Performance Range

I have to admit that I was a bit irked coming offstage after my performance at the Lina Koutrakos / Rick Jensen performance workshop.  One of the things I was personally working on was my tendency to be a little sweeping and unspecific when singing to an audience.  So, I was really ready to be better about it in the performance.  And then I got up to perform and the audience was in such darkness that I couldn’t see anyone, let alone focus on them.  And thinking about this situation distracted me a bit from the work of telling the story of the song.  And thus the annoyance.

I deliberately shut up about this, since I feel that part of the cabaret performer’s job is selling your performance after it’s all done.  I didn’t mention it to anyone until Ron and I were driving home.  And not only did he (wisely) say that he couldn’t tell I was distracted and that the performance was better than I had done it in the workshop the previous day, but he also reminded me that expecting to see the audience in any performance situation is unrealistic.

Anyway, my point is that for people who perform sober, by the time something is performance-ready, the worst that something can be is, say, 85%.  Generally, you’re probably working at 90%, and if everything is firing, maybe you’ll get to 92%.  So, if you’re aiming for that 92% and find you delivered 88%, it’s easy to be really upset that you’re in the lower half of the range of what you feel you can do.  But the difference to the audience between 88% and 92% barely moves the needle.  Similarly, you’re not going to get much better reaction from the audience when  you reach 91% than you would have at 87% (you’ll just feel they’re smarter).

I did years of interactive murder mysteries.  And an important learning was the number of times I’d come off stage thinking that the audience hated us and were bored out of their minds, after which someone enthused effusively at the end and the number of times we’d come offstage with what we thought was a hot show, and someone would offer a tepid comment about the experience.

So, yes, we all need to have standards for ourselves, and we all need to keep striving for greatness.  And we have to be honest about our weaknesses.  But we also have to be honest about our strengths.

2 Responses to Performance Range

  1. Matt H. says:

    “expecting to see the audience in any performance situation is unrealistic…”

    How true.

    During my show (depending on the lighting cue), I sometimes couldn’t see ANYONE! (But I could *feel* them out there!).

    Anyway, Michael, I hear what you’re saying here. And, if I could paraphrase (or put my own spin on what you’re saying): Be prepared! But also be willing to bend with the circumstances of the venue/audience/ambiance/lighting/etc.

    Thanks for this post!

  2. Karen says:

    its so funny because I have been complaining that all my current gigs are such that I can TOTALLY see the audience and it can be so distracting when they don’t “behave properly” (whatever that means) and its tough on us! guess the best thing is Matt’s advice-(paraphrased) “be willing to be flexible and bend in any situation.” I guess it makes me realize the main point of my job-enjoyment of song and performance of the song no matter what venue you are doing! A great point I will take to work with me tonite! 🙂

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