Separation Anxiety

CONGRATULATIONS NIKOL!  You’ve just been hired for the Broadway production of Hairspray!

OH MY GOSH!!  This is my dream!  This is what I always wanted!

Hugging myself in elation, I look at the casting director and say,
Thank YOU! 

 

Sounds amazing, right?

 

It’s 2003.  Hairspray is blowing up the box office after winning the Tony Award for Best New Musical.

I go to see the show, with stars in my eyes, seeing myself up on the stage.  The show is dynamic, alive, and perfect for me. I can’t wait to audition!

So, the day comes, and I show up, along with about 200 other women to sing a whopping 8 bars of music, the equivalent of about 30 seconds.  I belt my face off, and I get a callback!

I’m over the moon, because it’s the first time I’ve been called back by this casting office, which is the top casting office in the city.  Even better, they aren’t just looking at me for the ensemble, but the understudy for one of the lead roles.

They give me this thick packet of songs and scenes and I have a week to work on them.

And I do.

I pour all my energy and heart into the callback material, and a, really excited because not only am I strong dancer, I’m a strong singer too!

And I feel it…this is my BIG chance!

I walk into the callback, and all I see are all these women,
…and all these women,
…and all these women.

I thought because it was an invited call, there would be 20-25 women there.  I thought I had made it to the next level, I thought I had arrived.  Looking around, this was just another cattle call.

And all I could think was,
I’m not competing against a FEW, I’m competing against a HUNDRED! How do I stand out?

I go into the room to learn the combination, and I’m completely in my head.  I can’t seem to pick up anything.  It’s as if I have two left feet. I’m so worried how I’m looking and how I’m going to get kept, that I can’t get back in my body.

My turn comes up, and I completely bomb.
And I’m cut.

Inside my head voices were screaming, “NO!  This show is perfect for me!”

I go up to the associate choreographer, who I know, and beg her to let me stay.  Because she knows me, she gives me another chance.

I learn the second combination, but I can’t see straight. Nothing is making sense, and I get cut AGAIN.

As I walked out of the room, I looked at the women that were being kept to sing, and all I saw was competition.  All I did was compare myself.

I went out onto the NYC street, in the pouring rain and sunk down onto the concrete sidewalk and called my mother, absolutely inconsolable.

What had happened in that audition room?
Why couldn’t I dance?

 

Has this ever happened to you?

It’s your BIG moment, your time to shine and you’ve completely bombed.  You’ve worked so hard and then couldn’t deliver in your performance.

So, what actually happens in this moment?

Well, we go into comparison, and then a process begins;
1) We disconnected from our bodies, shutting down.
2) We then isolate, and put up a wall.
3) Behind that wall, we go into self judgement and shame.

So, how do we meet this and get past it?

The answer is actually something you may not think of at first.
The answer is Your Audience.

Here’s my big idea for you:

You are not separate from your Audience.

 

So what does that mean and how does that help you as you are stuck in competition and shut down in your performance?

Well, let’s play a game! Why don’t we put ourselves in the place of our audience?

So, there they are. They are sitting looking up at you, and they are enraptured. Why? Well, they are enraptured because they are seeing a piece of themselves in you. But what’s important is WHAT that piece IS. It’s something very personal for them and it’s something that they want desperately to live. The only way it’s living in this moment is through you, through whatever that expression is you are putting out.

You’re allowing your audience to access that piece of themselves, giving them the permission slip for life so this part of them doesn’t whither and die.

That’s the effect you HAVE on your audience.

Now…let’s jump back into your body, UP on the stage. What is your role in this? Well, this is the first part of the process, and it means you don’t separate from yourself.

It means you aren’t jumping up into your head, and cutting yourself off, and isolating behind a wall. It means you are grounded in three the solid keys to performance:
1) WHO you are
2) WHAT you are talking about
3) A clear INTENTION behind what you are trying to say.

And it’s because you come to the stage with honesty, that allows your audience member to see you. There is no wall, because you are showing up fully present and clear.

So, you arrive, not separated from yourself, which allows your audience to see and keep that precious part of themselves alive.  Now you have created a beautiful loop that allows you to tell your creative story again and again, and your audience a very real reason to return again and again.

You feel connected and fulfilled, and your audience is raving, because they feel alive from your work.

 

The key to putting your work out to the world is your Audience.

Back in that audition room in 2003, I completely separated from myself, and forgot WHY I was there, and WHO my audience was!  I wasn’t connecting with the artistic team of Hairspray, I was too busy comparing myself.

I found myself in this place time and again in my performance career because I didn’t have the tools to come out of isolation and truly shine.

Everything turned around when I as able to do two things:
1) Take Risks
2) Embrace Imperfection.

This led me to realize, I actually had way more in common with those around me.  I realized I’m not separate from my audience.

We’ve all been there and had our moment in the rain when we have been so hungry to be SEEN and HEARD in our Art.

There’s a way to drop that wall you’ve put up between you and your audience, so you can truly receive the acclaim you desire.

And it begins with seeing what you have in common.

So, come out of comparison, and place your energy on your intention. Place your energy on what is unique and honest to YOU in your Art.

Your audience wants what you have.

So, bust down your walls and connect with them.

In the Flow

I’m sitting on the bed, my heart pounding, and the crew guy looks at me to ask,

Are you ready?

I nod, exhale, and then am wheeled out onto a bright stage and a packed audience of over 2,000 people. The orchestra begins, and there’s no going back.

I pick up my suitcase, awash in the spotlight, and sing my solo. It’s really happening…..and all I can feel is the glory of the moment, Andrew Lloyd Weber’s score soaring as I sing, Another Suitcase in Another Hall.

The notes pour out of me, my nerves disappear, and I feel that magic of the stage, the magic of the moment, and the acknowledgement that I have made it.

I’m in the flow.

So, THIS is what it feels like…..

 

In 2005/2006 I was on the 25th Anniversary National Tour of Evita.  It was a dream come true, and my first National Tour.  The tour was overseen by Broadway icon Hal Prince and directed by the original Broadway choreographer, Larry Fuller. I understudied the mistress, and went through the tour with a smile plastered on my face.

This was a whole new level for me, and my favorite show. 

When I had the opportunity to go on for the mistress for the first time, I was very nervous.

And yet, when the bed was wheeled out at the beginning of the scene, something happened.

It’s almost as if time stood still, and I just delivered.  I sang from my heart, and stared into the lights and that huge audience.  Everything else just fell away.

I walked off the stage almost in a daze….not even fully understanding.

I was in the Flow.

 

Have you experienced this in your Creativity?

Hours go by with a new melody
Endless pages written on your latest story
A canvas coming to life
The photo shoot that you just keep seeing a new angle
The dance class where you are doing triple pirouettes with ease

It’s as if the muse just keeps whispering in your ear, and you are  saying,
YES!

All the other nonsense just falls away and you feel invincible, unstoppable, and free. What’s more, you are productive beyond your wildest dreams and getting things done!

Would you call this Creative Flow?
And what the heck would you call that moment when it all feels SO hard?

 

This week I had a really amazing conversation with a videographer who described Flow in these terms,

It’s the moment of challenge meeting repetition.

I felt like a light-bulb went off in my head when I thought of the combination of challenge and repetition.  In the case of understudying the mistress, it wasn’t just that I was performing a song I had sung TONS of times, and practiced for hours…it was the growth I was experiencing by playing a supporting role in a National Tour.  At that point in my career. this was a first.

And to do it in front of Hal Prince and Larry Fuller was an opportunity I had been waiting for.

The experience of singing was BOTH energizing and calming.  I went into Flow because I was growing and also singing a song I had been singing every day for weeks.

Now, what’s interesting, is my conversation with the videographer about Flow actually began with a whole other topic,

Focus.

And this is where the light bulb really went off.

The truth is, so many of us as Creatives are using a repetitive practice and really have no idea. The repetition comes in our practice of our art form.

The dance
The writing
The song
The brushstroke

But, here’s WHY it works….

It provides us with FULL INVOLVEMENT in what we are doing.  This doesn’t mean we are hyper-focused, but instead something far more powerful,

Single focused.

And what happens when we are single focused?  We are able to sing to a packed audience of 2,000 people and not miss a beat and actually ENJOY it.  We feel fulfilled.  We feel comfort, we feel joy and confidence.

The single focus ALLOWS us to go into Flow, and once we are there,that’s when the magic occurs.

Once in flow,  you can
1) Take risks
2) Release judgement on yourself and not worry what the audience thinks
3) Trust yourself in the moment

And when you are in flow, everyone else can FEEL it to.  You become in demand for your genius.

I can think of so many instances in my performing career where my voice was caught in my throat, or I tripped over my shoes. And now I can go back and ask,

Where was my focus?
How was I distracting myself?

I can look up at that list above and know quite clearly I wasn’t trusting myself and I was most likely in judgement of my ability. I was completely in my head worrying instead of being in my body and being FULLY INVOLVED in my performance.

It seem we can so easily distract ourselves in the process of putting our work out and trying to connect with our audience.  We so often can get off track and pulled in a million other directions, instead of staying in the repetitive practice that is actually going to get us where we want to BE.

If you are not seeing the results you want right now, ask yourself where your focus is.

Trust you don’t need the distractions, and come back to your task at hand.

Find those opportunities that allow you to bring your repetitive practice AND growth. Those opportunities that allow for your flow.

Then step into the spotlight, and sing.

Your audience is waiting to applaud.