Performance Anxiety

Back in 2019, I went to an open mic night with my friend Beth at my side for moral support and fought my inner doubter-I shared my work.  I continued to attend this monthly soiree until March 2020, when Covid came and shut us all down.  It moved to a virtual format for a bit, which then kind of morphed into its own thing.  I was sad…I liked poetry night at my local bookstore.

Every time I was in there, I asked the proprietor if the event would return, and he would tell me it would, sometime in the future.  I waited.

Then one night my father asks if I follow a guy he knows on Facebook.  I say no and inquire, and he tells me this man will be picking up where we left off with poetry night, bringing it back better than ever.  This delighted me, and so I marked my calendar for the first meeting in two years. 

I didn’t know anyone there, just like I didn’t know anyone when I went back in 2019.  However, my circumstances had changed…I had once been so hesitant to share my work, but I have grown past that now.  What really struck me that night was a woman named Mary, who was sharing her poetry for the first time.  And reader, it was lovely, and absolutely relatable for me.  She seemed so nervous, and brought friends for support, just as I had, and though I did not know her, when she was done reading I wanted to run up and hug her, because I was proud of her the way I had once been proud of myself for having the courage to share my work. 

There have been two meetings since the first.  Mary has been there both times, prepared with poetry, and I can see her bravery expand each time she reads.  It’s a pretty awesome transformation to witness, actually. 

Anyhoo…Tim, who runs the show, mentioned that he was still looking for features to fill out the year.  I don’t know where my anxiety was, perhaps asleep at the wheel, but I proceeded to message him and ask if he would like me to be one of those readers, to which I received a solid “yes.”

So now, in October, I will be the featured reader at my poetry open mic night.  The 2019 version of me has no idea how this happened…that I would have the audacity…the sheer BALLS, to just asked for what I wanted?  Who the hell is that person??

As always, I stand here with more confidence than I have any right to have.  I literally just said this to Kevin: “I was a fat, four-eyed, balding middle schooler; I have no business feeling this fabulous.”

But honestly, I’m not who I was that first night I read.  I have always been comfortable on a stage, mind you…this was about my writing, not my performance technique (another thing I have ridiculous confidence in,)  The “stage fright” is gone now, though…there is no anxiety about my words.  I have shared them, and they have resonated.  I have been told by friends and fans that my poetry is something special, and I hope that is true.  All I know is that I am more comfortable with it today than I was yesterday, and it can only get better from here.

Happy Monday, folks.


Playing God

Once upon a time, I was an actress.

There’s like a mountain of backstory involving my ten-year theatrical career that I will definitely write about at some point in my life but let’s just sum it up for right now with that one sentence.

One day I get a call from a guy I know that runs a company that was putting on a series of short plays, and he and one of the directors were looking for someone to play a role in one of them, and they thought I would be perfect.  This was the first time I had actually been called and asked to play a part without an audition or anything so I felt like hot shit for about ten minutes and then started panicking because the show was in less than two weeks.  I don’t remember how many pages it was, but I do remember staying up late reading it over and over and over every night for a week.  It wasn’t a difficult part, but for me acting was never that hard, honestly.  I was a pro at make-believe as a child, and I have no problem slipping into another character.  Also, they wanted me to play God. 

Literal God, as in Lord and Savior.   A God who was female, and progressive, and schooling a Christian on evolution vs. intelligent design.  At the time, I was a liberal, feminist stage manager, so it wasn’t that far of a stretch for me to play a broadminded creator of the universe. 

Anyway, I learned the lines and did the part and got the applause.  I did it in about a week.  It was stressful, but I went at it like a beast and accomplished the goal.

So why, a decade later, and I freaking out right now?

I wrote this poem called Halloween that you can find here.  It was the first poem I had published since I was a teenager, and I went and entered it in a Halloween poem contest at my local book store on a whim because the prize was Stephen King books, and I love adding to that branch of my library.  Then after I did that, I read a little more accurately and found that the prize is also an open mic slot.  Which means that I have to come up with material to possibly read in front of a crowd.  Now, as stated by my God story, it isn’t so much the audience or the performance aspect that bothers me.  It’s the choosing of the poems, which is a direct reflection on myself as a writer, and the mingling with the people, which I was pretty good at back in my theater days but not so much anymore. 

First there’s the poems.  I have a very love/hate relationship with my work.  The ones I don’t like are always the ones others like and the ones I love are never picked up by anybody.  I don’t want to get up there and go on about a bunch of stuff I care about but no one else understands, but I also don’t want to read stuff that I think sucks just so others applaud. 

Then, there’s the mingling.  I went to this poetry group last month with Beth and I was not too nervous to read but as soon as it was over and people started talking, I clammed right up and needed some air.  I used to OWN rooms like that!  I think back to my first experience in theater when I was sixteen and joined a youth troupe that met on Tuesday nights.  I was scared that first time, but I made myself go back.  But there was Rose, you see.  Rose was this woman that ran the group, and she made me feel so welcome, instantly.  I knew I belonged there, so making myself go back was easier.  I don’t know if I belong in this group.  I want to, as it is right near my house and I have been desperately wanting to connect with other writers outside of the Twitterverse.  But I have to push myself to go, solo this time.

I also think it’s a costume party, which I hate because you never know who’s really going to wear a costume.  I usually wear black so I’ll just go with that and hide a witch hat in my purse in case of emergencies, I think.

Oh, and this is tomorrow.  I don’t have two weeks to prepare like when I played God, I’ve only got a few hours and I still don’t know what poems I’m reading.  What am I doing blogging?  I have to go figure this out.