In my previous post, I gave the set up to this post, which is a continuation of that story.
So, I arrived in Fresno, without a sing word for my new show Foolhardy, which would be opening the next day, Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
No matter how hard I tried, i still had nothing by Friday night. By Saturday at 11:30 a.m., I was sitting in a Starbucks still grasping for a single word and posting a picture of my horrifyingly blank page to Facebook. I captioned it, "The blood is dripping from my forehead onto the blank page titled Foolhardy, so I must be getting close…"
And in fact I was close to the breakthrough. Creativity often requires us to basically demand, beg, bang at the gates of the Universe calling for the inspiration, before it will finally give up the words. An earnest creative plea though is almost always answered, even if at the last hour. In my case, the words didn't just start coming, they began pouring and I wrote to keep up. I gave no thought to editing. I just did my best to keep up with the flow of one suggested sentence after another. By 3:30, I had filled many pages with my scrawl. Two hours to show time. So next I read what I'd written out without any critical review. And when I was done, at 4:30, I finally had a real reason to be gravely concerned. It's one thing to have no show that you believe will come just in the nick of time, even if by improvising in front of the audience. But it's another thing to read words that seem horribly thought out. With no time to change them.
Taking the freshly inked pages with me under arm, I headed for the performance space. Arriving only 15 minutes before my curtain call, there was already a small crowd of ticket buyers at the door. As I passed through them, my heart was on high speed. My senses where working overtime. I had 10 minutes to work with. Just enough time to give the technician my CD for opening and closing music. To set a small table that would hold my notes in front of me. A chair. And a digital recorder, a black box that would later help me understand the crash that was likely about to occur. And then they opened the doors, and as people found their way to their seats, I found my way to my knees. I pray before shows for all kinds of reasons. To remind myself it's not about me. To call for help. To remember that I do shows in hopes of benefiting the audience. To calm down. And today, to beg for mercy.
And then, the small crowd was clapping, giving me my entrance cue. As I walked across the darkened stage, I was merely trying to calm my breath. And just like that, up came the lights. And looking back at me was a room full of ticket buyers. A room full of people I'd never met before, all with a look a heightened anticipation in their eyes. As if they had confidence that they were about to be entertained. Completely unaware that only they felt that way. Completely unaware that the performer in front of them was about to jump off a cliff with new wings he'd just fashioned from feathers, wood and glue. Hoping he'd live to try again on another day. And so with them waiting for a show, and the lights up on me, I opened my mouth and jumped.
60 minutes later – and can I just marvel out loud over the fact that the show was supposed to be 60 minutes and somehow without a single thought to the show's length while I was writing it, somehow it clocked in at 59 minutes! – sixty minutes later, I had my first performance under my belt. And besides a weak last 15 minutes, I was shocked at how well the first 45 minutes went. By the end of the next performance, I had the last 15 minutes improved and I had what experience tells me is the foundation of a very solid show. In my world, that's one hell of a reward.
A line that came to me between the first and second show largely sums up the experience for me. "I've figured out what foolhardy means to me. Foolhardy means you're lacking a gene that tells you you shouldn't."