I love to perform. I always have. Even when it scares the pants off me.
Like the recital where I danced my way off stage because I was so nervous I thought I might hurl. I didn’t. I was fine. So I did my next number without a hitch.
Like my first music recital when I got up in front of everyone (all 15 of them) and entirely forgot how to play the recorder. Looking at the music was like, well, looking at a Jackson Pollock painting and wondering how that translated into the instrument in my hand. I went back up later in the recital and did smashingly.
Like my first long-form improv show. Again, I thought I would hurl. This time backstage pre-show. But there was only about 10 square feet of space and about 6 of us standing back there so hurling really wasn’t an option. I was fine. But I did spend a few scenes staring blankly at my partner and willing him to speak.
Like my first time teaching PictureBook Plays to a group of college students. As if I knew what I was doing. I did. I just didn’t feel like it in the 30 seconds leading up to introducing myself.
Have you caught on to the trend? The only time I get severely nervous is when it’s a first. Once I’m in rinse-and-repeat mode, I’m cool as a cucumber. Unless I really am sick, and that just sucks.
I tell you all this because it’s the reason I like performing far better than rehearsals. You get the initial “I’m going to hurl” factor but then, after that, you’re fine. At least, I thought that’s why. Until recently, when I discovered that I may, in fact, like rehearsals better.
I am 33. I mention this because it has been a turning point year for me, and the passage of time along with the resultant life experience feels significant enough that it is worth mentioning.
At 33, I finally understand: It’s okay to suck. In fact, it’s actually really fun to suck…in rehearsal.
In rehearsal, you are meant to be lousy. It is your time to be terrible. To forget your lines, to go the wrong way, to make the wrong choice, to take the wrong step. And the more terrible you are, the better you are by the time you perform because you have spent hours giving yourself permission to make every possible mistake in the book. And it’s really fun to make mistakes knowing that no harm can come of it, other than a few minutes having lapsed.
It’s really fun to make mistakes with no pressure.
For a long time, I thought I liked performing better because I was used to the pressure. I’m a long-time over-achiever with a concentration problem. I know what pressure is. So the question becomes, how does one apply this lesson to performances?
Wait for it.
The only one putting pressure on you to ‘impress people with your performance’ is you. So stop trying to impress people with your naturally expressive acting and deep, soul-filling character choices. Just go out there, do all the good stuff you learned while sucking in rehearsal, and tell a story.
The rest will come.
Just enjoy telling the story.
33 years old, and this is what I got. Imagine what I’ll know at 66.