecting the Best Production:Balloting Process

The balloting process shall be conducted by the Festival Commissioner immediately following the final adjudication. The first order of business is the determination of specific festival awards without discussion of ranking. Adjudicators will discuss these awards in order to arrive at consensus. Following the determination of these awards, balloting takes place, with the adjudicators ranking each production in order of preference with the most fully realized performance being “1,” the next “2,” etc., on the Adjudicator’s Ballot form.

If unanimous agreement is established on the first ballot for the “1,” “2,” and “3” positions, the balloting process is complete. If there is not unanimous agreement, discussion may take place before the next ballot. Following discussion, a second ballot is taken, and if unanimous agreement is not reached, discussion will again ensue, followed by a third ballot. Following the third ballot, if a unanimous decision is not reached, a split decision shall be allowed, with a majority of the adjudicators in agreement on each position. If two adjudicators are utilized at the festival and no agreement can be reached, the Festival Commissioner shall break the deadlock by voting after the third ballot. If any company is not eligible to proceed for any reason, the tally sheet should be altered to indicate the company’s ineligibility to proceed.

Particular festivals, especially festivals with four or more shows, may wish to continue the ranking process beyond the “3” position.

Other Awards

Once the adjudicators have selected the Best Production, the adjudicators shall consider achievement awards for directing, acting, and other disciplines. All awards other than the Best Production award(s) are "Discretionary" and may be "reserved", i.e., not presented, if that is the recommendation of the panel of adjudicators. Below are Maryland Festival minimums.

Directing: The Cliff Smith Award is a travelling trophy presented in memory of a local director and is presented to the Best Director at the tournament. Other Directors may be recognized for Special Achievement Awards.

Acting Awards: The judges shall select four worthy performances by actors without regard to sex or size of role. These will receive awards for Outstanding Achievement in Acting.

Original Play: (If applicable) This is an award to the playwright, for the play, not an award to the group for the production.

Technical Disciplines. The judges may confer one or more discretionary awards for outstanding achievement in sound, light, costumes, stage management, scenic design, etc.

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