Ivan E. Coyote have her way with a standup mic was just one of the pleasures of the workshop called "The Art of Talking the Talk" that took place last night at the Listel Hotel. Coyote, who makes most of her money from live performances, covered everything from preparing your work (figure out where to pause— like a landing on a stairway, memorize if possible, add some banter) through getting ready for a reading (research who your audience will be, get there early, make friends with the sound guy, listen to the performers before you and adjust your material accordingly), using your body as part of the performance and how to adjust and use the mic, and then she encouraged each of us to take a turn up front and use some of what we'd just learned like:
- Avoid podiums: they cover up your body which should be part of your act
- If someone REALLY wants to make eye contact with you, don't make eye contact
- Don't get drunk: your mouth is your tool and what's the first thing that goes when you're drunk?
- Smoking pot will make your mouth dry, and good luck with remembering your lines
- No "poet hand" (a limp, circular wave of the hand that emphasizes every line of a poem)
- If your "P"s are popping or your "S"s are slurping, move away from the mic or ask the sound guy to "roll a little off the bottom/top"
- Once you're finished your set, boogey on over to the book sales table as fast as you can and stay there until the last possible customer has left the building (no ducking out for a smoke or a drink first)
We listened, we took notes, we asked questions, we laughed out loud (a lot), and then most of us, no matter how nervous we were, had a go in front of the mic. At the risk of sounding corny (which Ivan tries not to be but sometimes is—in a good way), I'd say this may have been a life-changing evening.
You'll have to ask Ivan for the details of how, in her haste to empty her bladder before a set, she managed to pee into her own back pocket—or maybe you'll get to hear the story at her next workshop!