Friday, December 3, 2010

Even the Best

I recently attended a performance by a well-known radio personality that was irritating as hell. My party was seated in the balcony. The performer was positioned so far forward on the stage that we either had to assume a partial-standing position so we could see him, or close our eyes and pretend we were listening to him on the radio. You can imagine what happens when, at my age, I close my eyes.

My host at the event became so angry that he vowed to complain to theatre management. How could they, in all conscience, cut off the sight lines of an entire portion of a paying audience?

But I had seen this performer a decade ago at the 92d St. Y in New York, where I could see him clearly, and where, even though a decade younger, I fell asleep at least twice.

The first time, I assigned blame for my snooze problem on his material, which wasn’t that interesting. But at this performance, he had great material, and his deliverythe ebb and flow of tension and release, the timing–could have served as a “how-to” course for any public speaker. And yet, there I was, off in dreamland again.

Inconceivable as it seems, even to me, this performer has not learned, after decades on stage, the difference between the energy required for a radio audience and a live audience.

Radio requires intimacy. The performer’s energy is concentrated through the mike to a virtual audience of one person or one family, listening in car or a living room. Very different from a three-balcony theatre where, even though one is using a microphone, the energy has to expand to include everyone.

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