My wonder director and friend, Cal MCrystal who is out here in New York to get the show up and running (and do a bit of shopping in Bloomingdales sales) says that every show he directs needs to answer the “why” question. Why this show? Why do it? Because, let’s face it, unless you are the top 1%, there is really no money in the whole thing. Ultimately producing any creative project involves 400% more time and thought than ever comes back in actual pounds. So why?
And it is around now, after the dress rehearsal, before the first audience and press night, that that question looms terrifyingly large. Because the “what if’s” set in – what if noone comes? what if the audience who do come hate it? what if the press hate it? What if we’re rubbish? I daren’t go into the spiral of negativity that can ensue at this precarious point in a show but let’s just say, it is overwhelming enough to make me want to run back to Bristol, cuddle up with my children and husband in bed and never go out in public again.
This is called the transition point in childbirth. When I had my first daughter, everyone said that I should be prepared for a moment where I would totally freak out. It’s the moment that your body realises that its time to push the baby out. And it’s important in releasing all the right hormones and energy for the task. But it’s also the moment that women have been known to shout that they want a divorce, that they have decided they don’t want children after all or that they would really like that epidural RIGHT NOW!! Unfortunately, it is always too late to “do” anything. So the midwives around them have to reassure them as best they can before the moment inevitably arrives.
When I gave birth (look away if squeamish) – this was when the true dawning of the size of a baby’s head compared to it’s exit hole really struck me. “I have to push WHAT from WHERE????” It seemed totally ridiculous that I should be expected to perform such a feat but there was no way out.
So here I am, waking (jetlagged at 5am) on the first day of previews thinking almost the same thing “I’ve got to do WHAT??”
Why did I feel so compelled to sing these songs and tell this story? And how did I end up here?
The answer is complex – yes, I love Dory’s songwriting and I think her story needs to be brought into the light. But I could have just as easily put them on my ipod and told my friends about her. I didn’t need to go to the lengths I have..
So then comes the mixture of opportunity, support and encouragement/lack of encouragement from others – the turns in the road where I was given certain paths and chose to take them or not – which I am increasingly convinced is a very imprecise science. More like I just rode a wave – and tried to resist where it was taking me – but ended up here anyway.
Behind it all , is the most basic need of all – the desire to “share”. To meet other human beings and share experience, maybe even have a new experience. In my case, the sharing happens on a stage using my voice which is confusing in this world of X-Factors and talent shows. Because it suggests I want to be clapped like a needy child and yet, I think that is one of the biggest fallacies about performers. We are not all show-offs who need to be told we are great. Infact, when I go on stage, it is the one place that try to shed any pre-conceived ideas of who I am or why I’m there because I know that if I do that, it will be a less fun experience for me and the audience.
My job, I think, is to meet the audience with as little agenda as possible and ask the question of them? Shall we go on a journey tonight? Okay then. What’s this ride going to be like? Do you feel the same? Hold my hand. Please.
Or as Dory would put it : “Would you care to stay till sunrise, it’s completely your decision, it’s just that going home is such a ride. Going home is such a long, lonely ride”