The show after the show — the performer

May 7, 2009

Remember, the audience experience with you starts when they first get your marketing to well after they leave your show.  So your interaction with your audience after a show can be as important as the show itself.  As a great example, when she played the Kennedy Center, Liz Callaway spent nearly as much time signing autographs and chatting to the audience as she did onstage.

Some thoughts:

  • Enjoy what you just accomplished.  Also, if you’re anything like me, you may not be working at full mental capacity right after a show.  Recognize this to avoid getting in any danger and making any commitments.
  • You got an ovation at the end of your show.  (I sincerely hope.  If not, then slink out the back door and ignore this column until you get applause.)  So the audience told you they enjoyed it.  Respect their enjoyment.  Do not undermine it with complaints about your voice, your music director, the venue, the lighting, forgetting words, etc. (This seems so obvious but I admit that it is really, really hard to do.)
  • Similarly, when someone tells you they enjoyed the show, believe them.  And thank them.  And make them feel special for being part of a special audience.  (I can tell you this worked wonders on me the last time Julie Wilson said it to me – personally – after a show.)
  • If there are bunches of people, try to prioritize.  Enthusiastically, but efficiently, thank friends and promise later contact (and follow-up).  For people you don’t know, try to get them on your mailing list. 
  • I once asked Andrea Marcovicci how she managed a reception line so well.  She said that the trick is to fully concentrate on the person you’re dealing with in the time you’re dealing with them.  Then to clearly thank them, finish, then turn to the next person.
  • When you’ve been deemed to be talking to a certain cabaret artist for too long, her female partner will reach across, extend her hand, say “Hi, I’m _______________ “ and while shaking you’re hand will pull you out of range of the performer.  At the time, my annoyance with being “dealt with” in this way was tempered by an admiration for the gutsy (and powerful) approach to the problem.  Others may have and cause less generous reactions with similar tactics. 

Avoiding Self-Sabotage

March 20, 2008

Think of the best cabaret moment you have seen in the recent past. 

Questions: Did the performer come on stage as though she were about to have root canal?  Did he apologize in advance for being underprepared with the material?  Did she show obvious displeasure with her performance when it was done?  Did he look happier to exit the stage than to enter it?

I rather suspect not.

So why do so many people apparently think the above behavior is endearing in a performance situation ?

When a performer makes the focus of their performance about performance anxieties, they are putting the audience in a situation where the performance moment becomes about the audience’s support, not about giving a gift to the audience.

The marvelous Beckie Menzie (a Diva 5+1 profile on this site) runs an amazing weekly Open Mic in Chicago.  Every time I go there, I’m terrifically impressed.   One of the performances that impressed me the most was a woman who cheerfully got up, handed Beckie her notebook open to the selection she was going to sing, greeted the audience warmly, and launched into her song (Shy from Once Upon a Mattress).  And she was terrible.  No sense of pitch, off rhythm, but she knew her words cold, and tried to sell some of the ideas and character in the song.  At the end she smiled, took her bow, and walked off with her head held high.  The singing of the song may have been iffy, but I hugely admired the performance as a whole.

As actors, we are taught that the audition starts as soon as you get to the building.  The same goes for your cabaret performance.  As long as you’re in the space and around people, you need to be your public persona – and you have to believe in that person. 

Also, in acting we learn to act “as if.”  The transferrable lesson is that if you act “as if” you are a talented performer who is thrilled to be there and has something extremely worthwhile to share with your audience, the audience might actually believe it.  And if they do, maybe you will, too.

I could say “I don’t need your pity,” but we both know what a lie that would be…

Occasionally at Open Mic situation, I’ll see people deliberately sabotage themselves.  They don’t bring music in their key.  They don’t explain to the pianist how they want something played.  If they’re shaky with the words, they don’t bring a cheat sheet (or use it). 

I do get that there is an understandable human motive behind this – it gives someone’s psyche excuses for not being brilliant. However, instead of planning for failure, why not put the same effort in toward success?  And then, even if you’re less than stellar, instead of excuses, you can come up with directions for future growth.   

At the DC Cabaret Network Open Mics, Terri Allen has made a concerted effort to make the events totally supportive for performers.  In fact, I’ve rarely seen an environment that doesn’t.  Your audience is amazingly generous.  And they’ve invested alot (scheduling, baby sitters, discomfort, cover chargtes, watered-down drinks) to be there already.  Shouldn’t they be rewarded for that with the best you’re capable of giving?

Fall 2007 Cabaret Collection

November 27, 2007

I put together seasonal playlists of tracks from new* CDs.  Here’s what I’d recommend for your iPod this fall:

1. Slow Me Down (Emmy Rossum) — Inside Out

2. Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars (Queen Latifah) — Trav’lin’ Light

3. Quando Calienta El Sol (Betty Buckley) — 1967

4. Time Between Trains (Susan Werner) — Time Between Trains

5. Apathetic Man (Lauren Kennedy) — Here And Now

6. BTW, Write Back (Andrea Burns) — A Deeper Shade Of Red

7. & 8. Ireland (Orfeh) — Legally Blonde, The Musical

9. Robert Frost (Jack Donahue) — Strange Weather

10. Buddy On The Nightshift (Andrea Marcovicci, Barbara Brussell, Maud Maggart) — Kurt Weill In America

11. Speak Low (Barbara Brussell) — Kurt Weill In America

12. With Every Breath I Take (Amy London) — When I Look In Your Eyes

13. Even Now (Barry Manilow) — The Greatest Songs Of The Seventies

14. Break Each Other’s Heart Again (Reba McEntire & Don Henley) — Reba Duets

15. Dance (D’Arcy) — Don’t Fence Me In

16. You Haven’t Changed At All (Karen Mason & Eddie Korbich) == The Broadway Musicals Of 1945

17. Take Your Shoes Off Baby (Roberta Sherwood) — Introducing Roberta Sherwood

18. It Feels Like Home (Nathan Gunn & Kristen Chenoweth) — Just Before Sunrise

19. Tonight (Kristin Chenoweth & Hugh Panaro) — A Place For Us

20. Seasons of Love (Jonathan Larson) — Jonathan Sings Larson

21. Another Time, Another Place (Sally Martin) — Another Time, Another Place

22. Fifteen Seconds of Grace (Victoria Clarke) — Fifteen Seconds of Grace

Cabaret Collection: Summer 2007

September 18, 2007

One of the things I’m happy to  be known for in DC is creating selected CD-length playlists of  tracks from recent releases.  The purpose of these is to highlight new artists, sources of new material for singers, and give tastes of recent theatrical releases.  And I try to give these some structure, so that they’re a cohesive listening experience.  (Okay, I’m putting together a kind of virtual cabaret act.)

 Here’s the latest, covering things appearing this spring through mid-summer:

  1. I Can’t Get Started (Maud Maggart – Live)
  2. You Irritate Me So (Justin Hayford — It All Belongs to You)
  3. The Circle Game / Waters of March (Jessica Molaskey — Sitting In Limbo)
  4. Don’t Explain It Away (Susan Werner — The Gospel Truth)
  5. Come To Bed (Gretchen Wilson — One Of The Boys)
  6. Life Is Not A Camera (Carolee Carmello — This Ordinary Thursday)
  7. Better Days (Michael McAssey — How Long Has It Been?)
  8. Smile (David Burnham — David Burnham)
  9. Oh, My Nola (Harry Connick, Jr. — Oh, My Nola)
  10. Nouvelle Cuisine (Jane A. Johnston – Billy Barnes’s Divas)
  11. Love, Don’t Turn Away (Audra McDonald — 110 in the Shade)
  12. How Can Love Survive? (Max and the Baroness — The Sound Of Music — London 2006 Revival)
  13. Who Will Love Me As I Am? (Alice Ripley & Emily Skinner — Raw At Town Hall)
  14. Me And Mrs. Jones (Michael Bublé — Call Me Irresponsible)
  15. The Other Woman (Steven Brinberg & Karen Mason — Simply Barbra – The Duets Album)
  16. Heart of Glass (The Puppini Sisters — Betcha Bottom Dollar)
  17. I’m In Love With A Boy (Judy Butterfield — Simply Sondheim: A 75th Birthday Salute)
  18. Being Alive (Raul Esparza — Company)
  19. No More (Barbara Cook — No One Is Alone)
  20. You (Live) (Brandon Cutrell — Brandon Cutrell)