Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Stage Fright

When I was young I was a member of an amateur dramatic group. I think I was an ok kind of actress - some say I'm still a bit of a drama queen - but I dropped out because of stage fright. More recently I've cut down on my talks about The Children's Book of Richard III for the same reason. Logically it makes no sense because I have never had to face a hostile audience - except for one school assembly when I finished my Richard III talk at a rate of knots, grabbed my stuff and ran - but on the whole most audiences are lovely and once I begin my talk I'm always perfectly fine. It's those hours beforehand that slay me.

Fortunately not everyone is as wimpish as I am. Last Sunday good friends from way back came for
lunch. They were booked to play at an acoustic afternoon in our local micro pub. Lunchtime consisted of wall-to-wall reminiscing about the good old days when we were teenagers hanging out at the Maccabi Youth Club, but then there was a lull in the laughter, just a slight one, and they excused themselves an hour before the gig to go and set up. They admitted to me afterwards that it always takes the first few songs before they can settle into a set. I was blissfully unaware, tapping feet, singing along and thoroughly enjoying their performance. Their act is called Cherry Tree and they play a wide range of music, including some good old nostalgia songs from the 60s and some bluegrass blues played on a converted cigar box.

I'm not implying that Cherry Tree suffer from stage fright. Far from it. They're experienced enough to know how to channel those nerves, along with the resulting adrenalin, into a successful performance. Before Cherry Tree began their set they were approached by a very talented young girl who asked if she could perform a few songs during their interval. Until last Sunday she had only ever played to her mother and now she was ready to perform in public - brave girl - but as her turn to perform approached her face became almost contorted with fear. Her legs visibly trembled and when she started singing I didn't think her voice would make it to the end of the first song. But it did. She performed four numbers and with each song her voice grew in strength, she handled the guitar with more confidence and her talent shone out. One day she will make it big - once she has learnt how to channel those nerves.

In the meantime I will continue to play my piano when nobody else can hear me and - I'm going to let you into a secret - a new purchase has just arrived in the post. It's a mouth organ. I haven't played a mouth organ since I was 14 so I will have to start from the beginning but I can promise you one thing. You'll never hear me play it - unless you happen to be Mabel the cat!


9 comments:

  1. I hear you. I did a few little author talks when I promoted my first book. My stomach was in knots. I managed to get going and folks were nice - they wanted to be there. No way I could sing, etc. But look at Adele - apparently she has huge stage fright, and her voice is glorious. We all have our "thing". You never know - maybe that mouth organ is your new future calling!

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    1. Haha! If you heard my mouth organ progress so far you wouldn't say that. I too love Adele's voice but I didn't know that she suffers from stage fright.

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  2. Speaking for myself, when acting at the Little, I would stand in the wings, feeling sick. I would then have a conversation with myself which went along the lines of " you know you want to do this, you want to go out there and feel the lights on your face" delivered in a firm but silent voice. It always worked but I had to do it every time. Not the same with public speaking as you know. Never nervous and love doing it. I think with acting it was about the dread of forgetting lines and having to take a prompt! And not being able to blag myself out of trouble, as many actors manage to do.

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    1. It's interesting that you can do public speaking, Lynn, (and I've heard you do that admirably!) and yet on stage you have the nerves. Yes, something to do with forgetting your lines but I'm wondering about someone like Peter Sellers. He was petrified unless he was playing a part. He would never appear as himself. You are obviously more comfortable in your skin than he was in his!!

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  3. Ros, I so sympathise with you. I have those nerves at the beginning of every course I teach, and with just a few groups, they never leave. It's hard to overcome them when they get you, though. Well done for playing the piano and as for the mouth organ, that's such a lovely instrument! Do you know Toets Tilleman (I think that's his name), the famous Belgian? I love the mouth organ. It can make me cry quite easily.

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    1. Thanks, Val. I do love the mouth organ sound - but the jury is still out about my attempts!

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  4. When I used to play the sax I always got nervous before a gig but I knew that as soon as I blew the first note, the rest would follow and it would be fine.

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    1. You should pick that sax up again. It's an amazing sound - I still have that lovely son/grandson saxophone photo.

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  5. Even the most famous of actors get stage fright. I've heard it say that without it you can't give a good performance.

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