On Performance, Persona, and Patronage

Performance and Persona are fundamentally interlinked topics.  How you present yourself and who you present yourself as provide part of the context in which the other material you present will be viewed.

This is something I wrote many years ago.  This is written in the persona of the author of a “Medieval How To” books, like  Baldesar Castiglione’s “The Book of the Courtier” or Raymon Llull’s “Of the Order of Chivalry”  — so it reads as very didactic.

The basic points still seem relevant to this discussion.

Performance is the sharing of experience.  Performance requires
venue and an appropriate arena. Venue is the guarantee of an
audience.  Arena is the location where the performance takes
place. While many types of performances can be accomplished
with minimal arena (storytelling, poetic recitation, etc),
no performance can be accomplished without a venue.

The creation of venue is the job of the patron.  The patron
guarantees an audience for the performance.  This can take
many forms from sponsoring and announcing a public entertainment,
to simply requesting a song or story while standing in line
waiting for feast.

When a performer has no patron they must act as their own patron.
This is called busking.  One special form of busking occurs when
the performers stand as patrons for each other.  This is
frequently called a bardic circle.

Every performance has a patron, whether it be a single
individual, or a group of people acting together.  When a
group of people are acting together as a patron, it is usually
advisable for them to appoint someone to speak on their behalf. 
This person may be titled the emcee, host, herald, or such other
name as suits the occasion, or may simply fulfill the function
without special title.

If a patron wishes to sponsor an entertainment, they should
announce it in advance, so that an audience may gather to hear it. 
If it is an open entertainment (for any performer who would come)
then this should be sufficiently in advance that the performers will
have time to prepare appropriate material. The announcement should
state what kind of material is requested or that it is simply
“open to hear anything on any subject”.

Performers would do well in turn to note that in places where
the custom is that most or all circles are “open subject,” the
announcement may omit this point — however it is always polite to
inquire if you are not sure whether your piece will be acceptable.

It is the duty of the patron to request the performance.  If a
circle or other entertainment is to be conducted, it is the duty of
the patron to open the circle, either by performing or requesting
the first performance. The patron sets the rules for how performances
will follow each other, whether it is “free for all,” “pass the lantern,”
“bear pit,” “by request,” or some other method.

Depending on the method chosen, and the community of performers
present it may or may not be necessary for the patron to exercise
active control of the circle subsequent to the start, however it is
the patron’s responsibility to step in or make requests as appropriate
to keep the circle going, and if time or space limitations require it,
to close it at the end.

A good patron is one who is able to encourage performance effectively.
The art of the patron is thus to set the rules for performance of the
entertainment in such a way that they do not become tedious to the
performers or the audience or detrimental to the performances.

The patron is also a performer.  One who acts as a patron should strive
to give the best performance they can, in order to better encourage
excellence from the persons performing for them.

(from “The Book of the Patron” — (c) 1998)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s