Which of these rules of the stage should NEVER be broken?
- Never turn your back to the audience
- Never apologize or recognize a mistake
- Never start a song over, or go back and fix any mistakes
- Never criticize or belittle the audience
- Never criticize or belittle yourself
The main idea is to know the rules, so that you can choose your rare exceptions. Here are some exceptions I’ve seen, experienced, or heard about for most, but not all, of the rules above…
Never turn your back to the audience
Usually you want to connect with the audience… using your wonderful mug. But Bola Abimbola, a Nigerian singer with whom I had the pleasure of singing for a couple of years, was a master booty shaker. He often turned his back to the audience to shake the booty like you wouldn’t believe!
Another exception: choreography or planned moves. Girls on Top! has a couple of planned moves where all three of us lead singers turn our backs to the audience here and there, for frozen silhouette-style poses.
Never apologize or recognize a mistake
Most of the time, no one notices your mistakes. But in the rare case of a glaringly obvious mistake that was so bad that it actually created tension in the room, you can often defuse the tension by admitting it and making light of it. The audience wants you to succeed. When you’re obviously having a tough time, the tension in the entire room can go up. Sometimes just admitting the elephant is in the room can allow you and everyone else to put some of that tension to rest.
Never start a song over, or go back and fix any mistakes
Usually, “the song must go on.” And, usually, even near train-wrecks iron themselves out within a couple of bars.
But when it’s really that bad – such as half the band being in one key and half the band in another (been there), or half the band being on the upbeat and half being on the downbeat (been there too) – and it’s not getting better, then the best thing is to stop, quickly re-gather, and start over on the right foot.
Never criticize or belittle the audience
Until last night, I didn’t think there was any exception to this rule. How could there ever be a reason to treat badly the people who spent time and money to come see you play? But a student in the Rock the Stage! performance class pointed out that at one show he attended, a fight broke out and the band stopped the whole concert to focus attention on the guys beating each other up. I don’t know what they said, but presumably it was critical of the fight. The guys made peace and the show went on. Kudos to the band.
Never criticize or belittle yourself
Even if you’re not performing at your best, most people probably think you’re better than you think you are. Modesty, fine. But there’s no place for self-criticism on stage. I really can’t think of an exception to this rule. Can you?
Now of course these aren’t the only rules of the stage. If you’d like to learn more, and you live in Colorado’s Front Range, sign up for the next 6-week Rock the Stage! Performance Class, which runs Sunday evenings starting September 19.
(c) 2010 Adrienne Osborn