Solo-performance to an audience of 5 or 6? I dare you!
You come crashing or crawling (depending upon the text) through the 4th wall and lo… there’s one person fully engaged and following every beat with anticipation; another is afraid to be looked at directly lest s/he’s grabbed and dragged on stage or worse— as in comedy club desperation— made the brunt of whatever is coming next in this freaky play; and still another is resting their eyes (read: shut eye) after a long day at work and begins to nod off, snoring loudly; and another is staring intently, arms crossed, in deep critical analysis of your every move and checking off every perceived flaw on their “Performer’s Flaws List”; and the last soul…? Well, they could be paying attention, or not… they’re just unreadable in this semi-dark arena.
What’s a performer to do out there by his/her lonesome? Give it everything you’ve got!
Why? Because you love live theatre. You get to practice your art, flex your talents and skills like a muscle that needs to be exercised else it atrophies. And because you have no idea why these 5 or 6 people came (paid for a ticket?) nor what they need tonight.
It’s also your job. Let me qualify that further: it’s your job to show up and show up! I’ve never noticed a clause in the contract that states: “…before a paying audience that pays attention”.
Is it challenging, scary, frustrating, mind boggling and just a bit distracting? You bet! It can throw even a well-seasoned performer into line-loss, into that horrible abyss of “Oops! I forget where I am!” so fast you won’t see it coming.
But, it’s such great practice. And as the old saw says, “Practice makes perceptive!” (I know… I butchered it. I can see even without my glasses!) You get the point. I learn more about myself and the art of performance on nights like this than I did at the Conservatory.
Do I wish this never happened? Yup! But I also wish I was doing this show in a season-run with a manager, agent, producer, and the New York press all-agog, too! And what’s important in that sentence is the issue of security: I just don’t feel like the safety net is below me when people are snoring in the front row and no one is laughing at the funny parts because the critical mass that allows people to laugh with anonymity hasn’t been reached, and I’m free-falling through an hour-long episode of fear…
But, whoever said getting up in front of strangers and pretending to be somebody while saying things I’ve memorized as if they’re happening right this second wasn’t scary?
Think it isn’t? Try it… I dare you!