Once Upon A Time By Barry Mitchell
In my effort to help you become a better story entertainer I’ll try to discuss everything “storytelling” and everything “entertainment.” Let’s talk about a subtle and often secret difference between the amateur and professional entertainer. I call it the 5 P’s – Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. Everything good on a consistent basis is planned, prepared, and executed according to the plan. Anyone can get lucky and have a good show but if you want to achieve great shows consistently you must prepare for them.
I discuss in great detail how performers can have better stage presence and confidence on stage in my “Stage Upers” CD set. If you’re at all serious about being a better entertainer this CD set should be on your “must get” list. Here’s a little of what I say about how to have more confidence on stage. Know the Big 3. Know your props, know your blocking, and know your script. If you’re performing a magic trick or skit using props it is vitally important that you know how to use the props. This means practice the magic tricks so you can perform it without thinking about it. Many performers fall back on “lazy” excuses that result in poor performances. Magicians wait until the last minute to order a new trick thinking the new prop will so fool the audience that he/she will look like a star. However, since they receive it in the mail the day before the show it is impossible to practice enough to perform it well.
Clowns rely on the tired excuse of saying, “I’m a clown, it’s okay if the trick doesn’t work or I forget to preset the props.” I find both of these excuses to be a sad statement about the performer. If you have no more respect for yourself or your talent then don’t waste the time of an audience with another bad show. Go back home and watch TV and let a real entertainer do the show.
Know your blocking. Blocking is our movements on the stage. It is our movements as the performer and the placement and movement of our tables, props, etc. A good performer has a plan of where to stand throughout the show and how to get to each location effectively. When you watch a performer searching for props or tripping over his tables you know immediately that he doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing. He or she is nothing more than a collector of tricks and skits who wants to show off the collection to an audience. I lump them in the category of the family member who wants to show you a video of their vacation. The truth is it’s only entertaining to the person who went on the vacation not the poor saps who have to sit through it.
We can solve these problems by drawing a map of the stage with the placement of each prop. Place your props so that you may quickly find them without circling the stage like a sniffing dog. Also plan where your audience helpers will stand and how they will move. Plan this so everyone is centered and in the best location for maximum audience visibility. I suggest my “Foot Print” rugs to help you control your helpers on stage. You’ll find them on my website.
Know your script. This is the most important characteristic of a professional. This is also the most overlooked and avoided aspect of a majority of amateur performers. If I had a nickel for every time a performer tells me he doesn’t need a script because he’s a good adlibber I would be rich. Every time I hear it I want to slap the guy into the real world of professional entertainment. But I try to suck it up and just write my feeling in articles like this.
Here’s the truth of the matter. A script will help to organize your thoughts, develop the best comedy lines and potential, and overwhelmingly improve your performance. The secret to a “real” entertainer is to be able to perform a script but make it look like you’re adlibbing. In professional terms that’s called “acting.”
When we begin to recognize the importance of the Big 3 we’ll most likely begin to work on them. If you work on them your shows will improve. As your shows improve you’ll get more word of mouth business. All that business will begin to elevate you from amateur to professional status. Now doesn’t that sound easy? Just imagine how much more your audiences will enjoy hearing you say, “Once upon a time.”