I still remember my first genuine compliment I received as a performer. Not from a family member, friend, or community member who knew me personally, but from a complete stranger who connected to me purely from an audience standpoint. I was thirteen, and it was the first time I had played Ms. Hannigan in the musical “Annie”. It was after our second performance and we were receiving people in the foyer of the high school. An elderly gentleman had cut through the line to approach me, which as a thirteen year old girl, I thought I was in trouble for something.
“Young lady, what is your name?” he asked with a very somber look on his face. I very shyly replied.
“And how old are you?” he asked before pursing his lips tightly together.
“I’m thirteen……sir.” I added the sir as a reflex to being taught respect for my elders. (Crazy concept I know.) He looked at me blankly for a moment and then shook his head.
“You have a passion, m’dear and it shows. I very much enjoyed your performance. Well done.” His face lit up and he began shaking my hand with vigor. Then he continued to tell me specifically what he enjoyed about the show. “I hope to see you up there again.” he smiled.
Then I thanked him.
If you are a performer in any capacity, if you love what you do – whether it be acting, singing, dancing, playing an instrument, or juggling chainsaws – it’s more than just good manners to show gratitude to your audience. Not even Barbara Streisand is entitled nor obligated to perform. It is an absolute privilege and opportunity to be able to do what you (Hopefully), love to do. Without an audience, you aren’t performing – you are practicing. For anyone to think that they are entitled for an audience to take time out of their lives, to travel, and especially pay money (and if there is a charge – you owe it to your audience to be well rehearsed, well prepared, and to do your absolute best) to come see them perform is the height of hubris.
Thank your audiences. Cherish both compliments and criticisms. Compliments validate what you’re doing. Criticism will help you do more, and become better. Appreciate your audience. My perspective is that of an actor. I know that without tech, sound, pit, producing, costumes, set design, and a myriad of other aspects that go into a production, my performance would be moot point. And all of these factors would be pointless without an audience. There is a reason even professionals have written on note cards who to thank when they win an award. In this industry, you cannot get anywhere on your own. When you do not have the humility to express or feel gratitude, you lose. You lose people. You lose support. If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is around to see , does it make a noise? Perhaps, but if an entertainer performs to an empty room are they an entertainer? Who are they entertaining?