365 Things to Look Forward to: Number 6 – Performing!

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6. Performing.

Okay. Let’s face it. Not everybody might look forward to performing. But really, everyone does some kind of performance at one time or another, some more often than others.

Most people think performing is just getting up on stage and acting or singing or dancing. Already, that’s 3 kinds of performances! When you’re really into it, there’s nothing like the thrill of getting ready for a performance…sure, the rehearsals might be difficult and you might be getting it perfect during rehearsals…but actually performing to an audience, live or otherwise, is a special kind of thrill. If you’re new to it, you’ll probably rehearse over and over again in front of a mirror, psych yourself into facing the audience, then experiencing that fluttery feeling in your belly, and sometimes that empty, sinking feeling when your belly feels like it’ll sink right through you to the floor. Then your hands get clammy and your throat tightens up. Sometimes you get all sweaty and it just won’t stop pouring down your face and back. That can be a very uncomfortable feeling. It’s usually called stage fright. And some people never get over stage fright.

Some people, on the other hand, take to stages like fish to water. No matter what they’re doing on stage, whether they’re performing, making an announcement, delivering a speech, they look like the perfect picture of a suave seasoned stage artist. They move into their act smoothly, maintain contact with their audience, and just get carried into it.

I know that I always wait for the response of the audience when I perform…when I hear any response, especially some kind of emotional response, I know my performance is working. And when I finally hear applause at the end, that is the sweetest most triumphant sound I glory in, because I know my performance is a success! It can get addictive, but it doesn’t mean you don’t go through that little bit of pre-performance nervousness. I know that, after all these years of acting, dancing, and speaking on a stage, I can go right up there without feeling nervous at all. Public speaking? Pooh. Folk dance? Just give me the right music. Acting? Anytime. As a student, I had joined so many spelling bees and speech contests that it has practically become second nature to me. As a teacher, on any given day, I can go up to the front, or side, or back of any classroom and get speaking on almost any topic you might give me…or at least begin a dialogue on anything, if I don’t know what I’m talking about.

I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing that I haven’t made performing my life’s calling. I’m still too self-conscious and introverted to flaunt my performance skills or offer them unless I’m asked. But those who know me and have seen me perform know what I do and can do when I am given the platform.

I think the greatest performances of my life have been in the classroom. If I could reproduce those days when I’d have a class completely attentive or rolling in laughter at what I do, I’d have had it made as a stand-up comedian. Step aside Patrick Ledwell, Cindy Lapeña is on a roll! But no, it’ll never happen because, unless I have to do it, I won’t, again I repeat, won’t volunteer. Someone will have to volunteer me. I hardly ever say no.

365 Things to Look Forward to: Number 5 – Watching a Play

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5. Watching a Play.

I am substituting for a Grade 5 teacher today, the 9th of June 2011, and the Vice Principal gave me a really pleasant surprise as she walked me to my classroom. The 5th and 6th graders had put up a production of Hairspray and were doing a dress rehearsal/special performance for the first half of the morning, with 2nd graders as an audience.

I have always loved theatre–thanks to the exposure I got from my mother–but also because it must be in my genes. My maternal grandfather was a thespian, as is one of my paternal aunts. I also have a special place for musicals in my heart and imagine I could have done that, if my mother, in her contrary way, would have let me become a thespian. She actually considered the profession immoral in a very old-fashioned way.

Theatre, to me as a child, was a magical world that took me away from what would otherwise have been the very drab, introverted world of a nerdy bespectacled bookworm. It not only transported me into the world of my books, it came alive for me so that I didn’t need to stage elaborate and full productions of books in my head.

Whenever possible, my mother would obtain tickets to a play so we could watch it–and while not very frequent, it happened enough times that I remember. The most affordable plays were done by a local repertory company with plays staged in Filipino. I know I learned how to speak and understand Filipino better because of those plays. Plays done by the leading English repertory theatre company were a little too costly, so we got to watch these only once in a rare while. So it was a glorious treat when I became related to that company by virtue of marriage. I was able to watch every play I wanted to as often as I wanted to, and so rarely ever missed one. Then, I worked with this company, as well as another theatre company based in the Cultural Centre of the Philippines, so I had the time of my life!

With every play I watched, I drank in every scene, every song, every detail. I couldn’t get enough of just  watching plays as a child, so I started looking for plays to read. By the time I was done reading every single children’s book in the collections we grew up with, I needed more to satisfy my craving and discovered my dad’s Classics Club collection–and encountered my first complete collection of the works of William Shakespeare!

I never just read plays. In my mind, I became a director, designer, and actress. I could see the play running through my mind, complete with sets, lights, costumes and sound effects, with characters speaking as if they were standing right before me. My secret desire was to be a famous thespian–it didn’t matter if I wasn’t the star, as I was painfully self-conscious as a child. I could be the director, the designer, even the playwright. Anything, as long as I was part of the play. And if I couldn’t be part of it, well then, the next best thing was to watch it!

And so, as I watch a grade school production of Hairspray I am drawn back to the world of my dreams. I only wish live theatre as entertainment were much more affordable. But you can bet that when I get that full-time job that provides me with enough income for all the basics and more to spare, and enough downtime so my evenings and weekends don’t have to be spent working, I will be at the theatre, sitting somewhere in the middle or near the back where I can get a good look at the whole stage and be transported into an alternate reality!