Mountains and molehills
I have various talents in life, and one of them is an amazing ability to make a huge mountain out of the smallest of molehills. This is most evident on stage – a case in point being Guys and Dolls.
I performed in Guys and Dolls last month, playing Nicely Nicely Johnson (otherwise known as “you know, the one who sings ‘Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat’”). Things went really rather well, if the audience’s reaction is anything to go by, but there was one particular night which allowed me to demonstrate my mountain-making talents in addition to performing.
Things began well with the ‘Fugue for Tinhorns’, but in the dialogue after that, something very unusual happened. I dropped a line. I was so busy reacting to what the character Nathan had just said, that I momentarily forgot that I was supposed to say something. Luckily, he covered for me by adding a reaction comment of his own, which allowed me time to recover and come back in with the line. Hardly earth-shattering, but as I have a reputation for knowing not only my lines, but everyone else’s as well, certainly noticeable to cast and crew, and cause for much self-annoyance. Already cross with myself for this momentary lapse of concentration, I then managed to annoy myself further in the number ‘Guys and Dolls’, which has a dance break half way through. At one point in this break, I managed to get a beat or so out of time, so that it looked as though myself and my duet partner were in canon with each other rather than in synch. I doubt the audience would have noticed (when there are only two of you dancing, moments like that can be got away with to an extent), and I soon got back in to it, but I was still mightily annoyed with myself afterwards.
These little things, and a couple of others (also things which the audience would not have noticed and most people would just shrug off), began to mount up during the evening until we got to ‘Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat’. This is surely the best song in the show, and was great fun to perform, but on that night it wasn’t quite so enjoyable. At the start of the third verse, I had to leap up on to some benches. As I did so, my subconscious decided this would be a good time to inform my conscious mind of something – that my costume for the finale of the show was in my dressing room. Not a problem, you might think. However, it wasn’t supposed to be there. It was supposed to be in a quick change room by the stage to ensure that I had time to change costume, put on my tap shoes and strap on a bass drum. The thought of having to dash down to the dressing room, which would involve going through about 5 doors and down the stairs, was not a fun one. For a moment, it distracted me and I stumbled over the first line of the verse. By the fourth word (laughed, if you need to know such things) I had recovered, and carried on as before. However, I was exceptionally annoyed with myself, and it did worry some other people as well. One of the ladies in the chorus said she thought I might not sing the verse at all, the musical director was rather concerned, and one of my fellow gamblers reported that I suddenly went deathly pale at that moment, which must have been quite alarming for him.
With the song and the scene over, I was fuming at myself, annoyed about all the small mistakes I’d made, annoyed that I had forgotten to take my costume up to the quick change room, and particularly annoyed that I had let this distract me on stage, even for a moment. As soon as we were able to move, I dashed off towards the dressing room. I managed to collide with two other gamblers on the way, then fall over on my way down the stairs. I managed to get back in time for the drum, but by that point was extremely frustrated with myself and just wanted the evening to be over and done with. As I checked, in a very flustered way, that all the buttons on my costume were done up, I accidentally worried another of the guys in the cast, who thought I was on the brink of a heart attack, and knew that a bass drum strapped to me would not make dealing with this very easy.
After the show, I was simply mortified. Small mistakes which with hindsight I can see hardly anyone would have noticed, had assumed monstrous size in my mind, and I felt that I had let everyone down due to not living up to my reputation. The mistakes probably amounted to five seconds of stage time in total, if that, but to me that was more than enough to make the performance a disaster. I have since been assured that it really wasn’t, and I did soon realise that a little perspective was rather necessary. Mountains and molehills.
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