Be Present for a Performance

Conjurer's Coffee Break - Episode 003


- Hello and thanks for joining me again.

- I went to the theatre last week to see the musical Once.
- I'll give you a brief summary of the plot, but that's not the main thing for today.
- OK, so it's the story of busker on the streets of Dublin who meets a Czech girl and their sort of complicated non love story.
- It was a movie several years ago, and it's great.
- It's fantastic storytelling and I also love the music from it.

- First thing up to say, I loved the show.
- But... there was one things that sorta bugged me throughout
- There were a few moments where I sort of felt like I could see the actors processing their next line.
- Maybe I'm being over critical, but it sort of bought me out of the world they were trying to create and made me think less about the performance and more about everything else that was going on in my life.

- And the reason that I wanted to talk about this was because around the same sort of time I saw a video of the original writer of the music Glen Hansard, busking on the street.
- One of the comments underneath said, here's a guy who puts in as much passion when performing to one person on the street as he does when he's performing to thousands in a theatre.

- Now, yes there's something to be said about the fact that he's the creator of the work and he's singing his own song.
- Yeh, I agree with that, and we'll come back to that.
- I promise there will be a podcast on creating your own material.

- What really struck me though was this comment, right - as much passion and effort when performing to one person as when he's performing to thousands.
- I mean, can you say that you do the same?
- Alright maybe you don't perform to thousands, but, like, do you give 100% to both a small local event and to a large corporate client?

- I've asked people this before, and there's a confusion, I think, because it's easy to mistakenly think that larger more important events get 100% of your effort and smaller events get less, so maybe 80 or 90%

- And you know while a large event requires more preparation, and something impromptu, by definition, no preparation - I don't think that means you can't still give 100%.

- Because this is about the performance, right?
- I don't know about you, but I make an effort to give everything to each performance.

- So the question is, how do you do that?
- For me, I believe it's about staying in the moment.
- You might have the expression, to be fully present.

- I previously took a course of acting lessons and one of the first things the tutor said to me was, on stage you have a job to do.
- Keep that one in mind.
- If you prang your car in the car park, or you've just received some bad news, you have to kinda put that out of you're mind.

- How do you be present for a performance?
- Being in the moment is one of the techniques to do that.
- Have you heard of mindfulness?
- It's about staying in the present moment.
- And there are techniques that you can do just before going on stage, or just before starting a close up gig.
- One of the simple ones is to follow a series of breathing exercises.

- Right, so you know that I can't give you all of the details in the podcast, but there will be some further resources in the show notes.
- Let me give you the basics though.
- Following the breath is about bringing your awareness to the movement if air in and out through your nose or mouth, or the body scan, which is closing your eyes and focusing on each part of your body and asking yourself mentally how each part feels.

- Maybe it sounds a bit wishy washy, but I honestly believe this is beneficial.
- And, you know, I feel it's useful even if you're more of an events organiser, than a performer.
- I often do these types of calming / centering exercises both on the morning of the event, and before a performance.
- Give it a go!

- In fact, there's even something to be said of just being aware that you need to be aware.
- Making a conscious effort to be present, to make eye contact, to listen to the audience and as I have said, be in the moment.
- That's something you can do straight away.

- And here's another that will help.
- Not overloading your schedule.
- If you have only one show a day, then you can give all of your focus and attention to that performance, and that client.

- You're not thinking about what happened at a previous event or worrying about another event later in the day.
- OK, so it doesn't always work out like that, but my advice is always to aim for an ideal the majority of the time.
- And the very least you can do is leave plenty of breathing room between shows, so that you're not rushing between them.

- And the advantage of all of this is not only does it make for a better show, but when you relax and enjoy the performance that translates to the audience and they enjoy it more,
- And then you pick up on that and you enjoy it more,
- And then they enjoy it more.
- etc etc - it's a positive feedback loop.
- And then your client notices all of that, and so they rebook you or recommend you.
- You build a better business when you become a better performer, right?

- I hope that's been helpful to you today.
- You know, I've heard so many performers say things like, it was all a blur, it rushed past so fast or I didn't notice at the time but when I played it back I heard people laughing.
- And I think that's a massive shame.
- Part of the reason I got into magic is because I enjoy performing.
- I want to experience the audiences reaction or laughter or just their enjoyment.
- Why did you get into magic - for many of you it will be same?
- We do this is because we want to enjoy it too?
- So, if a few simple techniques, I call them meditations, you might just call them relaxing or centering, but a few simple actions before a performance can help both you and the audience to get a better experience, I can't help but thing that something worth doing?

- You can find out more about me on my website, find every episode at and you can subscribe to future episodes wherever you get your podcasts from.

- Until next time, thanks for listening.

Additional Show Notes

- For me, being present for a performance comes means knowing my material inside out. By doing that I can concentrate on what's going on -  is someone saying something I can respond to, are people reacting in an unusual way, etc.

- Spontaneity is a result of experience. More on that in the future!

- In the meantime, here are some useful links as mentioned during podcast.

Check out:

6 Mindfulness Breathing Exercises


Following the Breath

and this video of singer Glen Hansard busking in Italy. Enjoy!

Related podcasts

- Episode - creating your own material - link to come

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