The Singlemost Important Lesson (of a Ten-Year Tour)
By: Tom A.B. Taylor
I suspect that you would surmise that anyone who toured for 10-11 years with the “same” show would learn a lot, right? You would be correct – and, too, you would likely understand, to a lesser or greater extent (depending upon the depth and length of your performing experience), that over an extended period of time, the so-called “same” show is nothing of the sort. Oh, yes, the sequence, the songs, the stories, the script, the jokes may all be the same – but the show itself is different every single performance.
How can that be?
Simple. Two obvious reasons: (1) the performer, and (2) the audience.
If you’ve been telling for any time at all, you realize that sometimes, in those final moments before you are introduced, you feel absolutely wonderful, and are totally pumped about the gig, and . . . sometimes . . . you are at the extreme, opposite end of the scale.
Guess what – the very same sort of thing happens with the audience, too.
The audience has no idea what kind of day you may be having, and they don’t care. They expect you to be worth their money, or time – whatever it’s costing them – period. And, if you’re not - guess how warm, and enthusiastic and responsive they’re going to be.
On the other hand, you have no real clue as to what kind of day your collective audience has experienced, much less what the multitude of individuals has gone through.
A Dilemma? A Quandary? Absolutely. A Problem? A Challenge? An Obstacle? Without question. Is there Help? Is there a Cure? Is there an Answer? What to do? Yes. Yes. Yes. Glad you asked! Read on . . .
I toured for those 10-11 years, not in a show with multiple cast members, but as THE cast member of a one-man show. Early on, the better the audience was, the better I was. As long as I had wonderful audiences, I gave wonderful performances.
Guess what – that’s no good. That won’t work. That is totally, and forever, unacceptable. You’re cheating the audience, you’re cheating everyone who believes in you, cares for you and supports you and, most significantly, you are cheating yourself.
Most anyone can be brilliant when it’s a love-fest with the audience – you get no points for that. That’s easy.
When you “earn your stripes” is when you are breathtakingly, astonishingly, stunningly brilliant before an audience you would swear in court is there for the single purpose of making you miserable every moment you stand before them.
Your job is to be brilliant in spite of that kind of audience; to do otherwise, to do less is to allow the audience to determine the quality, the level of your performance.
Here’s what worked for me. Once I understood what I had fallen into, without really realizing it (allowing the audience to determine the quality of my performance), I determined to channel whatever hurt, rejection and anger – or any other negative, destructive emotions – into a positive for me. I used those emotions, which used to drag me, and my performance, down – to, instead, energize my performance: “I’M GOING TO BE BRILLIANT, REGARDLESS! With, or without you – you can sleep, you can talk, you can be rude, inattentive and disrespectful, but, I AM GOING TO FLY!!” And I did. And I will. And you can, too - I hope you do.
And, folks, I am here to tell you that that realization was, by far, - in terms of performance, presence and presentation – The Singlemost Important Lesson (of a Ten-Year Tour).