This post is a meal, not a snack. Masticate properly!
Performing is not about showing off. Performing is not about proving a point. Performing is not about trying to make someone feel bad about themselves. Performing is not to get attention. Performing may be a little about all the aforementioned, but it will be a better performance if it is very little about all the aforementioned.
Someone once asked me, “Why do you perform… to get attention?” I was unbelievably offended by the question at the time. Looking back on it now, I realize that it was asked out of a combination of ignorance and a complete absence of understanding regarding performance. Anyone who has been in a play or has performed in public in another medium knows that a performance is something that you are giving people in the audience. They may or may not deserve the gift, and you may or may not deserve the “gift” of talent that you have, but it is a giving kind of thing. When it is sincere and done with some conviction, the performance usually will be well received by an audience, especially if the performer is doing a good job.
Performing itself can be an art. Why make art? It makes life more fun. If life isn’t fun, then what’s the point? It seems like most children have a good grasp of having fun. Most children can readily perform without being too self-conscious. Most children can play a game or pretend and have fun doing those things.
Something happens as we get older, if we are not involved in performance or in theatre or in dance. Performing can be an embarrassing activity, even when things are going right. Think about it. You are in front of people and all eyes and ears are on you. Scary. We don’t have this much attention on ourselves on a day-to- day basis. If you are not used to this, it can feel intimidating, or at least uncomfortable. Most children seem to like attention. Most people do not like attention when they are doing something that they do not want others to know about. What happens to us as we get older? Maybe we have been caught at things that we did not want others to discover. Maybe we got caught getting a cookie when we were told to not have one. There are a few million other examples which may come to mind. Or maybe we are all perfect people, in which case we can comfortably experience attention without the unconscious reminder of being caught at something when we were doing something wrong. Performing isn’t wrong, but the attention can make a person feel like it is.
I do not believe in stage fright. I like stages. They have a lot of space (the nice ones). I’m not afraid of rooms or stages, for that matter. I think people are afraid of attention, especially what feels like too much attention. Yet when you are with another person whom you find attractive, interesting, intelligent, and fascinating, the attention may feel good. Wait a minute. There could be people in an audience that you haven’t met and they could be attractive, interesting, intelligent, and fascinating. There could even be people in an audience who enjoy hearing you sing. There must be these types in audiences because they are buying singers’ recordings, and have been since recordings were marketed commercially.
What can we do with the attention that we get from an audience? How do we deal with that pressure? Why not give back attention to the audience? They look at you. Well, look at them. It isn’t fatal. If they smile, that could be nice. Most do.
If they laugh, would that be so bad? Not if you are doing something funny. But even if you aren’t, you are still getting something from the audience and they are getting something from you. What is this, anyway? We give a song to an audience and they give us something for our song…Hmmmm It sounds like business. Something for something. It sounds like a relationship that is working well. A win-win proposition, as it were.
When a performance is going well, it is a very fulfilling experience. If you give your all and let your audience be a part of the activity, everyone benefits. It is almost magical. If you don’t believe it, get out to a good concert and soak it up. Work hard, learn your craft, practice it, and your audiences will do the same when you perform.