Captain's Log Episode 7: The Traveling Psychopath
Or...The Audience is Not Your Therapist, But You are Theirs
Not super long ago, I was hosting a show that was a pretty big deal. It had been months in the works, performers had gathered from all over the country to share our stage, and we (Tinderbox) had poured time, money, sweat, tears, and no small amount of blood into the organization, marketing, and production of this show, I was debuting a brand new act, and for the sake of this story, tonight was the night. It was all about to pay off. At least, until the pre-show tech rehearsal was finished, all was going smoothly.
But then, at about 1 hour prior to doors opening, my girlfriend at the time and I proceeded to get into a knock down, drag out, screaming at each other in public, fight. It was a big one, and it ended when she stormed off into the night, declaring that she was walking back to my house ( a distance of several miles) to get her things and going home. Now, she had travelled from 7 hours away to spend the weekend with me and see the show, to be supportive and generally awesome. I had been so excited about having her there in the audience for this big night, and now, just before doors were about to open, she had walked, or rather stomped, away. I was devestated, I was heartbroken, I was very, very angry.
But, I had a show to do, and it had to be a good one. The audience had to come in with their days and their burdens and their stresses, and they had to leave happy and amazed and full of whimsy and wonder, and it was my job, and is my job, to give them that. My feelings, my worries, my anger, were not the audience's responsibility. I would not, I could not, put my burdens on them.
And neither should you.
Your audience, and mine, is there to see a show. One of the great, dirty secrets to being a performer is that sometimes, you need to bury your feelings, ignore them, pretend they don't exist, and you need to do that as long as it takes. There's something psychopathic about being a stage performer. Your feelings need an off switch, or at the very least, a mute button, because if you let your bad day, your broken heart, your anger at your girlfriend come across on the stage, for even an instant, you are robbing the audience of something that they trust in you to provide, something they paid for you to provide. They came for a good time, and your feelings cannot under any circumstances affect that.
You don't get to take your bad feelings out on your audience, they get to take theirs out on you. It's not a fair trade, but that's the business of show. Dirty, mean, uncouth, and uncomfortable showbiz.
Oh, and that show I told you about earlier? We blew the roof off the place.
See You Down the Road, Captain Darron von Awesome