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Exposure Or Serial Killers? YouTube, Talent Shows & Specialty Acts

talent shows
By Martin Frenette

In 2017, things have to go fast. As time goes by our society is becoming less patient and it’s no secret that attention deficit disorder is a growing concern, not only among children but also for grown-ups. As a result, people are now watching excerpts of TV shows on YouTube instead of full episodes, most shows (circus, dance or plays) are now requested to not run longer than 90 minutes plus intermission and we, as artists, are directly affected by this shift: some producers and directors prefer to watch a demo reel online than to attend a full show. 2:30 is the maximum time allowed for an act on those “Got Talent” shows and most Specialty Acts on Cruise ships don’t go longer than 3 minutes (nor do most songs for vocalists).

We are spending years working on a range of skills, endlessly repeating tricks and exercises, developing an esthetic and creating pieces that we feel are defining us both as individuals and as artists. There is an introduction, momentums and an end, a full ark, but, if we are following today’s industry’s trends and standards, one must jump from that initial eye contact between two leads to their final kiss, from those small and silent steps on stage to a quadruple pirouette. Soon enough we’ll start cutting the Balcony scene from Romeo & Juliet or Alice in Wonderland’s encounters with the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts!

This phenomenon is raising this question: are these visibility opportunities giving us exposure or killing our art?

Granted, those platforms, whether it’s YouTube, Got Talent or cruise ships, have already given the chance to several artists to leave anonymity and to live a life of their art and passion. Many emerging artists are having the hardest time getting their break-through due to a lack of performance opportunities and of contacts that could propel them to the center stage and there are now ways to get noticed easily in only a few seconds or a few clicks.

However, at a certain point in one’s career, should artists still have to cut to the chase and give the audience right away that high-pitched note or that triple salto, depriving not only the audience of so many nuances and little sparks of a personal genius or subtle moves of their very own that cannot be seen nor heard online?

You’ll often hear a producer tell you “This will be good exposure for you” and pretty much never “This will be a chance to grow artistically.”

Isn’t there a time where one shall stop looking for exposure and focus on creation and performance? I’ve heard several colleagues and friends who came back from a “Got Talent” audition saying the same thing “It wasn’t for me, it isn’t for artists. This is good for stunts. Too short. No room for an artistic presentation.”

Last summer, I had the pleasure of attending twice the show Vice & Vertue in Montreal, a 3-hour interactive performance by the Montreal-based circus company “The 7 fingers” which mixed theater, circus, musical performances  with a “follow the leader” game as the audience was moving from one floor to another to watch each scene and, in some cases, interact with the artists. The main comment that came out of the audience at the end of the show: “That was long!” Regardless of the fact that these three hours were necessary to go over Montreal’s history, some of its main characters from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, to take full advantage of a resourceful and huge venue, to move through it, and to see actors doing acrobatics, circus artists sing and musicians act.

More than a show, this production was an experience of its own, and the artists who were involved either in the creative process or on stage all agreed that this had been one of the most challenging, yet rewarding artistic experience of their career.

Unfortunately, we are no longer conditioned to give our full attention to art for a very long time and those artistic opportunities are likely to become an even rarer breeze in our field if we let those “Serial Killers” become the lead players of our industry.

One needs exposure and visibility to perform and live from one’s art, but, later on, one needs creation time and artistic challenged to live one’s passion. At what point does an artist get to say “No” to visibility without having to stop saying “Yes” to performance?

Also by Martin Frenette:

The Role Of Artistic Director: Creating, Connecting And Hosting

Where Do Circus And Theatre Meet? A Look Into A Circus Directors Mind

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