Mine is falling onstage. Now, I’ve never had a major wipeout, and I’ve never fallen off a stage. But still, I can’t shake this feeling that I’m one step away from my foot giving out and doing an ass-plant in front of a captive audience. It makes me cling to the piano for dear life while taking a bow, and it has created a phobia of sorts in me for high heels.
In the past, I have tripped on the hem of my dress while leaving the stage; it was a combination of pointy-toed shoes and a stretchy jersey fabric that seemed to cling to everything.
I’ve also had a near miss with the piano bench. I was playing one of those pieces where the pianist has to stand up and pluck some of the strings, and when I sat back down, I was one cheek off the bench. Terrifying. I didn’t fall off, but oh, the possibilities.
Singers tell me of their own irrational fears, like forgetting their words or their staging, or arriving at the first rehearsal having missed an enormous section of music they were supposed to know. Or, they tell me of their nightmares of missing a show call, where they forget that they have a performance that day, or even worse, that the show is a matinee.
One singer admitted an irrational fear of finding himself standing downstage centre, unable to do anything but open and close his mouth silently and dumbly, like a carp. A conductor told me that he rarely uses a baton, for fear of letting it slip out of his hands and fly into the eyeball of his concertmaster. A certain director is afraid of accidentally preparing the wrong opera.
I often ask these talented artists, “has this ever happened to you?” Most of the time, the answer is a predictable “no.” But that’s the deal with irrational fears – they make little sense.
Singers, pianists, conductors, what are your weird performance day fears? In the name of free therapy, let us know in the comments below.
By Jenna Simeonov. Republished with permission from Schmopera.