DEAR MISS MANNERS: Are there any social processes or general rules of conduct specific to guests who are hired to perform? I ask this because I am unsure about the line between a professional artist in preparation for a show and an amiable guest who’s also an artist.
GENTLE READER: There are -- beginning with the rule that guests are not hired to perform.
An artist engaged to perform is there in a professional capacity, and is presumably being paid, though charitable organizations on occasion profess confusion on this nicety. Participating in other aspects of the event may or may not be part of the arrangement, and most artists prefer not to be treated as the hired help even if they are.
Guests who might gather everyone around the piano are in an even more awkward position. They are allowed to refuse when asked to donate their services after a heavy meal and two or three drinks, a fact of which Miss Manners wishes hosts would take more notice. The guest who commandeers an audience without being asked has only himself to blame for whatever happens.