Last week I went to Crafted: Stories over Coffee at Coffee Park Arts. What an amazing evening. Part way through, I thought, "I feel like I'm in church." Half an hour later Lynn Rhoades spoke those very words aloud.
Why? Because the performances were coming directly from the soul, and speaking directly to our souls.
Danny Dockery's song, "Kiss Me like You Don't Know Me," prompted Bob Moyer, the MC, to say, "You're talking about everyone's life in that song." The words can seem trite written here, but Danny was singing from a lost love. I had just lost a long-ago love, and was healed by the realization that I was not alone. Everyone in the room had lost a love, and Danny was singing his loss on our behalf.
Willie Holmes talked about the need to "go to zero" when he was learning to perform. That he had to give up all his preconceived notions about other performers that were successful and popular. He had to begin at zero, with who he was because of his singular experience of life.
Tommy Priest, who had organized the event, said he didn't want to use the word "perform" for what we'd just experienced. "You were engaging us, not performing for us."
I used to call what I teach "Performance," until performance became an academic discipline and went in an entirely different direction. For want of a better term, I now have "Stage Presence" on my business cards. "Presence" is the key word. Being fully present is the only way we can engage with others, whether on stage or off.