Words. They convey meaning through their connotations and explicit definitions. Words can empower, uplift, and they can also diminish one’s self-esteem.
We have the choice to use the gift of the written word to bring clarity to a point of view. Just as we have the right to do so as a writer, so too does an interpreter have the right to elicit meaning from that view. Giver and receiver is such a delicate relationship. It teeters on a fine point and the slightest misunderstanding can lead to an imbalance. But who is right? Who is wrong? Is anyone either? Or neither?
Opinion. It is just that. But there is a distinction between opinion and outright disrespect. Criticism in the Arts is often taken badly. It is because a performer bares their soul and offers so much to deliver a performance. How someone chooses to receive that performance is the audience member’s prerogative. Like so many things in art, it is an arbitrary perspective and interpretation.
But it hurts! It may. It’s allowed to. Words have that power. How we deal with those words bears testament to our character. Throughout my entire performance life, I am confident that many a bad word has been said about me even when I am giving my absolute best. It comes with the territory. It is easy to pick on a person who puts themselves out there in front of others to be openly judged. However, if I allowed those negative words to govern my choices as a performer and person, I would be lesser than I am today.
“If you do the task before you always adhering to strict reason with zeal and energy and yet with humanity, disregarding all lesser ends and keeping the divinity within you pure and upright, as though you were even now faced with its recall – if you hold steadily to this, staying for nothing and shrinking from nothing, only seeking in passing action a conformity with nature and in each word and utterance a fearless truthfulness, then shall the good life be yours. And from this course no man has the power to hold you back” – Marcus Aurelius
The performer gives, the audience receives: they complete one another. Both the compliments and the scrutiny from patrons have their place in a performer’s journey. Their words should never define a person and such criticism should be seen for what it is.
The only situation a performer has control over is their own performance, character development, and stage presence. The meaning of stage presence has evolved for me over time. As I practise mindfulness daily, I think of stage presence as just that; mindfulness on stage.
As I have matured, I care less about how I am perceived by others. I am always respectful but I will not pander to the status quo. You can expect the truth when you ask for my opinion because I am interested in developing and empowering others through integrity. I am not interested in telling someone what they want to hear. As a younger performer, my teachers did me such a service and so did my mother. These people relentlessly expected better from me and over time I expected it from myself. I put my ego aside years ago and embraced that the work is bigger than I am. I am a humble part of a larger vessel, and my part must function in order to steer the vessel in the right direction.
This self-esteem and resilience has developed over many years. I have faced rejection, taunting, heckling, negativity, bitchiness, gossip, and was even discriminated against due to my single-parent upbringing. Rather than letting such words break me, I converted them. All that pain, all that vulnerability appears on stage with me every performance. I dig deep, I explore the darkest recesses of my mind and heart to bring truth to the stage because I have lived that. That is what I can offer to my audience, and the Arts are a celebration of humanity in all its highs and lows.
Surrender. Embrace. Allow. Just be.