Tuesday, July 8, 2003

Singing in Front of People

I had an amazing weekend... so many firsts, so much fun, I haven't quite processed it all yet. The Musical went swimmingly, the second performance better than the first of course; I did my workshop (on Recovering From Ego... as if I knew anything about that) and it went well, too; I didn't meet very many new people but was surrounded at all times by people I already know, who seem to number in the hundreds now; I laughed, I cried, I developed new crushes and deepened old ones, and I looked fabulous (but neglected to bring my camera with, so you'll have to take my word for it until everyone else gets their film developed, shares prints with me, and I scan them into the computer... anticipation is good for you).

And I sang karaoke. Badly.

I've always wanted to sing karaoke, but never had the nerve. Not even when I was drunk. I have this perfectly natural fear of making a fool of myself, but will go to quite unnatural lengths to not make a fool of myself. I have been suffocating under the weight of my own dignity for years. Yet I know that when I am able to shed that dignity and be silly, or be brave, or do something potentially foolish-looking, I have enjoyed myself and grown from the experience. But it's so hard for me to take that first step over the threshold.

I think doing the Musical has broken down a certain barrier in my psyche... for although I appeared in full-armor drag during the performance, and in a different and more fabulous drag when I sang karaoke, there were times during the rehearsals process when my dignity was hung out to dry without the protection of drag. Like the day we had our first dress rehearsal, and I didn't know it was going to be a dress rehearsal, and so appeared before our test audience in a wig and a dress and a pair of gym socks, no foundation garments or makeup or stockings or jewels — I have nightmares like that sometimes, performing in drag but with my hairy legs all over the place or a beard coming through a hasty attempt at makeup.

The Musical also gave me a bit of experience singing in public. I know now that my voice isn't as bad as I'd thought, it just needs training. Lots of training. But more importantly, it drove home the idea that if all the birds who didn't sing best never sang, the forests would be awfully quiet... it's not how well you sing, it's how much you enjoy singing that's important (unless of course you are getting paid for it, in which case you'd better sing right)... and in karaoke it's not so important that you enjoy your singing as much as for the audience to enjoy it. And so if you can't sing well, you just have to wing it and do what you can to entertain the people. Like the very hot young man who sang a Britney Spears song with the voice of a dying ocelot, but who was so sexy and funny about it that he was absolutely irresistable.

I sang "South of the Border," by the way, since it's one of my favorite songs to sing in the car. Unfortunately, the karaoke machine played the Frank Sinatra version, and I always sing the Keely Smith version (which is based on the Sinatra version, of course, since the album is Keely Sings Sinatra and therefore I thought it would be the same... but there are subtle differences). And when the screen went completely blank, as there is a nonvocal interlude in the Sinatra version that isn't in the Smith version and for which I wasn't prepared, I appealed to the audience for advice... they yelled "DANCE," and so I shimmied my feather boa and shook my cotton titties and kicked my exquisite new strappy pumps as high as I could, with abandon and gusto. Between going off key every three bars and the impromptu cooch-dance, I essentially made a total ass of myself, but the crowd loved it, and it was so liberating.

There was another moment in the Conference weekend for which I am immensely grateful to the Musical. On Friday night, for our first performance, I actually felt nervous! Not afraid that I wouldn't do well, not uncomfortable about remembering my words or directions, just plain old jittery, a fibrillating thrill of uncertainty clutching my chest and throat. I haven't felt that way in years! And I felt alive.

And then there was the moment in the finale number of the second and final performance in which I suddenly realized, as I hit my notes and flailed my arms as instructed, that I was doing it right and I was fabulous... "here I am singing in front of people and I don't suck!" If it were a movie, the violins would swell and angelic voices would descend from above, while the camera closed in on my ecstatic (and heavily painted) face.

I'm still flying high, emotionally, from the whole weekend. I was a little worried that there would be a crash once I realized that this project around which I have rearranged my entire life is now over with, that there are no more rehearsals or performances or anything, and that I never ever have to sing "Can't Stop Recover-eeeeeeeeeeee" and hold that damned E vowel for fifteen beats, and that I won't be seeing any of my new friends this week, or even next week. But the joy of the project and the serenity gained from the meetings and workshops and fellowship of the conference are keeping my spirits up, and the relief of having my life back is counterbalancing my missing people.

So now that I'm not rehearsing or obsessing, I have started back to the gym (though I haven't gone back to the diet yet... all in good time, though), and hopefully I won't be going so long between posts here. I have to do some step-work writing, which will take some time and effort, but I often like to post that here. And then of course there's still work to do at the office — I mean, I started writing all this yesterday and was interrupted by my boss asking me to send off letters of various descriptions to a variety of people... of all the nerve, like I was his secretary or something.

I hope your day is super... and that if you make an ass of yourself, you'll enjoy it.

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