"So, how big is the audience tonight?" Paul asked our stage manager Catherine as she entered the dressing room.
"There isn't one," she answered. I'm sure my face became paler than the clown-white make-up that covered it. "There isn't an audience? Will we still be doing the show?" I wondered, completely astounded. Someone else vocalized the same thoughts, and Catherine told us that yes, we would be going on with the play. We would perform to 450 empty seats. This sort of thing was not what I had expected going into my cross-country tour with the show "Metamorphosis", but my experience in Albuquerque gave me important insight into both theater and the rest of my life.
It seemed from the very beginning that this stop on the tour was not going to be a pleasant one. The weather was uncomfortably hot, the motel was anything but desirable, and several people's belongings had been stolen from the dressing room the day before, including my wallet. Despite all of these problems, I had still been looking forward to performing. A good show, I knew, would make the whole struggle worthwhile.
Yet, hearing we were without an audience, my spirits once again plummeted. I had performed to small audiences before, of course, but never no audience at all. There was always some family member, some friend who would come to the show, just to be supportive. But not in Albuquerque-this was not my home stage, there was no one who knew or cared who Mary Ellen Kennedy was or what play she was in, and there was nothing I or anyone else could do about it. It was like performing a tightrope act and suddenly realizing there was no safety net below you. So distracting was that realization that I nearly fell off the rope.
It occurred to me then, however, that we were still doing the show. It didn't matter how many people were or weren't watching, what truly mattered was that the rest of the cast and I performed to what we knew was our utmost potential. Over the course of finishing our make-up, doing our warm-up exercises, and getting into character, my spirits rose again. When show time came, I went out there and performed as if the auditorium was packed. I'd regained my balance on the tightrope, and performed with both certainty and excellence, even though no one was there to see it but myself.
Since that experience, there have been many times in my life when I've found myself without the attention or support of others when I wanted it. However, my experience on that stage in Albuquerque has made me realize it's not the audience that determines a good performance, but the person performing. I control the tightrope act, I'm the one it matters to the most, and I determine how well the act goes. The net is not a necessity. If I perform to my full potential, be it in the theater, academics, or any other aspect of my life, then I can be proud of myself, regardless of who's watching.
That's about it...anything you think I should do to it? Even if you just read it, thanks for taking the time.