The "goatsinger" concept grew out a desire to get the audience -- students at first -- to pay attention to a song I knew I was going to play for them. A small story, I had learned from Stuart Hoyle way back in the day, told prior to the song got the audience ready to pay attention to the song.
I love this idea, and I see it everywhere among my favorite performers: Laurie Andersen does it -- moving between telling a story, and playing some odd, lovely music while great blue shadows swim across the scrim behind her; Jack White does it, using only the sounds from his guitar as his voice, trying to guide it to the next song, Meg waiting patiently behind her drums, as do the tens of thousands who have gathered to hear him. In Big Time by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan, Waits does it with some strong staging concepts and some killer monologues. And Greg Brown goatsings like a motherfather -- that old bastard in concert can be amazing.
I tried this story-before-the-song with a group of ten-year-olds for a performance workshop that I'd been hired to do in their classrooms back in Chicagoland -- telling this long story about about painting up a water pistol with shoe polish and robbing a drugstore -- and they loved it -- and the song it introduced: "Comic Books and Bubblegum."
So is goatsinging acting with some song-and-dance?
Not really: that's musical theater. A goatsinging piece, a "goatsong" if you will, needs to be created by a goatsinger.
What the hell is a goatsinger?
A goatsinger is someone who follows The Goatsinger Creed.
(next: The Goatsinger's Creed)