Livingston Taylor

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Gentle Art of Audience Seduction

by Nina Tarnawsky, Vinyard Gazette

The audience is the boss. Performance is a seduction. Never give up something for nothing. Livingston Taylor eagerly passes along all this and more to his students at the Berklee College of Music, and now to readers who pick up a copy of the new edition of his book, Stage Performance.

Mr. Taylor was asked to lecture in the mid-1980s at Berklee and was subsequently asked to teach a course on stage performance. “I was on that like a tick on a dog,” he said in an interview at Espresso Love in Edgartown this week. “I’ve always loved teaching and, if I may say, I’m a good teacher.”

Full of energy and ideas, Mr. Taylor, who performs tonight and tomorrow night at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown, would be a fascinating presence in front of the proverbial blackboard. Drawing on his experiences throughout his 40 years of playing for audiences, he is eager to pass on what he’s learned.

“The greatest detriment to a career is good looks and talent,” Mr. Taylor said. “Ultimately, why people pay you is because you came to them, not that they came to you . . . and the difficulty with being beautiful and talented is people come to you. So, you get on stage [and] people are there and they’re at you and it becomes terribly unsettling.” He points out that his best students are often those who are not classically good-looking.