Me, The Stage Manager?

Already CalmI’d never expected to ever be a stage manager. When you work on shows with someone who is an experienced and awesome stage manager then it’s a job that is definitely not available. Plus I’m actually quite happy just moving chairs and tables, making pictures crooked or cleaning blood* off the set and leaving the responsibilities to somebody else.

But when James couldn’t go to the Loxwood Joust this year, and it was suggested that I could stand in for him as stage manager, looking after a few artists on a little stage in the middle of  a woodland, I found myself saying “Yes”. After all, I know the festival already, know my way about a stage and best of all I could get advice and instructions direct from the expert.

So nervously I set off on a Friday night with a new tent, a clock and a clipboard with the running order and detailed instructions attached. My instructions said I needed to acquire a broom and inspecting my domain on arrival I could see that I did, as the stewards were laying out straw bales in the woodland and using the stage as (sorry) a staging post. Still, it was getting dark, so I put my worries aside (mostly) and went to the bar for some mead.

Early the next morning I hung up my clock backstage with a copy of the running order and went in search of the broom. That found, I made a start by sweeping the copious amounts of straw off the stage. Feeling I had now claimed my territory, I settled in to do my job. By midday I had met everyone performing on my stage that weekend and the sound guy (who had the harder job), made a “No Entry” sign and told countless (not many, I just wasn’t counting them) people not to come backstage and, most importantly, got the first act on stage successfully. With some surprise, I realised I actually could do this and somehow my earlier nerves had evaporated. Perhaps I was just too busy keeping track of the time.

Still like all theatre jobs, it evolved over the four days of the festival until I was also plugging in microphones, laying out tambourines and hunting for the juggler’s balls**. All this in a (surprising) glow of calm confidence, and no, it wasn’t just the result of the mead.

Next year I have no doubt James will be back to reclaim his stage and of course he’ll do an even better job than I did, but for once I have been the stage manager and I loved every second.

*Fake obviously. Unless someone really upset the SM…

**Crystal balls. He threw them off stage when he’d finished juggling with them. What did you think I meant?

Oh Yes I Did

It may seem like an odd time of year* but I auditioned for a pantomime recently. Now I’ve only seen about three pantomimes in my entire life so I was entirely out of my depth in every way but I was persuaded to give it a go anyway.

When we got to the theatre I felt a moment of panic at the sight of three microphones at the front of the stage but they were quickly cleared away and we got on with the process of reading through several scenes. As usual once I set foot on stage I felt much more comfortable and enjoyed myself greatly.

Still I knew that some singing was going to be required eventually and I was incredibly nervous about it. Finally the microphones were moved back on stage and I was one of the first three asked to get up and sing. We were given printed lyrics and I thanked my lucky stars as the song was “Any Dream Will Do” which was the first song I ever sang with my singing teacher!

Without warm up or even a listen but thankfully with a recording to sing along to the three of us had to launch into it together. Looking at the paper in my hand and trying to ignore the room full of people I concentrated on singing confidently aware that I’d actually sound better that way. I even eventually found enough mental space to look up and smile while singing.

Then we had to sing it again, this time one of us singing a verse at a time. I concentrated on which verse I had to sing and launched into it when my turn came. Bizarrely because my voice was amplified I had the sensation of singing along with myself. I could hear what I was singing and yet it didn’t sound like my voice at all, so amazingly didn’t freak me out.

Thankfully I sat down at the end to listen to the next group of three victims singers.

However we were not yet done. In the same groups we had to get up again and sing another song, this time Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years”, a song I’d never heard (heck, I haven’t even heard of Christina Perri!). Somehow I managed to sort of sing along to this and when it came to the solos (this time one line at a time)  I decide that I might as well go for the ‘making the song my own’ approach and sing the words in whatever tune seemed to fit and not worry if it wasn’t exactly like the original. To be fair we were helped by the fact that several of our audience did know the song and therefore sang along with some of it too.

Now I’m not expecting to get a part and frankly right now that bothers me not at all. Mostly I’m just thrilled that I managed to stand up and sing in front of people without it going too badly wrong and also perhaps more amazingly, I actually enjoyed it a little bit.

It’s so unlike me that I’m left wondering did I really do that?

*Although it’s always panto season in our house

It’s Not All Technical

As I’ve already said a lot of learning to sing seems to be technical and requires constant practice. I now realise I listen to nine note scales in the car more often than Radio 2. However some of the things I’m working on are not really technical at all.

Positive Thinking
I’m trying to learn how to think positively and believe that when I start singing it will go well, I will hit that note and it will sound good.
I’m trying to learn not to panic when the odd note or breath goes wrong but to keep going and not let the worry that it sounds awful send my performance spiralling into silence.
I’m trying to learn to listen to my own voice and feel good about it so that I can sing louder and really enjoy it.

This basically comes down to lack of confidence, to believing that everybody who listens will hate my voice or laugh at me and that’s a fear that’s hard to overcome. I’m working on it though.