Friday, November 7, 2014
A few of you know, and the fewer the better, I'm going to give an ever so brief public reading next week. There will be seven of us who take the stage, and I'm not the main event, not by a long shot. If we were to compare this to a dinner party, I'd not be the Beef Wellington or even the mashed potatoes. Think celery sticks, olives on toothpicks, something like that.
So, intellectually I should realize, there's no pressure on me. And intellectually, I do. But try telling that to my the medulla & cerebellum, my lizard brain, my sympathetic nervous system which has always behaved way too sympathetically for my taste. Fight or flight -- that's what will be on my emotional menu come Wednesday.
I don't suffer stage fright, I have a raging case of stage horror. You know, slasher stuff -- audience in leather masks, chain saws, blood everywhere. Not sure why; I studied (let's make that "studied") theater for two years in college. And then one day it hit. Hit so bad, I'd walk on stage with a stone in my shoe so the pain of the stone would take my mind off the pain of performing.
It's senseless, ridiculous, I know that. My cerebral cortex knows that. But if you look at a map of the brain, the cerebral cortex, in relative terms, if laid end-to-end, is the size of a lesser Hawaiian Island, while the cerebellum, in direct contact with every moving part of the human body, could swallow the continents of South America and Africa and still hunger for a heaping helping of Antarctica.
But I'm going to do this. Partly because the sponsors were so nice to invite me, and swat aside my initial No's. And also, I'm doing this for others. Not for you, who think my fear is ever so silly and unreasonable and totally out of proportion. But for the few like me -- because, those who are like me and attend this reading, will never be afraid to read, act, or give a speech again. Those like me will always be able to recall my performance, hike up their big-boy and big-girl pants, and proclaim "I won't be the best, but, by god, I can do better than that."
(By the way, this flyer will be reconfigured to include the writer Kelly Russell. A friend of mine said today, "I can't wait to come because Kelly is reading. Ever since I heard Kelly read an essay, I can barely approach her -- she was just that good." Oh, fine, I thought, have a damn olive.)