July 15, 2016 by Petrea
Always Give Your Best Show
This past Wednesday was the first night of the Story Kitchen summer session. Story Kitchen is a writing workshop where we focus on structure, i.e., how to get your story from your brain to the page in the right order, so each part supports the other parts.
I like to keep the class small so everyone’s work gets plenty of attention. The summer class has three students. The other night, however, two couldn’t make it.
When I realized it would be just me and E., I thought about canceling. Then I remembered something that has not ceased to serve me as an artist: always give your best show.
When I was in the Second City National Touring Company years ago, we often performed at a suburban hotel in quite a large theater for quite small audiences. One evening, we looked out from behind the curtain to see only two people in the audience, a wife and husband.
We knew what to do. We threw ourselves into it, giving the best show we could, just for the two of them. We made them part of it, asked them questions, included them in scenes. Everyone had an absolute blast, and I remember that night more clearly than I remember other shows with audiences hundreds of times larger.
Authors often speak of arriving at a reading to find only a couple of people there. What do you do? You sit down with those people and get to know them. You let them get to know you. You give them the most personal, fascinating, exciting read you can possibly give.
It’s going to happen in your career if you’re an artist. You bring your best because a) your audience made a special trip to see you, maybe even paid for a ticket, and they deserve the best you’ve got, and b) it’s an investment. You don’t always know who’s out there or where the experience might lead.
In this short video, guitarist Nita Strauss tells of her own tiny-audience encounter, and how giving it her all got her the job as lead guitarist in Alice Cooper’s band.
The other night, I gave E. all my attention. We got to know each other a little better, and spent as much time on her writing as she wanted to.
It’s probably not going to get me a spot in Alice Cooper’s band. But E.’s good work is paying off on the page. And that’s payoff enough for me.