Guest blog by Rose Condo, actor, poet and head of Community Engagement at the Lawrence Batley Theatre
A couple of months ago I was invited to perform some of my poetry at a cabaret night in Leeds. The venue was a funky performance space in a pub, and the crowd was energetic. The host called me up. I got to the microphone, looked towards the audience and had a moment of panic. Stage lights…in my eyes. I couldn’t see the crowd.
As an actor I’ve experienced the pupil-saturating brightness of stage lights. But as a performance poet I was used to more informal settings…dimly lit rooms with intimate audiences whose faces I could see and whose reactions I could gauge. I suddenly felt like I was in the dark…ironic, since I was being flooded by light.
I began with my first poem. Noise and music filtered in from the bar next door. People chatted and ordered drinks. I couldn’t tell if anyone was listening. I started to lose focus.
Fortunately, my background in acting kicked into gear and I pulled a few performance techniques from my sleeve…like reminding myself to breathe and grounding myself physically. I took my time and focused on the meaning of the words I was saying. I soon relaxed, and I even started to (gasp!) enjoy myself.
Later that evening, audience members offered lovely feedback – some even said they felt the room had been riveted. I was grateful for the kind words, and made a mental note to remember the techniques that had helped me through…and to keep an eye out for stage lights in future performances.
If you are a poet (of any level of experience) and you are keen to cultivate your own performance techniques, I am running a series of practical workshops at the LBT on Monday evenings in February as part of the 2014 Huddersfield Literature Festival. Come check it out…and perhaps you can show off your skills at the HLF Open Mic Event on 9 March.