The Zoom Where it Happens
OK, gang, I admit it. I’m nervous.
On Tuesday night September 22nd at 7:30 PM (EDT, clear your calendar!) I will be telling a story at a virtual event of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. It’s produced by First Person Arts, and the theme for the evening is “Mother of Invention.” There will be just five of us performers, plus a visual artist who has received synopses of our pieces and will be displaying artwork that relates to our subject matter. As none of my writing has ever inspired a painting or sculpture, not even a doodle, I am eager to see what work is paired with my presentation. I am eager also to hear my fellow storytellers. I am, mostly, eager to get to 9:00 PM (EDT) when I can relax. The winner of the story slam gets a cash prize, but I’m not spending it yet, believe me. I’m scheduled to go first in the lineup (not traditionally the prime spot), and judging from their bios my competition is a talented bunch. So winning, while a delightful possibility, is not what I’m expecting.
I am no stranger to the slam, but never have I been a slammer (only a slam-ee). I usually sit in the audience, filled with anxiety for the person on stage. Even when the performer seems super confident, I worry as if I was their mother. Will they “go up” (forget their lines)? I haven’t done this often over the years, but I vividly recall the sheer panic of the suddenly blank mind. I try to send out wordless vibes of encouragement, and only breathe easy when their tale is through. These evenings of “entertainment” are exhausting, because on some level I believe it is only my laser focus that keeps everything from falling apart. This hubris (foolishness) extends even to Broadway shows. Surely the cast of Hamilton does not need me to pull them through at this point! But…what if they do? Why chance it?
Tuesday night will be the closest I’ve come to doing standup (even though I will be sitting down, but you get the point). The plus is that I won’t hear chatter or, worse, heckling. The minus is…I won’t hear anything. No laughter, no applause, which make such a difference to a performer. I now know why the televised baseball games in this Time of Covid have piped in crowd noise. It is pretty ridiculous, but it probably does help the players a little. Honestly, I’d rather have a canned laugh track respond to my jokes than the sounds of silence—even if it’s the same old track that’s been making the rounds since I Love Lucy.
The producers sent out a list of ways to optimize our video presence (no lighting from behind! Don’t wear busy prints!) and I’m memorizing every tip. So please join me on Tuesday! I’ll be the one going first, front lit, not wearing plaid. Laugh loudly--I'll feel it from a distance! Thanks in advance!!
PS Here’s the link for tickets!! tinyurl.com/FPAMotherGuest