A Sober Realization of Performance Context
“And if thou gaze long into the abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” - Nietzsche
If I could start every blog post off with a Nietzsche quote, I think I’d be happy.
This entry is regarding the impact of the situations you perform upon yourself, the performer. Someone recently asked about my performance history: I started performing at the Magic Castle when I was a teenager, in a set showroom with showtimes and someone introducing me, and a number of people in seats watching me, with controlled lighting and all. I also did charity shows when I was first starting out, but again these were conditions where I had seating and a set audience and a set show length etc.
From there, as I started to become more “professional” I began to take on more and more “walkaround”/”close-up” gigs and quickly found that these were quite lucrative, and I legitimately enjoy the act of meeting new people every few minutes and talking with them, learning about them, and sharing magic in a one to one situation. Carry that through to today, and I’d say that for every 100 walkaround performances I do, I do probably 5 set acts where there’s a proper audience and seating etc. These contexts in which I perform are now reflected within my work.
I used to be much more attuned to crafting a theatrical experience for an audience, creating connections between ideas, and bringing things to a satisfactory conclusion within that theatrical context. Not to mention the technical magical differences of performance handling with a micro-audience compared to a full theatre stage. I’ve become rusty, needless to say, at handling a full audience. I still am able to engage, but I feel myself fighting urges to handle the full audience like a small group, which is wildly ineffective. Frequently, I’ve found myself frustrated with this knowledge, knowing full well that I used to be so damn good at it, now that I’ve actively changed the situations where I’m damn good.
This is all to say, no matter your background in something, no matter where you begin, you’re changing who you are, as a performer, every day, based on the situations you perform in. Every minute spent performing, remain conscious that you’re shifting your direction into this specific area of performance. Take gigs and performance opportunities carefully, which is tough if you’re trying to make this your full-time profession, and understand that every step forward is a step in a specific direction. Success = Time. So be mindful of where that time is spent. While it’s always important to keep progressing and moving onto forward ground, sometimes, it’s important to stop and look around to see where we are.
Wishing you all the best, to all the performers out there, to finding the place where you feel at home.