Monday, 18 February 2013

The Performing Mindset

Back in December, I started talking about performers and the reasons why they do what they do. In this post I want to discuss the performer's mindset.

Mindset – frame of mind – zone – headspace. These terms describe a utopian psychological state inhabited by performers, elite athletes, motivational speakers, and anyone who must be at their absolute peak of ability performing before a live audience. It is a place where their body, mind, and spirit meet in harmony in readiness for the task at hand. Only those who visit can understand how necessary it is to find it in order to give a successful performance.

Different performers have different ways of achieving this state. Some pace, some pray, some joke, some drink coffee, some intently review scripts, some practice, some stretch or do exercises, some just talk, but everyone does it, either consciously or sub-consciously. Indeed, some performers have onstage personalities completely different from their offstage personalities and people are often astonished by this. Really, it is only their inhabitation of a performing mindset that is happening. If the two personalities are extremely different, then performers may need some extra time to get into that performing mindset.

Anthropologist Victor Turner understood what is happening. Any performance, as he noted, involves “frame, flow, and reflection”. By “frame” he was referring to “that often invisible boundary... around activity which defines participants, their roles, the ‘sense’ or ‘meaning’ ascribed to those things included within the boundary, and the elements within the environment of the activity,” in other words, for our purposes, an event entertainment show. Performers recognize that the show (or “frame” according to Turner), is a distinct activity outside the norm of everyday life, and can be treated as such, so that they are free to be who they want or need to be. They can only get to this state by being given time to be on their own away from distractions.

What does this mean for event producers? It means that performers, no matter who they are, must be given quiet time before their performance, on their own, to find the right frame of mind. Therefore, it behooves the producer to provide such an environment. I consider this to be one of the most important aspects of working with performers.


  • Turner, Victor. (1988). The Anthropology of Performance. New York: PAJ Publications. pp54-55.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post. Some performers always appear to be naturals while others often do have to work themselves up before the performance.