You can’t help but smile a little when you see the tell-tale signs of Spring. More daylight is to be enjoyed, the trees are heavy with buds just waiting to blossom, and you can see the little shoots of green pushing right out of the mud. Spring is a time of renewal and also for contemplation of the future. There is a sense of inevitable possibility and imminent change that fills the air every time you walk outside your door. Maybe it is time for us to lend a feeling of possibility to our careers in the performing arts as well?
It is time to look forward and not on the past. We must innovate and move into uncharted territory– both as individuas and as performing arts organizations. But rather than letting apprehension get in our way, let’s embrace a spirit of discovery and exploration. Let’s challenge each other to be more innovative than any other artist in our respective disciplines. Let’s focus on being problem solvers and strive to always present at least three possible solutions to situations encountered with which we disagree.
This spring, I encourage you to invest yourself in your performance and in your audience. Set aside time to read and research new methods of performance. Think big and set large goals for yourself in the upcoming performing season. Make lists like crazy, collaborate with friends, arrange to meet new colleagues; do whatever you need to do to get your creative wheelhouse turning.
Most importantly this spring, I urge you to think about what you can do in your upcoming performances to make strong connections with your audience. There is no one way to go about strengthening the relationship with your audiences and you should feel free to experiment with all kinds of audience engagement ideas. Brainstorm on this by yourself and with your friends and colleagues. Imagine how you can make stronger connections and then put those plans into action on you performances in the coming months.
Invisible walls exist between the stage and the audience in performing arts organizations around the country. In my last post, I tackled the problem of making the wall visible. I showed you how to identify the problems that the wall was causing in your performance or your organization. Depending on what you do, there are many different ways your wall could actually look.
If you are a small ensemble or a solo performer, then you have lots of individual control over how you can tear down the wall that keeps you separated from your audience. If your performing organization is large and has many members, like an orchestra or a dance company, then you have to work together with your administration to decide what steps you will take to break down the wall together. This latter scenario can be significantly more complicated, but if you have identified that a wall exists, it is your duty as an authentic performer to initiate the changes you feel need to be made.
So to give you some ideas of where to start, I’ll use today’s post as a chance to make a list of some of the actions you can take to start breaking down barriers and drawing your audiences closer to you– and if you do it right, they might just begin to grow too.
So while there are countless options to consider, you must carefully take a look at who your audience is, what they like, and what they need. The following list is broken into several categories, but some may have dual applicability.
Your Audience Barrier Wrecking Ball includes (but is not limited to…):
At the administrative level:
1. Leaders that have direct one-on-one physical communication with all audience members, not just elite and wealthy donors. (and yes, shudder, tremble, quiver, this means executive directors as well.)
2. An environment where the administration pools the organization staff from secretary to executive director, and a retreat is held where all employees can voice opinions, exchange ideas, and take ownership in the way the administration interfaces with the audience. This is in lieu of relying on “consultants” to tell an organization everything that it needs–and much less expenses. Capitalize on every strength in your administrative staff. Use the intelligent, artistic, and valuable people that you pay to run your organization where they think the organization is headed in terms of its interaction with the audience. This advice is golden, because these people have a very personal stake in the success of the organization.
3. Be transparent, invite audience members to public discussion about the future of the organization. Don’t keep the public in the dark about what is going on at the highest levels. (I’m sure executive directors are trembling somewhere…) The days of back door deals and nepotism are not cool anymore. Don’t let patrons feel like they are shut out, they’d be thrilled if you invited them into all aspects of organization. It’s not hard guys, just put it on a blog.
For the performers in large organizations:
Ok folks, I hit the administrators pretty hard, but now let’s talk about what we can do to tear down the wall.
1. Mingle with audience members before and after the concert or performance.
2. Wear a pleasant countenance at all times. (Just smile) Even if you aren’t feeling it, remember you are onstage and you are acting. Make eye contact with as many audience members as you can, and smile at them.
3. Look your best onstage. Look like a million bucks, feel like a million bucks, and play like a million bucks. You are performing, you are doing what you are meant to do. Love every minute of it and let the whole world know it.
4. Form a committee in your organization to send hand-written notes to audience members, from you, to thank them for coming to the concert.
5. Put surprise tickets on the bottom of seats and lucky audience members will get to come to a reception after the concert to meet members of the orchestra or company, or group.
6. Put the audience on the stage once in a while. It is a more intimate setting, you can charge appropriately for the less availability with seating, but don’t gouge. Use this as an opportunity to let the audience know that you want to know them up close and personal.
For the Solo performer:
1. Talk to your audience. Forget about the old day of walk out on stage and play. Speak to the audience, acknowledge them, thank them, and engage them. I’ll write more about this in future posts.
2. Play a video before the concert that helps the audience put context around the performance that is about to happen. How did you prepare for it, what does it mean to you, why are you glad you have an audience. Tell them how you feel and why you love to do what you do.
3. Do away with program notes and have a live person announce each new event in the performance, or you can do it yourself.
4. If your audience is small enough, take questions and answer them honestly.
5. Receive your fans graciously after every performance, no matter how many (or few) of them there may be.
This list is as long as your imagination wants it to be. But rest assured, every action you take to bring your audience closer to you and the wonderful artistic work that you do, the bricks will begin to crumble into invisible dust.
Until next time,
Related articlesFringe frenzy takes over Edmonton (with bonus reviews) (metronews.ca)
- The Wall That Keeps Our Audiences Away (tuxedorevoltblog.wordpress.com)
- Times are a changin’. (tuxedorevoltblog.wordpress.com)