Sunday, February 27, 2011

Curtain Up!

I was once told that the key to being a good performer is to never let your audience worry about you. Genius...right? Well because if you DO let the audience worry, you're uncomfortable, they're uncomfortable, it's just going to be a bad situation for all parties involved. Unfortunately, I have recently been to far too many shows where all I did was worry, so this is Lo's Tips to Being on Stage Part 1:

1) Look Good

It says a lot when a group comes on stage and I say "Damn, they look good!" Why does it say a lot? Because it doesn't happen very often.

Usually I notice the one guy that didn't iron his dress shirt, the chick whose dress is so tight and so short that I'm positive I will see her crotch at any moment, the horse stomping of ladies that can't walk in heels but thought 5 inchers were appropriate, smudged make up, un-brushed hair....

Generally- Guys, stop being slobs and if you can't seem to dress yourself, ask a girl... or a metrosexual. Ladies, THIS IS NOT THE CLUB!!!! Must you look like you're about to get your Ke$ha on? Because the #1 thing I find myself worrying about at EVERY a cappella show is who's boob or crotch is going to pop out first.

The classical singer in me says unless your group decides to wear gowns on stage, bare shoulders are never appropriate. Why? Well to be honest, you are probably far less tan than you think you are and pasty + bare shoulders + stage lights = ghost. You are now a ghost on stage. Even further (and slightly know...) your arms are probably not as thin or toned as you may like and trust me, the lights are NOT helping. But if you reeeeeeally feel like you are Gwyneth Paltrow in stature and can pull off a bare shoulder, at least make sure you have straps on your dress or top to hold those puppies in. There has been far too many times I've thought a paparazzi-worthy "wardrobe malfunction" was going to happen on stage because someone aca-bopped a little too hard and their top started falling. And if you're on the smaller side of the endowment scale, you KNOW you have nothing to hold a tube top up and it is inevitable for it to

Also, ladies, if you're singing on a raised stage and you're wearing a really short dress, trust me that the first and second rows of the audience are getting a show they did NOT pay for. Oh...but you're wearing tights, it should all be ok.... WRONG! Please take those tights of yours, stretch them a little, and hold them to the light. Ah yes, there's still a free show. If tights are your solution to the crotch watch problem, you HAVE TO make sure that they're very opaque because of the lights or wear Spanx under your dress.

Basically, stage lights are not forgiving. The audience can see through anything that's white or not very opaque, they can see every roll and dimple if something is too tight, and they wash you out completely (even the ethnic folk). Then, can you please look like a group? No, everyone doesn't have to wear the same thing, but establish an image and have a dress rehearsal to make sure that everyone falls in line with that image. Also, just stop looking like you jumped off a school bus and into Schlubs R' Us or like you've spent the last three days drinking in a sketchy bar. Trashy is trashy...not classy and immediately can turn an audience member off.

P.S. The sooner I stop seeing collegiate groups where all black with red accents...the better.

2) Get the water bottles OFF the stage.

First, I really don't care to know who in your group prefers purified water over spring water. I just don't. I also don't think Aquafina paid for the free advertising or care who has made the decision to be green and buy their own water bottle.

Second, do you reeeeally need it? Besides just being tacky, is there really a reason for you to need a sip of water after every song? I don't think so. I'm almost positive that your high school choir director or even college choir director didn't let you bring a water bottle on stage to sing the entirety of Handel's Messiah, so why, may I ask, do you need it to sing a 6 song a cappella set? Answer is... you don't.

Now, vocal percussionists needing water bottles, I totally understand. It's all about avoiding dry mouth and I get it. But singers? YOUR BODY KNOWS WHAT IT'S DOING!! And can surely take care of itself for half an hour. In fact, your body is constantly lubricating your vocal folds while singing and by drinking water you are pretty much flushing away that natural lubrication. (that is not a good thing.) Of course your body needs help every once in a while, so just keep water bottles to the side of the stage, if you really need it. But if you feel like you've just run a mile and lost approximately half of your body's water after every song, then you are clearly just doing something wrong and need to reassess how you're singing.

It's just not a good look or very professional for everyone to walk on stage with a water bottle. I'm sure your set design for whatever show you're singing did not include 15 water bottles, so you could imagine how almost sloppy it looks to an audience.

3) Stop being awkward

Ok, I understand that there are just some awkward people in the world, but they don't have to actually be awkward on stage. Rehearsals are not only meant for music, they are meant for exactly what is going to happen during your show or set. Practice who is going to talk and when and exactly what they're going to say. You may think you're clever when speaking off the cuff...but you're not. It's almost 98% guaranteed you're just awkward and stumbling over words and alienating your audience or just plain old being offensive.

Then, movement. USE A MIRROR! You may think you look awesome on stage, but you don't. That thing you do with your hand while you sing, is really just distracting. And everyone bopping in the same direction, is really just going to make your audience sea sick. Here's the real truth:

You are not as cool or sexy or smooth or engaged or anything else you may think on stage. You actually look silly, need to calm your hands down, are making an incredibly awkward and uncomfortable "sexy" face, and 9 times out of 10 you just look bored.

So...stop that. Your entire group needs to practice in front of a mirror or videotape a rehearsal and call out the people that are a detriment to your stage performance.

More awkward things (especially in scholastic performances): the ever shuffling of your group. Do you know how weird it is to watch people literally shuffle themselves around and bump into each other to go from one double arc to... another double arc? Why do you do that? Why can you not sing in the same places for more than one song? This is what I normally see:

Boring performance of some song followed by a quick and not thought out ending, then no acknowledgement of the audience's existence even though they are clapping for you, with a FRANTIC shuffling of people from one side of an arc to the other side complete with shoulder bumping and people stepping on toes.

Ummm...strange. Now, if you acknowledge the audience and have someone speaking while the mass amounts of shuffling happens, this is a whole different story because they won't be focusing on people literally bumping into each other. Also, if you practice your set order everyone should know where they're going and when. That way the franticness of the whole shuffling situation should be eliminated, no one gets stepped on and it looks far more professional.

Basically, practice EVERYTHING you do on stage from the moment you walk on to how you bow.

4) Don't let me worry

Be confident on stage and never let the audience know that there is room for something to go wrong. Don't tell us you're sick or apologize for missing members or say that you JUST learned whatever song you're about to sing because natural human instinct is to find the mistakes. If you tell me you're sick, I'm going to look for what note you didn't hit or if you tell me you tell me you're missing members I will leave the performance saying, "I guess they were good, but I wonder how they'd sound if they had all their members." Instead of focusing on how actually good you are, I am now focusing on how you could be better.

Then it comes down to practice again. If you look worried or not confident on stage, the audience will be worried for you, and it will no longer be an enjoyable experience. If you're constantly pulling your skirt down, that's what they'll focus on. It's your job as a performer to make the audience feel welcome and safe and like nothing will go wrong. Why do you think Beyonce fell down those stairs and just got right back up and sang? Because that's her job, to make the audience feel like it's all ok.

Overall, take a step back and assess what exactly you're doing on stage. Your performance is just as important as the notes you sing and most likely more memorable for the audience. Are you really living up to your performance potential? Are you as professional as you could be or are you settling for amateur mistakes? Every second counts on stage.

Until the journey continues...

Please send feedback to I'd love to hear your thoughts and know who's out there reading. Also any subject suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you everyone for all of your support!

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