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  • ... the first prerogative of an artist in any medium is to make a fool of himself.

  • ... performance is an act of faith.

  • The ephemeral nature of live performance is the part I love most — it's a monk's sand painting, carefully constructed, then wiped away in an instant.

  • The only sense in which everybody could be an artist is if art were understood exclusively as performance — or throw-away art. Art would be something people did, and if it resulted in an object you wouldn't have to (perhaps even be able to) keep it, store it in a museum. Cage, therefore, has a right to say he wants everybody to be an artist. There's very little product-making in his notion of art. There's nothing to keep, monumentalize. It self-destructs.

    • Susan Sontag,
    • 1972, in David Rieff, ed., As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh ()
  • It is in performance that the sudden panic hits, that we beg for release from our destiny and at the same time court the very experience that terrifies us. ... A well-meaning friend says, 'There's nothing to get nervous about,' and it almost helps, because the desire to strangle distracts us for the moment.

  • I was absorbing a sorry truth of show business — rejection is the norm and acceptance the oddity. I was learning to cut the tops off my highs and stay with the lows where the rejections and letdowns would be shallow.

    • Joan Rivers,
    • with Richard Merryman, Enter Talking ()
  • I know now that everybody in the arts is forever a beginner. Experience counts for a great deal and very little. Every night onstage I feel I am starting from scratch, still not quite sure what I am doing and where I am going, thrown by the simplest thing that goes wrong.

    • Joan Rivers,
    • with Richard Merryman, Enter Talking ()
  • When it's all over and the on the air signs go off there isn't a more lost feeling in the world. The wonderful, exciting, even glamorous, studio is now just a room dirty with coffee cartons and cigarette butts.

  • Performing is one of the best feelings I know!

  • Nobody can foresee what will please the critics. Every artistic activity is, and always will be, a poker game.

  • Show business is like riding a bicycle — when you fall off, the best thing to do is get up, brush yourself off and get back on again.

  • When you perform ... you are out of yourself — larger and more potent, more beautiful. You are for minutes heroic. This is power. This is glory on earth. And it is yours, nightly.

  • The easiest kind of relationship for me is with ten thousand people. The hardest is with one.

    • Joan Baez,
    • in Joan Didion, "Just Folks at a School for Non-Violence," The New York Times Magazine ()
  • There were times in my career ... when I felt like a trapeze artist doing dangerous somersaults without a net underneath. When you execute those somersaults flawlessly, the audience feels the same sense of triumph the performer does.

    • Beverly Sills,
    • in Beverly Sills and Lawrence Linderman, Beverly ()
  • Audiences have kept me alive.

  • I truly have a great love for an audience, and I used to want to prove it to them by giving them blood.

    • Judy Garland,
    • in Shana Alexander, "Judy Garland," Life ()
  • Because I'm a performer I can justify and sometimes sell the things about me that offend and shock the conventional world. I need to live life in the fast lane. I need to do things to excess. I need to go over the edge. I have an obligation to experience the things most people can't experience. The taboos. The things you're not supposed to know or do. That's part of my job. That's why I do it. I would probably do it anyway.

  • Performers and their public should never meet. Once the curtain comes down, the performer should fly away like a magician's dove.

  • Onstage, I make love to twenty-five thousand people, then I go home alone.

  • ... there were times when I was more at home in front of millions of people than I was at home.

  • An artist, in giving a concert, should not demand an entrance fee but should ask the public to pay, just before leaving, as much as they like. From the sum he would be able to judge what the world thinks of him — and we would have fewer mediocre concerts.

    • Kit Coleman,
    • in Ted Ferguson, Kit Coleman: Queen of Hearts ()