A recent New York Times article featured an interview with Mark Vaccacio, who has terminal cancer. He began performing in “Beatlemania” on Broadway, and is now a member of Strawberry Fields, the tribute band.
Mark has this to say about the place performing has in his life today:
“When I put my teeth in and my wig on, and the costume, I’m not a cancer patient anymore,” he said. “It’s like Superman. You become Superman. The whole mystique of the Beatles, the beautiful music, starts surging through you.”
Michael Wilson’s article sparked my awareness of the ways in which performing can make people feel at peace with the world.
On a less profound level, someone I met had a similar take on the subject.
The party guests were mostly economics majors. I was invited because I knew the hosts, one of whom was a pianist friend.
Seated on the floor, the person to my right started a conversation. We had been shooting the breeze for a while when she said quietly, “You know, I’m a clown.” A real clown in that group didn’t seem likely. I assumed she meant she liked telling jokes.
Turns out she was a real clown! She did children’s parties, mostly.
Well, that was too good to pass up. I had to find out more. In continuing our conversation, she began describing the process of getting ready to go to a gig. You know, the usual. Makeup, clown suit, humongous shoes, funny nose…
One day she was running late. No time to change clothes or do makeup at home. So, what would you do? She threw everything in the car and went to the party!
When she arrived looking like herself, she began applying clown makeup in front of the kids. Of course they ate it up! With each new layer, she found herself getting more and more into her character.
She has since made that her standard procedure.
A pre-concert meltdown
A college classmate and fellow pianist was, and is, a phenomenal musician. However, she was always extremely nervous about performing. At the dress rehearsal for her senior recital, she played beautifully while also having frequent memory slips.
Then came recital day.
That morning, she woke up, looked in the mirror and said, “There’s a concert today. Let’s go!” She played so well, I don’t have the words to describe her performance. I shall always remember being there.
Singers I know love to sing opera. Why opera in particular? They get to play dress-up and be somebody else!
What happens to me
Like the clown I met, applying makeup makes all the difference. With each new layer, I feel more and more joy. Add the dress, jewelry, new stockings, and heels, and I’ve arrived! During a performance, headaches don’t register and other concerns go away. If my fingers are split, they stop hurting. All is well with the world, and I feel at home.