A few months ago, a composer friend asked me to do the title role in a pair of readings of a new musical he was writing. New works and musical theatre being two of my particular interests, I decided to give it a try.
I enjoyed learning and rehearsing the piece, but as the first reading approached, I got very anxious. This is not new: I’ve always had a bit of performance anxiety, and before I had kids, I coped well enough with it by virtue of being able to make some space around myself. Obviously, with kids, it’s not so easy to hole up into a corner and meditate or worry or whatever. To make matters worse, I woke up Friday with a scratchy throat.
Saturday was the day of the first reading (the second is tomorrow), and I was a nervous wreck all day. My voice was croaky, and my sense of perspective was wacked. I was irritable with Bill and the kids, nervous about my singing, and generally miserable. We had two hours of (very low-key) rehearsal scheduled for the afternoon, then a long dinner break, then the reading. By the end of the rehearsal, I was starting to lose my voice.
We’d booked a babysitter to help out with family logistics. I wanted the kids to be there for a little bit of the rehearsal so that they would have some vague notion of what I (used to) do. Bill was going to be back and forth between the rehearsal/performance space and the house, so that he could Akiva and the sitter home (she doesn’t drive) and then come back to take care of Gideon while I was performing. Having never attempted anything like this (putting together nursing Gideon, performing, and bedtime with a sitter for Akiva) we were nervous about the details. Would we be able to get Akiva to bed at a reasonable hour? Would we be able to attend to Gideon’s needs without disturbing the rehearsal process or undermining the performance? Would my voice even be present enough so that I could sing the piece?
It all worked out (miraculously) but it gave me the distinct feeling that it’s too soon to be doing performing work. And yet I so enjoyed the rehearsal process (when I was healthy at least) and the joy of making music/theatre with other people. I really miss that when it’s not part of my life.
I have an offer on the table for a High Holidays cantorial soloist job, and it’s hard for me to decide whether to risk it again. I hated that vulnerable feeling on Friday and Saturday — knowing that I needed space to take care of myself and being unable to take it. But I liked the feeling of being onstage, and of working and hanging out with other performers.
One of the other performers saw the emotion in my eyes at one point and said, “If you had your druthers, how would things be right now?” I replied, “If I had my druthers, I’d know what I’m supposed to be doing with my life.”
That pretty much sums it up.