Rob Schiffmann

It is a rainy day in New York City. A sad, dreary day with not a hint of blue in the sky. People are walking around a bit more slowly despite the drizzle being drizzled on their damp and semi-protected heads. No one seems terribly happy and absolutely no one is pulling a Gene Kelly. The city has a pervasive pallor today that is simply impossible to resist. What happens when we are feeling this heaviness but we have to perform? I’ll tell ya. 

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Break Up / Curtains Up

Before any type of performance, we cannot help but feel what we are feeling. Maybe we are filled with the adrenaline that often comes naturally due to the knowledge that we have an excited audience waiting for us and that we will spend the next ninety-ish minutes walking on the tight rope. Maybe we have the sleepiness that comes with touring and / or living our day to day lives (see the recent blog post “Falling Asleep on the Job“.) Or maybe we are suffering from semi to severe heart break.  I can remember a time when I was broken up with about an hour before a performance. The image in my head is a memory of me sitting in a hallway behind the green room, playing a guitar (which was appropriately missing a string) and feeling sorry for myself while the rest of the cast sat inside, laughing and experiencing pre-show merriment and hope. I felt lost and desperate and yet I knew I had to go on stage in a few moments to entertain the masses. Well, probably more like 15 people max but some of them were pretty tall. I had no idea how it would happen and how I would POSSIBLY continue, in either the show and/or in life.

(Note: this was a breakup with someone I had dated for about 2 months and it had kinda sucked the whole time. #dramaqueen.)

Once out on stage, two things happened. First, I felt the energy of the audience take over and my dire / not dire circumstances seemed to evaporate. Second, as the show continued, the break up did occasionally creep into my head. When it showed up, my improvisational instincts told me to lean in and let it inform my work in the moment. The scene may have taken on a momentary darkness but then, so does life from time to time. We cannot be afraid of depth in improvisation. Art demands what is truthful and needed. 

At the end of the show, we received a standing ovation. I do believe that in part it was because I allowed myself to be where I truly was and my fellow cast members were skilled enough to meet me there and support me. Of course, no one in the audience could have known that two separate characters got named the same name of the woman who had dumped me but regardless….we thrived.

All We Are is Dust….

So many lessons can come from sadness. We may do all we can to avoid it but sadness will have it’s day. When we simply accept how we are truly feeling, to where we may even let it inform our work, our choices, our performing, our state of being, it will run it’s course and eventually will be done with us. This is yet another example of how we must accept ourselves in order to fully realize our potential. We can also recognize the power of presence as a performer in the contrast of me before the show, in my dark hallway, essentially playing “Dust in the Wind” over and over to me in the show, being on stage and almost unable to remember that this was happening to (or for) me. 

Presence is a powerful tool which we must learn to harness, on stage and in life. What is a time where you have had a challenge pop up right before a performance / presentation / important event? Please leave me a comment and let me know and then subscribe to the old blogaroosky for more fun, if someone maudlin, posts.