Performing 01: The start

When I saw the Coulton show on Friday, I was reminded how much I want to do just that. I want to be on stage performing for hundreds or thousands of people.

Someday, I'll have a plan. And maybe even some talent.

Most people are petrified of public speaking. Surveys have show that people fear public speaking more than they fear death. I am not one of those people. I've always gotten a charge out of it.

I still rememeber my first two stage experiences, brief, though they were.

Back in kindergarten at PS 97, each letter in the alphbet on our classroom wall had a character associated with it. We had to dress up as our favorite letter/character and go on stage with our class. Everyone got to say who they were and something about their letter.

I chose J -- for Mr. Junk. I thought he was the coolest of the letters. (Mr. Teeth was was the lamest of the letter characters -- his too tall smile was too goofy. I wanted to knock those teeth off the board and I didn't even know why (but that's another story (Or was he actually Mr. Tall with the very Tall teeth? Now I'm all confused))).

As I recall, my mother took a sheet or old pillowcase, sewed bits of household clutter to it and put a big J on the front.

I went on stage, said my part (probably, something like "I'm Mr. J") and stepped back into the alphabet row.

I don't remeber the rest of the day, or even what the play was about. But I do remember the view of the crowd from my side of the stage. All those people were looking at me and hanging on my words. And I couldn't wait to get on stage again.

For first grade I had moved on to St. Elizabeth's School in Ozone Park, NY. Each year, every grade level put on a play of some sort. My first year there, we put on some sort of Fairy Tale review.

I was Prince Charming.

I got to wear a purple cape with little hooks on it. (I think the cape is a highly underrated garment in these modern times. We really should bring back the cape.)

I was only on stage briefly. I was in a group of 5 or 6 kids. We each had to introduce ourserlves. I stepped forward, got down on one knee, reached my arms out, and said, "I'm Prince Charming" to the entrie student body.

I don't even remember who played my Princess that year. I just remember the feeling of power in front of that crowd.

And it's one I am happy to recapture whenever I can.

So what was your first brush with an audience? Did it empower you or scar you for years?


Anonymous said...

I used to HATE speaking in public. I'd flat-out panic at the thought! I HAD to take Speech in High School -it was required. During our "introduce your friend" segment, I was so panicked (sp?) I told the class my friend wanted to study Agriculture. (She wanted to study Archeology). It took me hours to recover.

Long ways from that to 3 memorized events in college, huh. LOL.

Lidian said...

I know Ozone Park, my grandparents grew up there! Also jack Kerouac used to live there and his friends called him the Wizard of Ozone Park, which is kind of a cool nickname...

Jon Clarke said...

Cmon, man! When you give lectures you perform for way bigger crowds than I'm used to.

Anonymous said...

My first encounters with audiences were school events, and they sort of blended together; I never really felt much. Which made it easier when I started taking solos in my middle school jazz band; I didn't have stage fright, just music.

What really got me hooked on the spotlight was the last performance I took with that same jazz band, before I moved away. We'd auditioned for and successfully gotten a music spot at Disneyland's Carnation Plaza, a morning performance.

I remember being watched, and having trouble standing (first time with high heels, what can I say?). I definitely remember landing on the wrong notes a few times when I was taking my solo, though it being improvisation, I don't think anyone really noticed. But most of what I remember is just the glow after the performance, the almost hyper energy I, and I think most of the rest of the group, had directly afterwards.

Cromely said...

@Shawna It's quite a way to come. When I last talked to Brent, he mentioned how he always likes to find a Shawna in the new class.

@Lidian I grew up in Woodhaven, just across Atlantic AVE from Ozone Park. "Wizard of Woodhaven" has more of a fantasy novel ring to it. It definitely not Kerouac cool. Other famous Ozone Park residents include Cyndi Lauper.

@Jon That's one of the reasons I do this job. It's how I get my fix these days. Still, while I do have some fans, it's not quite the same. No one is holding up their cigarette lighters and cell phone, call out requests for "Product Overview!!!!"

@Ravyn That post performance glow is addicting. After an especially good performance, I can feel my teeth buzz. The thing about mistakes is that 99% of the time the audience will never notice, unless the performer calls them out or panics.

Patricia Rockwell said...

Well, my long history of acting in community theater dates back to third grade at Girl Scout camp. They let me direct the camp play and I was never the same. I have always loved public speaking and acting which is why I probably became a Communication teacher and tried to instill this love in my students.