How not to die on stage
Sarah-Ann Cromwell: Diva Gigs first ever Birmingham PRIDE at Fox Bar for Ladies
I entered the back of the tent and the Diva Team walked through the front, I knew within minutes that Diva Gigs was in the right place but the wrong venue. Now, I know my team are hot. I don’t mention it as I value their performing, playing, PA skills more than their pretty faces. Within seconds Dav and Ana were accosted, not by a hello but the question (friendly, smiling, expectant, excited): ‘Are you lesbians?’ Simultaneously at the back of tent, I venture towards the sound crew, extending my right hand to the lady at the desk and (warmest smile in tow) and say:
‘Hi, I’m Sarah-Ann’ and was greeted with a warm, firm, wide eyed, response:
‘I’m her girlfriend’
Her girlfriend turns around and fixes me with a stare at which I continue (hand stretched out to her)
‘well, nice to meet you, her girlfriend, do you have a name as well?’
My mind is saying: ‘shit, people are not here to listen to an operatic comedian, they are here to get laid’
At the end of last year I attended a performance psychology workshop with the extraordinary mental skills practitioner Karen O’Connor. During the open discussions one of the delegates (who is writing a PHD linking Stage Fright with Childhood Upbringing) shared that brain scans show that standing in front of an audience and performing has the same physical and psychological effects as running away from a tiger. Yes, performing in front of an audience induces the same symptoms as the brain realising that it is in mortal danger. I had never experienced this….until now.
Thanks to Dr Steve Peters I recognized the symptoms immediately, Have you seen X men or No Ordinary Family where both Professor Xavier and Daphne are overwhelmed by the voices in their head? The emotional and the human parts of my brain were having a full on war and for a nano second I wasn’t sure if I was going to run! WHAT DID I DO!?
- Step one: I am leading a Diva Team and I need to appear strong, relaxed and in control..so…admit to somebody I trust that I am scared witless (the fiance)
- Step two: Talk it out
- Step three: rationalize!
What’s the worse that can happen?
I get booed….big freakin whoopdi do. It may hurt Diva’s ego but it doesn’t stop Diva Gigs being a great show..it’s just in front of the wrong audience.
The audience might throw stuff…they did at Macaulay Culkin’s gig and I really like my Diva dress…hmmmm…evidence so far suggests that: the staff are wonderful, from the owner, (Andy) to the bar staff (some of which have worked there for 15 years) the tech crew (Glen, Her GF and Her GF) to the front door security, they are an awesome, friendly, positive team. If the audience boo I’ll receive a puppy look and possibly a stroked head but if anybody dares to throw stuff…the culprit’s will be chucked out of PRIDE faster than they can inhale the breath that’s been knocked out of them.
And finally: if people don’t like Diva Gigs, they’ll move to another bar….the feeling of fear subsided.
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED….?
It was the weirdest gig I have ever done. I stepped up onto stage and received an appreciated wolf whistle. I began my Diva Gigs spiel and after 60 seconds the middle of the room turned their backs to me and their focus towards who ever they were chatting up. I sang O Mio Babbino and the room went temporarily quiet…immediately followed by a doubling in chatter volume. I thought to myself: ‘man, is this what it’s like to die on stage but not as Dido’?’ I finished…….and the whole room erupted with applause…..ay? Song number 2, after some very quick mental re-scripting I talked about Semele, who she was and the scenario in which she was about to burst into song. I dropped the joke at the end of the story and through the loud chatter I heard from the back of the tent, a shriek of laughter….are people actually listening?? I figured the whole set wouldn’t be appropriate and signaled to Ana (who is uba flexible and used to Diva Gigs going off at another angle at a moments notice) to wrapped up with the final song…and that’s when it happened……..it started as a faint hum, a mumble, a dim of the chatter and when I hit the chorus, I had a full tent sing-a-longa Time to Say Goodbye on my hands…which is an absolute first for Diva! I couldn’t work it out. Some people were facing me, fixed attention but the majority seemed to be absorbed in other tasks or people and then I realized…I am in a tent full of women…woman who can text, talk, scan a room, clock clothes, clock people, flirt, plan their dinner, add things to their mental ‘to do’ list, all in 60 seconds without batting an eye lid…and these multi tasking officionardos were SINGING ALONG, not throwing objects or even boos! Damn, not-to-self: always take your phone on stage….
At the end a transvestite or a person of transgender came up to me, took me by the hand and said: ‘that was a very brave thing to do and you were wonderful’….I looked he/she in the eyes wondering how I could possibly be braver then he/she and accepted the compliment with the greatest sincerity. My Diva Team were great, the Pride Team were brilliant, the audience were awesome. I’m pleased I didn’t run away.