Things I've Learned from the Audience by Don McNatt - Read Online
Things I've Learned from the Audience
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Advice and council on performing, and having a successful career as a performer. Thoughts are offered on building the proper attitude to entertain a crowd, based on respect for the audience. Some tips, techniques, and an overview of how a following is built, and how that works to allow entertainers, musicians, actors, and the rest in performing arts, to have careers.
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ISBN: 9781619275966
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Things I've Learned from the Audience - Don McNatt

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9781619275966

DON MCNATT

Things Ive learned from the Audience

Your hands are a little sweaty, and your stomach is feeling somewhat nauseous. You wanted to be in this, but now. You’re not so sure. All those people will be looking at you,... judging you. You want to show them what you’ve got, but right now, it’s hard to remember what that was. There are so many of them. and up on the stage, you don’t feel part of them. You feel isolated and alone, and using up concentration, trying to control what you think must be visible shaking of knees and fingers. What can you do ? What could you have done? Is there an approach to get you going?

This book is being written to be helpful. Maybe you are going for a career in some form of show business, want to be a more affective performer on the weekends, or just want to do that special performance at church, or school. If you would like to know what someone who’s done this for a good number of years could offer, this book is for you. I purposely will not offer my own resume to substantiate the tips I have to offer. Please judge my observations on whether they make sense to you, and whether they help you in your performance. If that isn’t true, then whatever I may have done, is pretty irrelevant. What I will offer is that I have been in front of audiences, on a regular basis, for more years than many who read this may have been alive. I come to this with an over-view, that many may not have, as I have worked in several forms of entertainment. I’ve come to know that these different art forms have much more in common, than some would think. The elements all the art forms have in common, are the most important, and paying attention to them, will make you better, whether you are singing, dancing, playing an instrument, acting, or any other endeavor, whose goal is entertaining other human beings.

To be frank, young men usually don’t write this type of book. It takes some time to come to these conclusions, but that’s really not the reason. When you are young, it’s the time to stay as busy as you can playing for audiences, wherever the opportunity arises, and honing your craft. It just doesn’t leave a lot of time for sharing whatever information we may have gathered. So, let me encourage you to burn your candle at both ends, as long as you can, and never stop learning. Time for sharing comes later.

I don’t mean to belittle the wonderful coaches, directors and teachers I have learned from over the years, but I think they would agree with me, that there is no teacher, or collaborator, like the audience. I am trying to share some information that I wish someone had shared with me, when I was a young guy starting out. Even great teachers can’t really tell you what it’s like to have done thousands of shows., unless they have done them, and most have not. I’m going to attempt to add some, to what has been widely discussed, taken from my experience, and what I think the audience has taught me. I hope it helps, and saves some time, but you should know that if you pay attention to the audience, and treat them as your friend, for a good number of years, they will educate you beyond what I, or anyone else can put into words. I hope you will accept my observations in the spirit that they are given, and then let your audience continue your education from there.

RULE NUMBER ONE

This brings us to what I call Rule Number One. It makes a good starting place, because I’ll probably refer to it several times on several issues. So, I call it rule number one, and it belongs to the audience.

Rule Number One — This rule belongs to the audience

We’ll be the Judge of that !

Who is the best singer, Pavarotti or Mick Jagger? We could have an academic debate about the qualities of sound, the technique each of these have mastered, and the overall affect on their audiences, but one could say it’s like comparing apples and oranges. Good thing for most of us that people like both apples and oranges. Each of us has whatever gifts we’ve been given, and we all want to go with our strengths, but most of us believe that we have a pretty accurate assessment of which gifts are, in fact, our strong suit. The truth is, we only know how it feels, when we do it. Isn’t that important? Of course it is. If you are not entertaining yourself, and feeling like you are really putting yourself out there, then what you are doing is probably not very good. But, guess what? I don’t get to make that judgment.

Rule number one BELONGS TO THE AUDIENCE. They get to be the judge of that. If you feel like you are phoning in your performance, and the audience is going wild, consider that you may be on to something. You may have found the style that suits you. Whatever you are doing, keep it in the act. As singers, dancers, actors, comedians, songwriters, film makers, clowns, magicians, and all the rest, we all have the same goal, which is to create a form of entertainment. By definition, whether it is actually entertaining is determined by the response of those to be entertained.

On the other side of that same coin, if you have trained to be the next Pavoratti, and committed to years of training, and discipline, but when you perform, your audience is sleeping, you want to consider that there must be something missing. Maybe it’s to improve your skills a little more, and you need to continue the training. It could be, however, that your skills are not going to be your strongest tool when it comes to making your hard work into a piece of entertainment. Skills are extremely important, but you must think of them as tools, and not the end product. The focus has to be on how to use those tools, to amaze, amuse, and touch the heartstrings of the people you face as the audience. This also carries in a practical sense, especially if you are attempting to make a living as an entertainer. The audience determines whether you work or not. If audiences show up when your name is on the sign out front, everyone wants to hire you. If you have no one who has seen you perform, and wants to see it again, or tell friends that you are worth the time to see, owners of venues may think you are peachy, but they really don’t want you to work there. They want anyone who has built a reputation, and a DRAW, instead.

There is a terrific quote from Rodney Dangerfield, that is frankly a little raw for me to want to quote it exactly, but since it was very accurate, let me just say that I think Rodney knows what he’s talking about, and the jist of what he said was that a good draw trumps any other factor with a venue owner, or promoter. If you are getting pushed around, and made to feel .. less than welcome, by the management when you play, you must not be filling their room. A packed house makes the grumpiest of employers tend to treat you like royalty, to make sure you return. Hopefully, it is your talent and skill that created the draw, but whatever it is, your ability to draw, or not, is the key to staying alive to perform another day.

So, it is the audience who has the final say on how entertaining an act, or a performer is. If you don’t think you are very talented, and the audience is growing more fond of you as you go along, you need to face the fact that you may be more gifted than you had thought, and count your blessings. If you love performing, and the audience is allowing it, you can always work to improve your skills, but first take a minute to be grateful to the folks that make up your following, and make your dreams come true, when others may never experience what this has to offer. If you are lucky enough to be an entertainer for any period of time, it’s the audience that showed up, supported you and allowed you to be one.

The negative side of this, is of course, that there comes a time for many performers when they have to face the fact that this is a career that chooses you,.. or doesn’t. When that happens, it’s not an abstract career that takes on personification and makes a choice. It’s real people, who came to be entertained. If the audience doesn’t choose to show up to see you, once they’ve had a chance to see what you can do, it could be time to consider one of those behind the scenes jobs, that can be very well respected, and better suited for some people. Even the most successful acts have had to build a following, and it takes time, so this is not meant to discourage those who are simply not packing large venues yet. But those that are simply not entertaining to the audiences they do have an opportunity to play for, should be discouraged. Compared to the number of people who want to be performing artists, of some sort, a very small percentage will actually make a living at it. There is no room for people who do not have, or have not bothered to develop, the talent for this. It doesn’t mean they are worthless people, it simply means that they should look at their other gifts, and find something they can be great at. If they love show business, it is an industry that has artists as the smallest percentage of the number of people it takes to make it happen. Certainly, they could find great success and fulfillment in any of these positions, if they put the same energy into it, that would be required as a performer.

This respect for the audience, and their control over the whole affair, is basic before we can get much further. The reason I call this