Stagetime?Posted: 1 May 2013
The invariably incisive Peter More has written a great post about “The Stage-Time/Space-Time Discontinuum”, in which he flags up and comments on a common experience among performers of all disciplines:
Two minutes as experienced by the performer can be ten minutes to the audience. Likewise ten minutes as felt on stage can sometimes be two minutes to the audience. Typically the audience time is closer to time as experienced by the clock. It’s very confusing to most new performers and a real skill to be able to accurately estimate how long you’ve been on stage.
A lot of what he says rings true with me. I’ve often had difficulty judging the length of a show that I’m in. If we apply the rule “Time flies when you’re having fun”, it stands to reason that the performers will sometimes have be having more fun than than the audience, or even the other way around. Ideally, of course, everyone is having exactly the same fun.
Improvisers are either truly in the moment, or they’re not – in which case they’re thinking, planning, filtering and judging. Any time spent on stage doing these activities can bypass my performer’s clock (especially if I think I’m improvising, when actually I’m not) but not the audience’s. A self-conscious minute will feel like an aeon, but a joyful hour will pass in a blur. I suspect that if I were to make a habit of comparing my personal estimate of a show’s precise length with a stopwatch, I would have a pretty good scientific measurement of exactly how much genuine improvising I was doing.
Attempting to judge how much time has passed while in the middle of a show takes me completely out of the moment, exacerbating the problem. The most useful thing is not having to worry about it.