This was a weekend of extremes. Saturday overall was good with lots of patrons turning out for the cooler weather. Most of the shows went well and we tried out a new arrangement for my mic so that I can be heard during the straitjacket escape. It didn’t work as well as we had hoped so I made some changes overnight and brought it in the next day and it was much better.
I said most of the shows went well, that doesn’t mean they all did. The second show of the day was a major blow to my confidence. Repeatedly I tried to engage the audience and got no reaction. At several points in the show where I typically get some sort of reaction I got nothing. I tried talking to one particular older lady and she tells me she’s just there to watch the kids. That’s three strikes, I was out of there! I ended the show short and told them to come back later if they wanted to see more. No pitch, I just walk off the stage. Done, Finished, Kaput! Steve asked me about it and I tell him flat out the show went south, I was done.
We talked later and he said I did the right thing, but it sure shook me for a while. I mean really shook me. I have never felt that kind of helplessness on stage, ever. I didn’t know what to do so I did the only thing I could think of, and I thanked them for being there (even if I didn’t mean it) and walked off. How can I, as a performer, expend energy for an audience that doesn’t react, at all. Short answer, I can’t. Live performance is a sort of dance, a give and take of energy and excitement. If only one half is expending all the energy, eventually they are going to be left with nothing. And that’s exactly where I ended up during that show and I got the hell out of Dodge.
Once I had some time to go over what had happened, the rest of the day went much smoother. Shows went well, and the audiences responded at the hat. Late in the day, I think it was between 5:30 and 6, we had a small group of college kids sit down and since Steve had just finished I went out and talked to them for a bit. I did a few small things, eventually bringing one of the girls on stage for my version of paper balls over the head (something I don’t normally do in a show, but something that I had been practicing. ) Her friends are laughing and she has no idea where the balls are going. After the third ball I look up and notice that several more people have joined in the audience. I do one more with a super large ball, I thank her for coming up and send her back to her seat. She looks back and sees the balls on the ground, she rolls her eyes and her friends get another good laugh. At this point I’ve got maybe 20-30 people sitting so I go ahead into some of my regular routines, finishing with the jacket. I love it when things just fall into place. Normally at that time I would have been done, but because of the way things worked out I had one of the best shows of the day.
Sunday, crowds were a little lighter. Steve had two aborted shows first thing because of rain, but after the rain it never really picked up like it had on Saturday. We figured it was because of the morning rain and also the Chiefs home opener against the Cowboys. Regardless the shows went well and the new mic arrangement for the jacket worked out well. I had some really good volunteers for the jacket and some new lines that got some good laughs. The patrons really cleared out late in the afternoon, so by 3:30 we were back to doing small magic in the benches for a few people. I managed to draw in enough people my last two shows that it was worthwhile but the audiences were still small.
Next weekend is obviously the fourth weekend, the midway point at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. I know the crowds are only going to get bigger and I’ll continue to get busier. I only hope I am up for the challenge.