Returning home from a joyful and inspiring trip to Lake George (my favorite place on the planet), I was inspired to write about the power of place. I travel to Lake George as often as I can, around three times a year and each time, one particular phrase echoes in my mind and manifests itself in all my social media posts: “I just love being here.” This simple delight–the being there–made possible by place, or rather, by being at a place coalesced into a question I’d like to probe further, especially in the context of performance: What is so powerful about being there?
The relevance of performance to my question becomes obvious in the sense that there is something magical, incomparable, or utterly transcendent about being at a live performance that can never be replicated by a performance held via a virtual venue. No one questions or doubts that. Being there, in the theater, or in a special performance venue, is a part of the power of the performative experience. If performance is, as I like to think of it, the crafting of an experience for an audience, then having that audience physically present in a particular space immerses them entirely within the potential of your creative hands–you can fully craft an experience for them, minimizing distractions and competing with few simultaneous sensory experiences.
The crux of my work in performance is to make sense of the complex relationships between the internal and the external, the me and the you, the performer and the audience, the self and the world. It is, after all, the very essence of an exercise of power to be able to affect someone else. And places certainly have the power to affect. After all, if you have someone in the seat, physically present, then their experience is already yours to lose. That’s the magic of the exclusionary nature of place–if you’re here, you are nowhere else.
Just like captivating art, places can indeed hold us. So, when I find myself someplace like Lake George, I feel the power of the external world deeply affecting my internal state. With no conscious artist at work, save “nature,” save “the universe,” the place itself performs its own unique character, leaving me the captivated audience, forever changed just as we performers hope to forever change the members of our audiences. Performance is an invitation to begin a process of transformation.
We all have rich internal worlds; we don’t need an external stimulation to change our perspective or to prompt us toward growth. But it helps. It makes it easier. Indeed there is something inherently magical about the interchange between the internal and the external. After all, isn’t that what a magic spell is? An internal desire prompting an external transformation? Or the reverse–the performing of an outward action to render an internal change?
Hence we see the connection, the intersection, the confluence of the performative, the transformative, and the downright magical. Renderings and reflections: the inward rendered outward, the outward reflected inward. The beauty performed, indeed rendered, by Lake George elicited that pure and wholeheartedly genuine performance of my own: the display of that ultimate smile on my face, which is, in fact, my own performance offered in return.
Speaking of returns, I absolutely cannot wait.
You can read more about my definition of magic in my blog post here: The Magic of Performance: Inviting Mystified Transformations.