"If mama ain't happy ain't nobody happy.", American Authors, Concerts, Huntertones, Intimacy, Jackson Browne: "People you got the power over what we do- you can sit there and wait or you can pull us through.", Monty Python: "First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then- shalt thou count to three- no more- no less.", Performing, Sex, Zac Barnett
Activities that involve two or more people tend to be more pleasurable for more people when all parties are engaged and enjoying themselves. The old adage, “If mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy,” is a subset of this sentiment and I find it to be true in the two most intimate activities that I do in groups, sex and acting.
Just for the record, none of my sexual activities have reached the Monty Python, Holy Hand Grenade maximum number, “…thou shall count to three, no more, no less,” is one number higher than I’ve ever aspired to sexually as I believe in the sacredness of only disappointing one partner at a time. Likewise, it’s two numbers higher than I’ve sometimes gone, but that precludes the whole making a group activity better for all parties involved thing.
Intimate sharing of feelings and presenting ourselves in vulnerable ways works better when we’re all on the same page, and if we’re lucky, on the same paragraph, sentence and final exclamation mark. Sex should be an intimate sharing of body/mind/soul as should performing and it is the performance aspect of this observation that I will explore. (All you voyeurs can find way better sex stuff elsewhere, trust me and everyone whom I’ve ever disappointed sexually.)
Enthusiastic audiences inspire performers. I don’t know how may times I’ve been backstage with fellow actors who have gushed about expressive audiences or lamented “dead” ones. Audience response is contagious and positive responses make for a better performance for both those watching and those performing.
In Jackson Browne’s song, The Load Out, he sings, “People you got the power over what we do, you can sit there and wait or you can pull us through,” a concise expression of the upward or downward cycle of an expressive or silent audience. Excitement is contagious and who doesn’t want some positive excitement? Everybody wants it, but as with sex wanting it and earning it are two different things.
June twelfth provided a cool 66 degree F/19 C, nearly nonstop rain in Raleigh; conditions that make for a very poor outdoor concert experience. The trio of artists, Huntertones, American Authors and O.A.R., had an early 6:30 concert start, something that was great for my lovely and me, we nearly sexagenarian concert goers, but a fact that American Author’s lead singer Zac Barnett must have lamented a dozen times in the bands 45 minute set. I’m not picking on Zac or AA, we enjoyed their music, but his desire to bring us to our feet from the moment he took the stage reminded me of a pubescent boy’s approach to sex- “I’m ready! Aren’t you!?”
Desire and excitement, whether on stage or in bed, is earned not commanded. I’m certain that Zac looked out at the half-empty venue, saw an audience that was both wet and miserable and knew he and the band had to save the show, a great idea delivered in a fumbling, pubescent sexually inexperienced but eager to please fashion. And Zac’s far from my first in this command response dreadfulness.
Excitement has a curve, it is not an on demand response. Enthusiasm and leading people to the promised land, whether between the sheets or as they sit or stand beneath sheets of pouring rain, is different than cajoling them to it. Making intimate experiences more fulfilling requires reading and responding to those with whom we are interacting far more than telling them how, when and what they should be feeling and doing and, just as with sex, starting out hot, sticking it in and declaring how great it is is an unlikely recipe for making it good for all parties involved. As performers it is our job to woo and as audience members to be open to wooing and if we can all remember and act on that we’ll likely find our intimate experiences far more pleasurable and exciting.