Preparation for any kind of performance is very important. But mind you don’t fall down the gap between being fully rehearsed and truly spontaneous.
Variables in Delivery
We have talked before about the importance of going with the flow and remaining alert to creative possibilities. However, sometimes our aim is to produce a distinct performance. So, how do we then best harness those things within a ‘fixed’ piece of work?
You would hope that, by the time the show/exhibition/gig/etc. comes around, you would be fully rehearsed and know what is going to happen. But within the prepared framework, there are always going to be variables in delivery. Not least of which is what is going on inside your own mind.
Set of Tools
Many seasoned performers suffer terribly from stage fright. They can become paralyzed by the overwhelming weight of expectation and crushing sense of scrutiny. And this is why many people feel they could never perform in front of others.
Working with pupils in a creative performance setting, we can help to overcome such fears, before they become embedded. And, as with all things, to do this we must have a set of tools at our disposal. Chief among which is good preparation.
For my part, I have experienced performance of many kinds first hand. Some of this has been informal, some formal, sometimes improvised, sometimes highly defined and thoroughly rehearsed. And in all the time I have been performing, I can only recall one instance in which I experienced no nerves. And that was not a good thing. Not at all.
Being nervous puts you into a heightened state of alertness. Which aids good performance. But it can – of course – also induce terror, if not properly harnessed. So how do we get hold of those nerves and turn them into something useful?
In The Moment
The trick – as already mentioned – is good preparation. If you are doing something technical, like playing a musical instrument or performing a dance, you will need to be secure in your core abilities. If you are presenting something more improvised, you will need to have set-out some boundaries and rules.
Whatever the nature of your creation, a live performance entails being ‘in the moment’. And this is where we can trip ourselves up. I would suggest that you need to be either fully rehearsed – to the extent that you know exactly what you will do in the performance – or, you need to be open to spontaneous possibilities and able to go with ideas as they appear.
The danger zone lies between these two conditions. And I have experienced this for myself on many occasions. If you are partially rehearsed but trying to recreate something precise, there is a real danger you will find yourself struggling to remember what you rehearsed, rather than delivering an actual performance.
I would even go so far as to say that you are better off being under-prepared than partially rehearsed. If you take to the stage/space knowing that anything can happen, then you will remain present. There are, then, no such thing as mistakes, just new possibilities.
Better Than Planned
Even professional actors will tell you of times they have had to improvise their way out of a situation on stage. Someone may have forgotten a line or missed a cue. Whilst they, undoubtedly, will have been fully rehearsed, they were also able to remain in the moment and open to unexpected situations. So, the performance was not interrupted. Quite possibly, something better than what was planned may have even emerged.
In the end, there is no such thing as ‘wrong’. Which is the great beauty of all things creative. You, as performer, are in charge. You have the power to take your audience wherever you wish. Just make sure your co-performers are also with you!
You Never Know
And, most importantly: mind the gap. Avoid that vague area of half-preparedness. Make sure you are clear of what you want to say with your creation. But also be open to the unexpected. You never know where it may take you!