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Hi everybody, I know I’m in the middle of a blog series about self-producing, but I just had to break out to tell you briefly about a solo performance train wreck I recently saw and the important lessons it offered.

It was an open-mic type of lineup, solo-performers each doing about 8 minutes of material. Most carried a script, which seems to be the protocol for these types of spoken word/storytelling shows. So the performers would refer to their scripts, often reading straight from the page, but it wasn’t a distraction.

Until this one gal.

She kept stumbling on her words, squinting at the pages, having to pause, re-read, and go back. Her energy level sagged. I could see that the pages were typed, so the issue wasn’t legibility. It seemed that she was editing her material as she went. This proved extremely distracting and felt plainly disrespectful to the audience, who, rather than feel for her, actively lost sympathy and interest.

The silence was sharp.

I think the audience felt (as I did) a little annoyed at being asked to give our attention to something so lazily prepared and limply presented. Sensing she was losing us (she commented on it), she sagged even more. It was terribly uncomfortable to watch. Finally she just stopped in the middle of a sentence, said a meek “thank you,” and left the building (literally. The front door was right next to the stage).

So I was reminded of the importance of rehearsing your material. Be professional about this. The costs of laziness in this regard can be great.

Your job onstage is to present your material with energy, professionalism, and enthusiasm (appropriate to your performing style, of course). If not, why take the stage? Even if you are testing out new material, commit to it and give the best show you can – the whole time you’re onstage.

Now, this is not to say you’re not allowed to flub a line. I flub ‘em all the time. But the audience won’t turn on you for these kinds of mistakes as long as you demonstrate with unflagging energy and commitment to the material that you take their entertainment seriously and are working to give them the best show you can.

With so much entertainment and media vying for our attention, I consider it a privilege to have an audience at all. Treat your audience with respect and treat your work with respect by memorizing your lines and committing to your performance.

With great love,
Jonna Tamases