As I write this, I am laying on my couch. My throat feels like sand paper and my nose is as stuffed as a double-stuff Oreo. I am feverish, achey and dizzy. Basically, I am dying. I remember feeling this way on tour once and what it lead to was…MAGIC!
I was performing with Broadway’s Next Hit Musical and at showtime, my voice made me sound quite a bit like that of Harvey Fierstein. I had NO high range at all and what I did have was scratchy and unpleasant. The format of Broadway’s Next Hit Musical demands that I present a song in the first act, based on an audience-suggested song title. My job is to set it up as though it came from a pre-existing musical (which of course is actually being made up on the spot).
I decided to set my musical / song in the world of jazz music, saying that I played aging jazz singer who was losing his voice and, as a result, his career. When it came time to actually sing my song, I sang it in the style of Louis Armstrong but down about 2 octaves, which further emphasized the point. I am sure the audience knew that I was doing this because my voice was shot but being in on the joke at an improvisation show always adds to the fun.
At the end of the first act of Broadway’s Next Hit Musical, the audience votes which of the four 1st act songs wins the ‘Phony Award’. The one that wins then gets a full production in the 2nd half of the show. As luck would have it, my song won which meant that I would have to continue to play and sing as this character for the rest of the show.
Oh, sweet victory, how thou doth plague me!!
Accept in the Moment
This was not the only time a physical aliment made it into my work as a performer. I remember cutting myself shaving right before a show and then having to make up a song on the piano for the audience as streams of blood poured down my neck. I ended up improvising a completely macabre song about the blood, sweat and tears of a performer.
Everything is an opportunity if you allow it to be. The simple answer would have been to sit out and get a sub for the night or to simply not sing at all. That, however, would have robbed the world of one more croaky Phony Award winning song, a deficit too great to cause. By simply accepting my circumstances in that specific moment and allowing myself to stay present and dive in, I was able to create a context for which those circumstances were not only appropriate but fun as well. It starts with a mindset based in self-acceptance and ends up where you never thought it would go!
What is a time that YOU had to incorporate an illness / injury / negative state of being into your performance or your business? How were you able to do it?