Innovating Through Artistry

Posts Tagged ‘Artist’

Smiling as Loudly as We Can

In Author: Gwydhar Bratton, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS on November 14, 2009 at 2:50 am

“Don’t worry if you don’t hear the audience laughing during dress rehearsal. They’re old. They’re smiling as loudly as they can.”

-Tim Frawley,Theatre Director, Libertyville High School

The high school I attended had an ongoing tradition of inviting elderly citizens from the community to come see dress rehearsals so that they didn’t have to pay full price for tickets on performance nights. The laughter and applause of an elderly audience was never as loud or as enthusiastic as an audience full of our families and peers, but at least the house was full. As students and as artists, it was very easy to feel doubtful. Here we were in dress rehearsal on the verge of a production that we’d worked very hard on in front of an audience and the first time. We were projecting ourselves out into a darkened auditorium and hoping for some kind of response. We had no way of knowing whether all our hard work resulted in something we could be proud of unless we could hear the audience laugh at the jokes. And sometimes we didn’t even get that satisfaction.

In such unforgiving economic times it is easy to feel that dress-rehearsal doubt. We cross our fingers and tell ourselves to “break a leg” because we don’t even want to risk frightening away good luck. When we take risks, whether as an artist or as an entrepreneur, we put ourselves out on stage under bright lights staring out into a vast darkened empty space with no way of knowing whether anyone is watching. We have no way of knowing whether we are succeeding or failing except by the responses that we get from other people. And like in theatre, sometimes that response never comes.

If we’re wise, we carry on even in the face of apparent apathy. At times like this, when the auditorium in which we perform seems to be dark and empty and vast we may not be able to see our audience but we need to remember they are there. The audience is seeing us because we are there to be seen. And they are smiling as loudly as they can.

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What Type of Artist are You? What is your Function?

In Author: Jim Hart on September 9, 2009 at 5:49 am

Artists can play many roles in our society and have, throughout history, been thought to exist somewhere between high priest and prostitute.

When we look to cultures past, attempting to understand their values, their thinking, often we look at their art for insight.

(c) James Hart. Balinese Ritualistic Dance

(c) James Hart. Balinese Ritualistic Dance

Artists, unequivocally, play an valuable function in society, one that often achieves the test of time and promotes change and cultural identity.

Some artists don’t give a second thought as to what specific role they are playing or what impact their work might be having. Many do not know, specifically, who the audience is that they are trying to reach, to speak to and serve.

Here are some questions I encourage you to ask of yourself:

What role are you playing?

•    Are you serving to aide your audience to experience escapism? Do you help them to forget their troubles and be transported to fantasyland, to the realm of the imagination?

•    Do you serve as an agitator, to cause people to think, to stir up preconceptions?
•    Are you politically oriented, attempting to promote change?
•    Do you serve as educator?
•    Are you a conscience to your society, serving as a mirror, holding up what you see and reflecting it back to your audience?

There is a wide range of options.

In fact, one can play many roles, simultaneously.

In Bali, Indonesia, a culture I have had the privilege to spend a good amount of time in, the Topeng dancer serves as a literal conduit for the gods. The Balinese believe this dancer serves as a channel, through which, spiritual forces enter and exit, blessing the community in the process (this is a theatre of necessity). But these village rituals are not just spiritual ceremonies, but are entertainment as well. Like Shakespeare would craftily do, they speak to many audiences, simultaneously—from the educated higher castes to the peasant lower cast. These dances can, in the course of one evening, go from trance-induced performance of ancient ritual to bawdy genital humor. It serves a spiritual function AND as escapism. These ancient dances, repeated for literally thousands of years, give a sense of cultural identity to youth. It teaches them about who they are as a people and gives them a sense of communal pride and interconnectivity.

If you are not already doing so, I encourage you to be specific about what role or roles you would like to play. You do not have to wear the same hat each and every time you create. You can wear a different hat for each collaboration that you take part in.

Here are some more questions:

How might you like to be remembered, should your work stand the test of time?

What impact on your audience, culture, society, nation, and world would you like to have?

Do you have any interest in your work standing the test of time? Though that is something that we can never personally control, here is a clue in how to increase the likelihood of your work lasting some time: Speak via universal themes. Open your message to humanity. Speak to the human condition. Appeal to that which is universal to the human animal.

Do you have a message?

Do you have a voice?

What role will you play?

Jim Hart  is the founder of The Hart Technique, Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts and The International Theatre Academy Norway. For more information on these endeavors and Hart, see www.harttechnique.com