Sometimes an off-hand comment can really bring things into focus. I was chatting with C. after tonight's Vintage Vaudeville Cabaret rehearsal. She'd had a pretty bad day. Her dad was taken to the hospital, and though it was "only" dehydration, her family didn't know that right away. C. mentioned that coming to the rehearsal and being among friends was a great relief. "It's like therapy" she said. That got me thinking about my now 10+ years of performing with the Real Dream Cabaret and the Vintage Vaudeville Cabaret. Why do I do it? Goodness knows I'm not particularly talented, though I work the "comic relief" angle to mask my shortcomings. But here's the thing: I don't even enjoy it. I get no joy from it. Every second I spend on stage feels like I'm drowning (off key), and when my performance is over I run off the stage and find something fried to eat. So again, why do I do it? C. answered the question for me. It's like therapy. Not the performing part... the before part. Working with an insanely eclectic group to plan a show, figuring out how to carve out my little three minutes, practicing, rehearsing, seeing the shocked look on co-workers' faces when they learn I'm going to be in a show ("but you're so..." they stammer, then fall silent as they realize there's no good way to end that sentence), the flurry of e-mails, feeling the crackle in the air as the big day approaches, being part of something unique. That part really is golden. Too bad the actual performing part has to go and ruin everything!
Maybe I'm being too tough on the performing part. When I'm brave/stupid/focused enough to drop the little walls we all build around ourselves, to really lose myself in the performance and not care about how I look or what people think or the many ways I fall short, I can reach a "zone" and put on a decent act. This has happened exactly twice, but I think I'm getting better at it. After the first VVC show last July, people were cheering Jhen and I in the parking lot and it wasn't the usual "pity praise" - they really liked our act. Of course the opposite is true. If I cling to those walls and worry more about what people think of my act than the act itself, I'll wind up alone on stage, drenched in sweat, with Tony Conrad throwing boxes of Jell-O at my forehead (interesting fact about Tony Conrad - he has very good aim).
So what's the point of all this? Be brave. Or rather, don't be afraid. Put yourself out there. People will like you a lot more than you think they will. Maybe they already do, and you just haven't noticed yet. This weekend I hit the stage with Jhen and Lindsay, and we're going to bring down the *censored* house. We may not be perfect and we may not be on key and we might botch the lyrics here and there, but we're going to be amazing nonetheless. And we're going to have fun doing it!