Failure #28: Perform in public

I could have been a performer but I never had the bosoms. I never had the bosoms to give me the confidence to go up before a live audience and amuse them with a performance. As it is, I lack the stage presence necessary to capture and retain the attentions of an audience.


For years, I worked to cultivate some kind of proficiency in the performing arts. I tried dance, music, and theatre to no avail. The absence of busty substances further eliminated a number of performance-related vocations such as Go-Go Dancer, Magician’s Assistant and Sexy Mime. My dreams of writhing about silently on stage were shattered. I managed to become a writer instead.

My interest in performing was limited to narrating stuffed animal plays and playing Tape Recorder DJ. My family liked for me to sing songs in my Fuddian English style. To say I had ambitions for stage and screen would have been quite an untruth. Despite all my creativity, I am still just a frog in a box. When confronted with an audience participation bit with Beauregard (the janitor Muppet) at a live action Muppet show, I pulled my itchy skirt *fwoop* over my head. I would do this again later during my first visit to the Adventurers Club.

At the height of the original Dirty Dancing craze, I had the opportunity to take dance lessons. Thank you for asking, but no, I did not have the time of my life. We were chubby little girls in leotards mastering the step ball change and pas de bourrée to the tune of Taylor Dane. I don’t think any of us were Rockettes-bound. My mother couldn’t afford the costumes for the annual recital, which was only disappointing to the sliver of ego that imagined I’d be discovered on the stage of some high school gymnasium in Alabama. The instructor choreographed the numbers for the recital and shuffled me off into a corner so I could clomp and twirl about for the duration of the class.

In junior high, we were offered the option of either taking home economics or joining the school band. I was completely uninterested in domestic matters. Independent City Girls don’t worry about running a household and learning practical life lessons. If they did, chick lit novels would be much shorter. So I joined the band. The stupid school band with a stupid limit to the number of students who could be percussionists and saxophonists. Because everybody wants to be Mr. Black and every kid wants to be a drummer. I say, unhook your minds Junior High Band Instructors. Invent a new sound for the South and be the first all-drum-and-saxophone band in the region. Alas, we conformed and I picked a clarinet that I named Norman. Norman and I spent our off-hours learning television themes and making sounds that only experimental musicians could appreciate. There were recitals that I’m sure I was obligated play in. Clarinets generally had three parts. Two kids would be first, four on second, and twelve on third. Guess who was on third. Norman and I went through the motions but we weren’t really invested in contributing to Angels We Have Heard On High and the Batman motion picture theme.

Norman and I parted ways and I threw myself into my writing. I was on track to be a Serious Journalist and dedicated myself to my high school newspaper. With diploma in one hand and squashed dreams in the other, I went on to university as a theatre major. My new dream was to become a playwright. And I was…for two ghastly one-act plays…that received ghastly one-time performances. The tech booth was visible to the audience for the one-act I had video recorded for posterity. I can be seen in the video cringing and wincing through most of the show, the mortification completely deafened me to audience reaction. My acting class forced me on stage for a recital of monologues to be performed in front of my mother and everyone else’s family (Performing for family is a bit like changing in the communal locker room. Does it count as “public”?). I performed a monologue from Electra, in which I accuse my mother of murdering my father. Obviously this is not the part of the story where I describe my newfound love of the stage and the pleasure of interpreting text for audience enjoyment.

In my one stage performance I wasn’t terribly nervous. I didn’t suffer from stage fright. I just became overly aware of the voice emanating from my mouth. It was…wrong somehow. Four years of speech therapy and a lifetime of television viewing rendered me without that signature Southern accent. My voice can be accurately described as monotone Valley girl. I hadn’t paid much attention to my voice; I was preoccupied with my physical appearance. My internal monologist sounds drastically different from the sounds that trip and stumble out of my voice box. This voice was not an elegant one. No audience would ever be captivated by it. My vocal chords do not produce tones that are velvety or silky or any other audible fabric that people might want to roll around on naked. I could have been a performer with an awful voice if I’d had the body for it. Writers can have any sort of body or voice and it doesn’t matter at all.

Except…does it matter? Video might have killed the radio star, but what will finally kill the writer? Will it be the book tour, wherein writers are coerced to read aloud passages from their latest tome? When writers are encouraged to record podcasts of their books and articles for the non-readers, will once cherished scribes be dismissed for having a funny voice? Perhaps I can track down Norman and together we can perform interpretive squeaks of these essays, a Peter and the Wolf for the modern age. Yes, this will make for a very interesting Fringe show. Ribbit.

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2 thoughts on “Failure #28: Perform in public

  1. Heya
    May I say you probably sustained a longer relationship with musical instruments than I did? A study in the making there: Does one creative art thwart another? Does a Jack of all trades REALLY mean Master of none? etc.

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