Tonight there’s an audition for a local theater company’s production of Cabaret and I’ve decided to go. I got an email about two months ago from Pabs, my fiance, asking me if I would try out as part of his birthday present. His asking was actually a gift for me, because he was encouraging me to follow my dreams and I said “yes” half hoping he was kidding and probably because it seemed so far off. When I got a second email a few weeks later with the application attached I knew he was serious and gulp, I wished I hadn’t agreed. And now that it’s crunch time I really wish I hadn’t, but I’m really glad I did. Huh? Anyway, the plan tonight is to get up on stage and perform a number in the hopes of getting into the chorus, or dare I say, be selected for a larger role. The contingency plan is to sneak out unnoticed from the theater if the other singers are “that good” before I get up there and make a fool out of myself.
Over the past few weeks I practiced the song by Liza Minnelli a few times, pretending to be “Sally” enticing folks to “come hear the music play” while trying not to miss her dear old friend Elsie. Now that the day has arrived I realize I should have practiced more, and I’m not sure why I didn’t except that I was and still am afraid. I decided to google “stage fright” and what I learned will actually get me up there tonight. According to Huff Post and Wikipedia a few of my all time idols get frightened too. Barbra Streisand takes anti-anxiety meds to help keep her calm, Carly Simon has fainted onstage, Adele has been known to throw up before performing live, Brian Wilson gets massages and prays prior to his gigs. Laurence Olivier had to have his manager push him out onstage once when performing in London, and that was well into his successful career and when Ella Fitzgerald won a talent contest as a teen at the Apollo, she’d been signed up to dance, but got so nervous she sang instead.
As I read different posts and articles I was horrified by the comments listed underneath them. They ranged from absolute and utter praise and devotion to out and out character assassination. Comments bashing Adele about her weight and making fun of Barbra’s nose were rampant. One unhappy “poster” wished “stage fright would keep a certain performer off stage and screen permanently!” When I read that one it hit me between the eyes that being famous doesn’t keep you from attacks or even fear. There’s no sudden place of arrival where you say: “I’m here now. I did it. I’ve achieved fame so now I can sit back, relax and enjoy the show!” There’s always the next gig or the next fear or the next place of striving towards. No matter where you “get to” everyone is not going to accept or like you no matter whether you are Barbra or Jane Doe, but that’s absolutely more about them than you. And whether or not you are liked or even picked for the part has little to do with your worth or even your talent. I guess it’s about getting to that place of comfort and of “Who Cares?” And of asking why you want to get out there in the first place. One of my favorite quotes jumps out at me. It’s my grace paid forward: “A Bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.”
What will get me up there tonight is the knowledge that no matter what the outcome is, the trying is what it is about today. Thnking that Liza probably got pretty nervous up there too actually helps me to stay motivated. Given how hard her famous mom struggled it’s hard to imagine that she had a nicely wrapped self esteem package handed down to her, so it couldn’t have been easy. And when I hold the mike I’ll remember that being nervous is not a bad thing or a sign of weakness. When I get out there and belt out the song like “Sally” does no matter which way it goes I will be able to say I did it. I had a song.