Monday, August 10, 2015

Overcoming opening day nerves

It’s the opening day of THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS QUEEN OF HEAVEN and I’m sitting in the Summerhall cafe waiting for the theatre to be opened so I can get ready.

Am I nervous?

Strangely I don’t feel I am. Not too much.

But my body is. I feel huge tension across my shoulders and sometimes the pronounced beating of my heart.

Director Susan gives wise advice: 

“If you feel like it’s all coming from fear then turn to love...”
“If you feel like you’re closing down and it’s all crap don’t make huge efforts to try to make it better. Don’t push. Stay simple....”

And although I know I will almost certainly never be able to follow it, it still gives comfort, somehow.

And then the theatre’s open and we’re all in the rush to get everything set up.

I stare blankly at my suitcase for a while. Trying to remember what I’m supposed to put in it. Trying to remember where I put the list...

But then it’s done and I’m waiting in the dressing room alone, happy to be thefre, but with a dry mouth and my water packed in the case and there’s no time to retrieve it and then I’m walking down the corridor...

And I’m there. And there’s the audience. 

When I’m writing I always try to ignore them. At least in the sense of trying not to concern myself with whether they like it or not.

It’s important they do like it, in one way. But at the same time, it’s a distraction to think about it. Besides, if I find myself thinking “they’re going to like this bit” they invariably don’t.

Because such thoughts take me away from the characters and the story and put me somewhere I do not need to be.

The part of my imagination that is with the audience (and part of it always is) is just concerned with clarity.

Otherwise, it’s best to act as if they aren’t there.

Not so hard at my writing desk. Not so easy on stage.

Especially as it’s essential the light is on them as well as on me. And so I can see them falling asleep and looking cross and picking their noses.

Something I used to do when I was lecturing and which still seems to help sometimes is to look at the ones who look interested and ignore the ones who don’t.

But that’s not the whole answer. The real answer is to let them alone to think what they need to think and feel what they have to feel.

While I do what I have to do. As clearly and as simply and as courageously as I can.

And trust that somehow all will be well....

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