When writing about Robin Williams’ passing, my thoughts needed to be put into written form. They were not all from one place, in that being on stage means the performer is not him/herself while on stage, in a way. Sports are something entirely different.
I want to say more about being an artist.
When the public attends a concert or watches a performance by other means, they can become mesmerized. It’s magic. It’s a chance to suspend cares and discomfort. They have the wonderful opportunity to enter another world.
Performers do that, too! Having the ability to do that is the reason many performers are on the stage in the first place.
I can’t speak for all performers, obviously, but just yesterday, I entered another world while practicing. Sometimes this occurs in mundane ways. Just before leaving home in the afternoon, I felt hungry. So I took an energy bar along and headed for a practice session. While practicing, I forgot all about being hungry. Five minutes after stopping, I was ravenous!
It is often not only possible, but necessary to place whatever problems or concerns one has into an invisible box while practicing, rehearsing, and performing. If the music doesn’t come first, the work is compromised. What are you going to do, turn to the audience when you miss a note and say, “Oh, sorry! I was thinking about… I forgot to turn off the over. I forgot to lock the door. I’m worried I might miss my plane. I’m planning dinner for tomorrow night!”
Performers have daily lives, just like everyone else. When they are not “on,” they can feel insecure and vulnerable. Think for a moment about what percentage of their time is actually spent performing. Not so much, right? That leaves plenty of time left over for whatever normal life is supposed to be.
Sometimes the difference between those two lives, performing and not, can be difficult to navigate. After a concert, there is very often a huge letdown. Just because someone is a good performer does not mean their entire personal life is wonderful, easy, ideal, glamorous… feel free to add your own terms here.
You may feel you know a performer if you follow his/her career. But that is just a small part of that person’s life.
I’ll give you one more example about the glamour involved: My piano trio drove from New York to Pennsylvania to play a concert. On the way back, we got lost and ended up stuck in traffic for miles. At some time around 3:00 a.m., we all became hungry at the same moment. Even though we were only 1/2 hour from home, we stopped at a highway rest area. So there we were, standing in the empty parking lot in concert dress, enjoying burgers and fries from Roy Rogers off the top of the cellist’s BMW (a relic), laughing about our glamorous lives. We arrived home at 4:00.
I’d do it again in a second. We had a blast. But the next day each of us had to get out of bed and practice.