A performer’s greatest fear. They walk on stage, preparing to dance, sing, and act but are frozen. Elma Linz Kanefield experienced this firsthand when she was a singer in New York when she could not make a sound at an audition. She wanted to know why. Look at how to reach your performance potential onstage and off below.
Soon after this incident, Elma, a licensed clinical social worker, became a specialist in the psychology of the performing arts. For decades, she has helped hundreds of artists in New York City and around the world with the challenges they face. Her methods are the subject of a new self-published book, Hamlet’s Mirror, on how to reach your performance potential onstage and off.
Anybody who dedicates their life’s work and legacy to performers is valuable. Performers need a special kind of understanding. It’s a unique experience a performer goes through. Elma shares, “People ask me always, are performers different than other people that, you know. I say, read the book. But yes, performers are different for many reasons. The initial reason is that they knew what they wanted to do early. That’s a good thing and sometimes an inhibiting because many performers didn’t have a normal childhood.”
What is reaching your Performance Potential onstage and off?
Elma shared, “The best way I can explain performance potential is to ask you to close your eyes. Think of that special uniqueness you hold inside. That you maybe never articulated to yourself because it’s different for everyone.”
She continued, “Let it percolate inside you. I can give you my definition and see if that resonates. I look at performance potential as being and doing your best at the moment of performance.”
Then Elma shared that when she “performed that disastrous time. I didn’t know what I now know. So we grow in our knowledge and potential, and our abilities change. That’s a significant dimension of potential. So we don’t beat ourselves up. So if we fall short of doing and being the best we can be, we can learn and not criticize.”
How do Performers overcome rejection?
There’s a quote in her book that “rejection, the most predictable part of performing, is an integral and expected aspect of the performing process.” Yet when we’re not chosen, many performers feel worthless. It’s the most predictable performing part, yet performers get triggered. They can feel rejected, useless, and unworthy. I asked Elma why she believes performers go through this emotional rollercoaster. How can performers find more empowering ways of thinking?
Elma shared that “one of the empowering ways is not to take it personally. Rejection has to be normalized in your business. It’s predictable to hear…no, sorry, we’ve got another way, or you’re a little short, we are looking for a blonde, we’ve decided to cast a male in the role, you were great, we will call you in again, yet still get a rejection. You need to accept that you chose this business and not take it personally. You can say things after auditions like thank you and any notes. What can I learn from this? It’s this shift in mindset.”
I think that many performers want to be the exception to the rule. They want to be chosen, regardless of whether the audition panel wanted a blonde or another hair color than ours. For a few people, this exception does happen, but that is not how it works for the majority. It’s not personal, and often we don’t know why the decisions are made.
In the podcast episode, Elma shares more about how performers can reach their performance potential. She shares further on empowering ways of thinking. Elma also talks about performers’ personality profiles. These profiles give performers insight into what might be working or not working for them in their careers.
How should a performer think to reach performance potential?
I loved Elma’s definition of possibility-driven thinking: “the art of seeing obstacles as opportunities, problems as possibilities, and mistakes as learning.” One of the most exciting things about being on stage is when a mistake happens. We ask non-verbally how I will overcome this mistake, which can be a fun adventure. That’s one reason why we do all the years of improvisation and training to be able to make performing the wild ride that it is.
More from Elma Linz Kanefield
Press play to hear the rest of this episode. Elma’s wisdom for how performers can reach their potential onstage and off is gold. Her reflections from years of working in New York and places like The Julliard School are valuable. I hope it encourages performers to up their game and reach their performance potential onstage and off.
Visit Elma at www.elmalinzkanefield.com
With you on the journey, friend.
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