Associate Professor of Voice, Shenandoah Conservatory Artistic Director of the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute
Let’s face it, seduction is a huge part of commercial and musical theatre styles. It may be as innocent as seducing for a first kiss to (fill in the blank, this is not THAT kind of blog 🙂 If you go to Merriam-Webster, they offer the following synonyms for seduce – allure, bait, beguile, betray, decoy, entice, lead on, lure, solicit, tempt. A lot of these make sense for situations outside of romantic interest as well. What I have noticed while traveling around the country and working with thousands of students is that many have only one way to seduce, and they can’t easily take direction to change their seduction style. I started realizing that the problem is they are young and lack the life experience to know all the different types of seducers there are in this world. That’s when I discovered the book “The Art of Seduction.” Goodreads says the following:
“The Art of Seduction is a masterful synthesis of the work of thinkers such as Freud, Ovid, Kierkegaard, and Einstein, as well as the achievements of the greatest seducers throughout history. From Cleopatra to John F. Kennedy, from Andy Warhol to Josephine Bonaparte, The Art of Seduction gets to the heart of the character of the seducer and his or her tactics, triumphs and failures. The seducer’s many faces include: the Siren, the Rake, the Ideal Lover, the Dandy, the Natural, the Coquette, the Charmer, and the Charismatic. Twenty-four maneuvers will guide readers through the seduction process, providing cunning, amoral instructions for and analysis of this fascinating, all-pervasive form of power. Just as beautifully packaged and every bit as essential as The 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction is an indispensable primer of persuasion and offers the best lessons on how to take what you want from whomever you want or how to prevent yourself from being taken.”
I haven’t read the whole book but the list of seducer types is a goldmine itself for actors. Let’s look at these nine types and how they can be applied to musical theatre.
There is a great blog post on ScholarFox.com that provides a brief introduction to each type. Below you will find brief introductions (quoted from the source) of each idea; visit the original post to read the full descriptions,.
“The first and most ancient seducer of all is the Siren. She represents male fantasy. She is supremely confident, highly sexual, smells of danger, and is physically undeniable. Her greatest power is the physical. There are many beautiful women in the world – but only a fraction are Sirens. It’s not just her look – it’s how she uses it.”
“The Rake is a great female fantasy figure. When he desires a woman – however briefly – he will go the ends of the earth for her. When the Rake pursues a woman, he looks like her slave. As such he inspires no fear. The seducer’s dilemma is that he needs to plan and calculate, but if she suspects your motives, she will become defensive and fearful.”
The Ideal Lover
“Most people have dreams in their youth that get shattered with age. Broken dreams become lifelong fantasies. The Ideal Lover reflects your fantasy. Casanova was perhaps the most successful seducer in history; few women could resist him. His method was simple: on meeting a woman, he would study her, go along with her moods, find out what was missing in her life, and provide it. A bored wife needed adventure. Miss Pauline needed friendship. Ignazia needed suffering and challenge because her life was too easy. The key to the Ideal Lover is observation. Ignore your target’s words and conscious behavior; focus on the tone of their voice, a blush here, a look there. Most people are so wrapped up in their own desires, so impatient, they are incapable of the Ideal Lover role today.”
“Dandies excite us because they cannot be categorized, and hint at a freedom we want for ourselves. Men, not all women think aggressive masculinity is the sexiest. The Dandy has a much more sinister effect. He lures the woman in with exactly what she wants – graceful presence, attention to his appearance, sensitivity to detail, and a slightly cruel coquettishness. The majority of people conform to whatever is normal for the time. The Dandy displays a true and radical difference – an insolent freedom. They never try to please.”
“A child represents a world from which we have been forever exiled. An adult’s life is boring and compromised. So we have an illusion of childhood as a kind of golden age, even though it can often be a period of great confusion and pain. Natural seducers are people who somehow avoided getting certain childish traits drummed out of them by adulthood. Natural seducers learn early the value of retaining an innocent quality. And a touch of innocence lowers a target’s guard. Naturals can be impish and innocent. They are an undefensive lover. Their openness and freshness are a relief to us from the world’s dirty machinations. They can surprise you with their unusual energy or spontaneity.”
“The ability to delay satisfaction is the ultimate art of seduction – while waiting, the victim is held in thrall. Coquettes lead us on, alternating hot and cold, keeping us on their heels. People are inherently perverse. An easy conquest has a lower value than a difficult one; we are only really excited by what is denied us, by what we cannot possess in full. Coquettes are independent because they are narcissists.”
“Charmers are consummate manipulators, masking their cleverness by creating a mood of pleasure and comfort. Their method is simple: they deflect attention from themselves and focus it on their target. Charmers make us feel better. Charmers do not argue, complain, or pester – what could be more seductive? By drawing you in with their indulgence they make you dependent on them.”
“Charisma is a presence that excites us. It comes from an inner quality – confidence, sense of purpose, contentment – that most people lack and want. Charismatics become a kind of screen of which others project their secret fantasies and longings. This quality radiates outward. They have a gift for oratory. They can seduce on a grand scale. Charismatics express vision. Purposefulness is doubly charismatic in times of trouble. Since most people hesitate before taking bold action, people will believe in you through the simple force of your character. Call it the Savior Syndrome: once people imagine you can save them from chaos, they will fall in love with you.”
“Daily life is harsh, and most of us constantly seek escape from it in fantasies and dreams. Stars feed on this weakness. They are vague and ethereal. Of all the parts of your body that draw this fetishistic attention, the strongest is the face; so learn to tune your face like an instrument, making it radiate a fascinating vagueness for effect.”
While most of these are presented as gender-specific stereotypes, I don’t think that these are as gender-specific in today’s society. Regardless of gender identity, there is value in all performers being aware of these types of seduction. While they may not seduce in all of these ways themselves, it is likely a character in a show will try to seduce them in some of these ways. If they understand the game, their response songs (i.e. Get out and Stay Out) will make more sense.
This is a new area of work I am currently exploring, but the results so far have already been huge. All of the students I have presented this to have said they never thought about types of seduction. When they pick one of the paths from above, the changes are instantaneous.
How do you handle seduction songs in your studio? Have you tried using these 9 types before? Contribute to the conversation in the comment section below. If you are not already following the blog, you can leave your name and email address without a comment to be added to my mailing list. You will receive an email with a link to each new blog post when they are published. If you enjoyed this post, please share it on social media to help spread the word.
Thanks for reading and have a wonderful week of teaching!
Matt Edwards is an Associate Professor of Voice/Director of Musical Theatre at Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, VA, and Artistic Director of the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute. He is the author of “So You Want to Sing Rock ‘N Roll” and dozens of articles and book chapters on functional voice training for non-classical styles. For more information visit EdwardsVoice.com