THE QUALITY OF LISTENING – Bo in the trenches / by Bo Gerard

We’ve all performed in less than perfect performing situations; actually probably more times than we care to remember!

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After you have spent the required time “on the boards”, and your show is strong and ready, you can still have the rug pulled out from under you by a bad venue, bad lighting, bad sound, bad placement in the evening, or all of the above combined!  All of these production issues have basically the same effect on your audience.  It hampers and diminishes their ability to listen.  If you have too many shows of this sort occur in a row, two things can happen.  One - you begin doubting your ability to make an audience listen, and Two – you start making changes in your show that make it less crucial for your audience to give you their undivided attention.

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I will share two experiences I’ve had that speak to the idea of “Quality Listening”.  I had been working with a certain local agent for 15 years, and he always seemed to put me in challenging situations when hiring me for a platform show.  But one time he hired me to do a half hour spot in a show that included musical numbers and speeches, at the Palace Theater in Grapevine, TX.  My spot went really well, and the audience had a great time.  After the show, this agent came up to me with a quizzical look on his face, and said, “What is it, Bo?”  I said, “What is what?”  He said, “What magic happens to make an audience respond that well to your show?’  I very politely explained, that if you put people in theater seating, in a semi-darkened house, and put me up on stage, with great lighting and sound, I will always connect with the audience that way.”  He had never seen me “kill” with an audience, because he had never booked me into a situation that made it conducive for the audience to really watch and hear me.

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The second story is about a pianist in Bar Harbor Maine.  Gretchen and I were walking home from dinner, and passed a hotel on our way back to our B&B.  We spotted a piano player through the hotel window and decided to stop in and have a listen.  It was a typical hotel lounge, and he was playing to a group of 4 or 5 people.  We sat and joined the audience, and then more and more people started to gather, until the lobby lounge was full of people – all sitting and actually listening to the pianist.  The pianist seemed delighted and started playing and singing pieces he hadn’t played in a long while.  Pieces that would have been wasted on the average talkative lounge bar crowd.  He also started talking about the pieces and the composers between songs, drawing us in even more.  After his set, we went up to thank him and he explained that it had been a very long time since he had an audience that was really listening, and I could see how much it meant to him.

Therefore, my wish for you all, is that you should  having at least enough great shows, to help get you through the rough patches!

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