Sunday, November 04, 2007

The On Stage Void

So yes, last night's "Kink" event was lots of fun, I think. The organizers deserve a round of applause for bringing together such distinct activities, AND for putting together their own performances for the night! The chaos in the dressing room did not extend to the stage, and spirits were high even after the campus police came in to shut down the "porn room."

I found the crowd to be more confusing than most, because I couldn't figure out how to "type" the majority -- they sat in chairs and could not be mingled with. Beforehand I was undecided about the demographic I'd be dealing with...hardcore BDSM community members? Politicized University of Guelph students? Sex-crazed chimps? The same type of number is not going to appeal to all those groups, and unfortunately I decided to play to "the chimps," who ended up being completely absent. I did manage to better tailor the second performance, however, and promise myself -- yet again -- that I will never cater to the chimps again. Doing so doesn't make me happy, so I'll simply stop doing it. I say to myself. Again. Again.

Skin Tight Outta Sight were plenty of fun, just the right degree of sexy and camp. Never having seen a modern burlesque show before (any time I've been on the same bill I've been too busy getting changed to be able to watch), my conflicted thoughts about burlesque have been well summed-up by Andy Prieboy in The Psycho Ex Game:
I'd never had a negative reaction to her burlesque dancing. I'd always seen it as a naughty, glamorous lark. I took it for granted that the Drag Hags were some nebulous form of Performance Art, in which enlightened women could don high heels and push-up bras and still consider themselves staunch feminists. But as I watched Winnie in Stu Lovesya's living room, it struck me that in the presence of his ratty couch, his fish tank, and his family photos, her brand of Performance Art was suddenly crossing the line into Bachelor Party. If it was art, it sure looked like a titty show...

I wondered, Was I supposed to be aroused? If I was, then she was failing as a Performance Artist... On the other hand, if I didn't find this sexy, then her Performance Art was succeeding, but her titty show was a flop. Oh! I was so confused!
I don't have the answers. I have similar thoughts about drag shows as well. But even if I didn't feel comfortable hooting and hollering for the slow reveals of Skin Tight Outta Sight -- even if I still don't know what THEY feel about hoots and hollers -- they certainly get kudos for a fun show. Especially Sauci Calla Horra, who was exceptionally creative AND sweet off stage.

Oh right, I was going to mention "The On Stage Void," that feeling I get during a number when I suddenly don't know what to do. Sometimes I just stand around like a dummy, or turn my back and walk slowly away from the audience as though I'm ABOUT to do something, or I make an ill-thought-out snap decision that I always end up regretting later (like kicking a stuffed cat into the crowd, which I think I intended to mean "giving a souvenir to the audience while also killing time" but probably came across as "crazy person abuses potentially misogynistic symbol").

I chalk up these "voids" to being unprofessional, overly-analytical, and ill-prepared, but I was perversely delighted to see that the "Skin Tight" performers suffered these "voids" as well, because that means that you don't have to be an amateur to get momentarily lost on a stage.

How do you recognize an "on stage void?" It's a crack in the facial expression, a rift in the pose, a stumbling of the self-confident bearing. It's a quick look of anxiety, an unpracticed darting eye, a turn in one direction followed by a sudden turn in the other. It's a repeated movement for no reason. I suppose that any fresh, somewhat spontaneous routine will invariably suffer voids, and I prefer those routines to the comparative dryness of the "done it a million times" performance any day.


Anonymous said...

Oh, I know the "void" feeling well. Sometimes I manage to pay a bit of attention to the audience when I'm playing, if I don't have to devote all my brainpower to a part. At least I have an excuse to look busy.

But between-song banter? Augh.

Adam Thornton said...

The banter is THE WORST.

I've never had any problems with radio banter -- I can do it for hours, and I don't remember you finding it difficult either -- but give me a microphone in front of a huge audience and I just freeze up. I think it's because radio allows you to get more "in-depth," and while it's impersonal enough to not be scary, it also has a very personal quality at the same time -- it's like you're talking to a single person.

But on stage, you're talking to a diverse group of people, you can't babble on and on until something "clicks," and they can SEE how nervous you are.

I hate that!