This is my last article for the Stagecraft Corner column of the IJA Newsletter. It has been a great year for me and I hope that my readers have gotten something out of it as well. I really appreciate all of the feedback I have received during the last 12 months. That brings me to my final topic, which I can sum up in one word:
This is a difficult business. It is a challenging art-form. First you have to know how to juggle. Then you have to know how to catch and hold people’s attention. Finally, the audience should enjoy the performance and not simply be compelled to look as if at a traffic accident in progress.
A great entertainer connects with the audience. It feels like a relationship and they become someone the audience could imagine inviting over to dinner. If you are simply using the crowd to stoke your ego, they will know. If you aren’t having a good time, they will know that as well. This is why, if you are going to be a great performer, you have got to love what you do.
If you want to sustain that love over the long haul, it may take a little bit of work. It’s easy to love something when it’s new. Beginning performers are often swept up in the giddy romance of it all. Constantly learning can keep you in a flow state, where you are fully engaged. But what happens after you have experienced most of the problems that a particular act has to offer, when the learning becomes more subtle? How can you stay engaged in the process? Gratitude.
The ability to juggle makes us special. To be able to perform, we are lucky. To be able to share something that we love with others, we are blessed. Let us take a moment during every practice and every show and reflect on this. Let’s not be so carried away with our desire for more and more skills that we lose track of the wonderfulness of the process.
Let the audience feel your gratitude. You don’t have to come right out and tell them how much you appreciate them, although some performers do. You simply need to find little moments during your performance where you deeply feel gratitude. If you feel it, it will make it across to the audience.
This can have a profound effect on how the audience sees you. Hecklers will be less of a problem. Audience focus will be easier to maintain, and people will want to talk to you after the show, resulting in more bookings. Be grateful!
Thanks for reading and letting me share my personal performing philosophy with you. I wish you a joyous and profitable new year.
Brad Weston is a writer, juggler, and performance philosopher from way back. For more information about him and his work check out his website at http://www.bradweston.com
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