“I don’t want audiences to feel a specific thing..I just want audiences to feel.” Paul Simon

The gift the performer brings to his or her audience is sometimes difficult to recognize in a culture which often judges success by the size of ones house or the amount of money one makes. As an artist, it’s easy to fall into thinking that performing doesn’t really make much of a difference. After all it’s not like being a doctor, a teacher, or a carpenter who bring a more tangible service to the world.

The performer’s basic function is to connect emotionally to another. Doing this seemingly simple act requires the artist to be open to and connected with his own emotions and thoughts. This ‘opening’ is sometimes difficult for many reasons. The values of a culture or the way one is raised can interfere with expression of one’s passion. For example being ‘stoic, strong, tough, independent’ are often contradictory to the vulnerability required to really connect with someone.

The power of genuinely sharing ones self affects others in all kinds of ways. Of course this can be confusing to the performer if he believes somehow his audience should feel what he feels or think what he thinks. Often the response of the listener is quite different than one would predict. For example, an artist lovingly performing a song that he wrote about the woman he’s committed to may evoke anger in one and grief in another. The service the performer provides to his listeners is to affect them, not to control the nature of the listener’s response. People want to feel. They need to feel. It’s enlivening, healing, and
joyous. They come to a concert to be ‘turned on’. They come usually ready and willing to be ‘affected’.

The performer’s homework is to grow in his own awareness of the emotions and thoughts which live inside him. The master performer allows these thoughts and emotions, without judgement or censorship, and gives them a “voice” or expression. Life, really. This is the contribution the performer makes - a shared state of unconditionality or freedom to let things be exactly as they are in the moment.. It is these instances that inspire both audience and performer to celebrate and honor the emotions and thoughts that make us human.

Author's Bio: 

Toni Land

Performance Coach and Creator of StageWork Courses
Professional performer, award-winning songwriter and recording artist with television, radio, and stage experience. For over 20 years, Toni Land has been a performance consultant to corporations, community theater groups and public schools, as well as a credentialed Speech & Language Specialist for children and adults with communication disorders.