I want you to crack on a high note in front of 100 people.
I want you to trip going up the stairs.
I want you to forget lines, and entrances, and cues.
I love it when you hit the wrong pitches.
I live for the moment when you fail. When you are mortified. And when you realize the next day that YOU SURVIVED.
In our business, failure is mistakenly viewed by the amateur as a *very* bad thing.
The first implicit lessons we learn from being young performers are:
1) The best person always gets the role
2) The leads never make mistakes
3) I am not good if I mess up
4) The ensemble is where actors go to die
5) Forgetting something is the worst thing that could ever happen because of the ABYSS. (In case you are not familiar with the ABYSS, it is when you completely forget who you are and what you are doing on stage and suddenly the entire world goes dark, and your joy is siphoned away by the soulless lights in the rafters and you are DEAD SILENT and the audience is DEAD SILENT and the ghosts of performers past come and whisper in your ear all of your shortcomings distracting you from your task and… You get it.)
THIS BUGS THE HECK OUT OF ME.
(Yes, heck. NorCal, ok?)
It bugs me, not only because the above “lessons” are patently false in the professional theater and voice world, but because it conditions the performer away from risk taking and fearless performing.
Stealing the tool of risk taking from a performer is akin to stealing a stove from a chef. You just can’t do the job without it.
Risk taking is what teaches the performer how to tap into their tool belt of character choices and vocal aesthetic. Risk taking is the active pursuit of potential failure.
There is a trend in current motivational talk on failure, and I love it, because it’s like Acting 101. Brené Brown (READ HER NOW. ALL OF HER STUFF. I WILL WAIT), in her newest book “Rising Strong“, says:
“The opposite of being curious is disengaging.”
A disengaged human will never be able to connect to the piece of music or art or theater they are trying to create. Being curious means trying things out, risk taking!, and being willing to fail.
Stephan McCranie, of Doodle Alley, said,
“The difference between a master and a novice is that a master has failed more times than the novice has ever tried.”
You can only get good by being bad.
As performers, we too often measure our talent and our worth on what we do “right”, when maybe we need to get over it. Get over ourselves. And embrace our failures as the chisels they are.
How does failure chisel? Here ya go:
1) Grace Under Pressure ~ it teaches you to not freak out and to keep composure.
2) Creative Improve ~ it teaches you to come up with creative ways to further the story
3) Keeps you Grounded ~ it teaches you to laugh at yourself
4) Empathy Builder ~ it teaches you to understand fellow performers (rather than envying or judging them!)
5) Let it Go ~ it teaches you that life goes on, and you are okay, and no one started hating you
6) Character Building ~ it teaches you to get in touch with emotions that will no doubt be VERY useful in future character choices.
7) Character Building, Part 2 ~ it teaches you grit
So hurry up, get out there, and make some doozy mistakes.
Then come back and read next week’s Warble, where I tell you why Anything Less than Striving for Perfection is Unacceptable.