“hey hey hey”
“Are you there? Are you there? Are you there?”
“I need to talk to you!!!”
This was barrage of texts messages I was greeted to when I checked my phone on my lunch break. This sort of urgency is usually saved for pregnancy scares and life-changing-inner-circle-friendship gossip. But these messages were from my friend Peter. Who has something even more important to say.
“My exclusive performer may have to cancel for the show tomorrow night. If she does…Would you want to come on and read from your blog???”
I stared at my phone agape. Both terrified and thrilled by the prospect. My first instinct was, “Hell no.” That was the easy answer. My blog is meant to be read from an illuminated screen, not out loud in front of an audience! I’ve been on stage many times, but never as myself, never sharing words I’ve written! The best things I’ve written are poignantly personal. They reveal a level of vulnerability that I’m totally cool with given the distancing the internet provides. But on stage with lights on me and an audience mere feet away? TOMORROW? Fuck no!
But I don’t say fuck no. Because in this case I knew the easy answer was not the right answer. Peter needs my help. I can swoop in and save the day! I’m hesitating because I’m scared? Damn it, Mary Lane, the experience of reading your own writing aloud in front of strangers will be good for you! You can do this.
I told Peter I’d do it.
And then promptly had a panic attack. Just kidding!
Here’s what I’d signed on for-
Every month Peter hosts a current event, Late Show-style show called The Skinny with Peter DeGiglio. In his own words The Skinny features “an average schnook genuinely attempting to wrap his head around current events and sociopolitical issues; with special guest interviews, wild variety acts and a hip DJ sidekick!”
Cue moment of self doubt: I’m supposed to be the “wild variety act”? “Wild variety act” sounds much more intimidating than “exclusive performer”! Oh Peter, what have you gotten me into? How do I live up to that sort of description! Reading from my blog isn’t “wild”!
The Skinny has a different theme every month. The show I’m to be the exclusive performer in is devoted to NYC: issues that matter to New Yorkers and the progress of the new Mayor de Blasio (kinda rhymes with “DeGiglio”). So featuring me as a guest did make sense. What didn’t make sense was how difficult it was for me to find a blog post that would translate to performance.
It was interesting to realize how many of my posts work strictly within the realm of this blog. I’d never thought about it before.
Everyone loves a list post, but if I read 10 New York Minutes That Make Me Love NY out loud, it would sound like me reciting my to-do or shopping list.
Pictures are often just as important as the words of a blog post. In performance, I’d have no visual aids, dependent on imagery and description exclusively. So I couldn’t share one of my favorite New York love letters, An Ode to New York City Streets.
Visiting New York? 8 Great Things to Do was out. The audience would be mostly, if not all New York locals. I couldn’t read anything with a whiff of tourism to it.
My strongest posts, easily translated to monologues, have little to do with New York. Besides the fact they take place there. As captivating as it is that I showed up to say I love you and found my then-boyfriend tripping on acid, as good a story as that is, I couldn’t read Sometimes It’s a Long Trip to “I Love You”. Same deal with the most popular post on this blog- “It’s Not You, It’s Me”: A Deluge of Breakup Clichés.
Maybe I’ll write a whole new piece, I considered, weave in the mayor some how. I mean, I have 10 hours at this point, it’s not impossible!
And then I promptly had a panic attack.
That idea didn’t last long. I decided my post The Passing Fantasies of a Hopeless Romantic would serve my purposes just fine. That post is so very New York. It’s just the right amount of personal, doesn’t need pictures. It was basically written as an inner monologue, perfect to translate to a stage monologue. I edited it and rehearsed it, edited it some more. 90 minutes before my performance another wave of self-doubt hit me and I asked Walter to read it and tell me it was ok. As if I could have done anything if he’d said, “It’s not ok, it sucks.” Fortunately he said, “It’s not ok, it’s great.”
And it was great.
As I sat waiting to perform at the Under St Marks Theater, nothing was great. My hands were a sweaty mess, almost disintegrating the piece of paper my story was typed on. I’d printed it out at the last minute, the font was on the small side, what if I couldn’t read it when I was on stage? What if I was squinting the whole time? I didn’t have it memorized! What if I read something wrong and looked like a doofus?
When I got up to perform, stood in front of the full black box theater, opened my mouth and spoke my own words, that’s when everything turned to great. The energy of the audience, feeling them all on my side, is there any greater feeling to a performer? All eyes on me, I was able to look up from my reading much more than I anticipated. I knew this story, I’d lived it, and getting to perform it live was fantastic. People laughed! Out loud! A legit LOL! I don’t think of my blog as particularly funny. I’ve been told it is, but without the sound of laughter, it just doesn’t sink in for me.
When I concluded my piece, people applauded! It was exhilarating.
As an actor turned writer, lack of applause is something I struggle with. No one applauds for blog posts. I feel like I’m twisting arms to get people to comment or just give the post a “like” on Facebook. After a performance, people applaud even if they didn’t really like it. After a blog post there’s silence, often even if people loved it. That’s the way of writing, but it’s an adjustment for a validation-craving, self-doubting, struggling artist like me. It builds character.
I’m so glad I didn’t take the easy way out. That I pushed myself to do something uncomfortable that had such payoff in the end. This is something I need to do more of.
Thank you so much, Peter, for inviting me on your show and having faith in me that I could whip up a worthy performance in 24 hours. I’m glad I didn’t let you down. Thank you to my friends Tolly and Beth who came to cheer me on with such short notice.
For information on Peter’s April 30th edition of The Skinny, “LIKE” his page on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/TheSkinnyWithPeterDeGiglio
If you’d like to see me perform my writing…let me know…I liked it so much I’m considering how to make it happen again. Also I know this performance was filmed, I’ll try to post the clip if enough people want to see.
All photos by Richard Lurie, Kitsune Media NYC www.kitsunemedianyc.com