I’m currently reading Michael Hyatt’s “Platform” and couldn’t help but get excited while rereading twice his definition of a wow experience. He focuses on ten specific factors that characterize the wow and I was amazed at how much they apply to a successful theatre performance as well.
In this post I will use Michael’s term “wow”, because I think it really fits what spectators and actors experience during a performance (or at least – during a successful one).
Stage is where the actor reveals himself. He should be absolutely genuine in his role. In fact, he shouldn’t feel like acting at all. A good actor penetrates into his role to such extend that they become one: body, soul and energy. The actor shouldn’t think, but only reflect on everything that happens around him, audience included. He should never forget that the audience is there; in the eyes of the spectators he can find the truth about himself and his act. And one should never become oblivious to the truth. Neglecting the audience during a performance results into a self-act which is pretty close to selfishness – nobody likes it.
When the actor opens himself to the other actors of the team and to the spectators in the auditorium, he can’t afford to think about his lines, about what follows next, etc. It should all come natural to him and to the others as well. That way, the spectator is led into a happening – something that reveals in front of his very eyes, especially for him; something unique that will never happen that way again. He is led into the inner self of the artist. And that is sacred.
Often the spectators remain speechless after a performance. They can’t find the words to express what they think or feel. They know that something happened in the last hour or so, but aren’t really sure what. Maybe something within them clicked; maybe memories had been awoken; maybe they finally had come to a new understanding and appreciation of life; – it’s different for everybody. But something always happens during a performance. And it doesn’t happen so much on stage, as in the consciousness (or sub consciousness) of the spectators. That’s what determines a wow performance. It has left a mark. It has made a difference.
When there’s wow in the audience, there’s wow in the actors as well. It’s difficult to be described how exactly it happens, but energy is being exchanged between actors and spectators all the time (with or without dialogue). In that sense, they build the wow together. The spectators add their engagement and intensity to the work of the actor, contributing to a successful happening. But it is the actor’s job to turn this happening into a wow for both sides.
The ten characteristics of the wow that Michael Hyatt focuses on in his book are: surprise, anticipation, resonance, transcendence, clarity, presence, universality, evangelism, longevity, and privilege. When all those characteristics are present in a performance – the magic has happened. Such performances don’t happen every day. But it is the daily pursuit of those traits that makes them possible at all.
Have you experienced a wow during a performance? Share with me in the comments below.