A singer friend of mine once joked (in that way things are said when they are absolute truth and no joke at all) that performers become performers because they crave the approval of others. That’s a bit too scary to contemplate for me right now so perhaps that particular can of worms can be prised open another time. But I will agree that applause is pretty damn nice.
But have you experienced an audience that doesn’t like you? Maybe they don’t like the colour or your hair, tone of your voice, choice of repertoire or simply don’t dig the cut of your jib? It’s hard to please all of the people all of the time and how do we know what they actually think about us anyway?
I recently did a piano bar gig where I couldn’t help but notice an older gentleman in the audience giving me a definite look of distaste. He was facing me square on with his arms folded and a sneer on his face and every now and then he would say something into the ear of his companion – obviously about me. Of course this made me try even harder. I feel like I’m pretty good at matching a repertoire with an audience and so I looked at him and tried to chose songs I thought he’d like. I smiled extra big and tried to be extra charming. But I got nothing. No smile, no clapping, no positive response from this guy at all. Then at the end of the night as he was walking out the door, he pressed a $US100 note in my hand and said ‘great job’. Whether that situation says more about my own insecurity or about how audiences often don’t react as they feel, I don’t know!
I worked with a very experienced professional comedian recently who was so completely put off by the punters’ reserved response that he fluffed his lines and really struggled to stay on his game at all. As much as we love our applause and feed off an audience’s reaction, surely our experience should allow us to override negative vibes and continue tap dancing as fast as we can?
I think we owe it to our audiences to deliver our best performance possible, regardless of their reactions, but it ain’t easy! I’m sure we’ve all experienced cultural differences at shows. In my two years performing in Japan I got used to crowds who sat very passively, politely clapping in between songs but otherwise very unresponsive, only to have to wave away fanatical expressions of undying love and excessive praise from the same people, after the show had finished.
I heard someone say recently that Aussie audiences are the rudest and least ‘giving’. What do you think? If you tell me your story I promise to clap very hard and respond enthusiastically!
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