Barry Smith: Irrelativity
September 28, 2009
NORFOLK, Va. – You know those nightmares you have where you’re at school and you can’t open your locker and you’re late for finals (that you haven’t studied for) and you’re pant-less? I had one of those last night. Only worse.
Here’s the nightmare back story. I’m in Norfolk to do another one of these “showcases,” where I do a condensed version of my comedy show for a group of people who are there specifically looking for shows to bring to their theatres. Like an audition. I did a similar event at the start of this tour, back in St. Paul, but this one is kind of a big deal. So I guess an anxiety dream or two is to be expected.
Here’s what I remember about this particular dream:
I’m back stage waiting to go on, hooking up my computer to the theatre’s projector. Lots of people in the audience. It’s a big theatre. There are about 10 different acts on the bill tonight, each getting 15 minutes. I know that if this goes well that it’ll mean a substantial step forward for my performing career; more exposure, more opportunity, more money. More everything. This is actually something of a “big break” waiting to happen. I’m standing in the wings feeling good, confident, well-rehearsed. Not cocky, just confident. Maybe even in the zone. I hear my name announced and I step onto the stage for my literal 15 minutes. I start to speak, feeling uncommonly self-assured. I push the button on my little remote clicker to bring up the first of many slides that accompany my show, and … nothing. I keep talking, and push the button again. I push it again, harder. Nothing. I’m still talking as if nothing is wrong, but I’m already three slides behind, and something is clearly terribly, terribly wrong. My slides are half of my show, and without them I’m just there on stage, making comments about pictures that nobody can see. I’m totally, utterly and completely f#*ked! Really, it’s the worst nightmare imaginable. Loads of effort and preparation and expense and opportunity flushing down the toilet before my very eyes. Arrgh! No more crab cakes before bed!
This is that part of the dream where the terror is just so much that you can’t help but wake up, gasping, then realize you were only dreaming and that everything’s OK. Ahhh … back to sleep.
Except that as I stood there on stage, futilely pushing my little remote button, I realized … THIS IS NOT A DREAM!
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Oh my God, NO! Mayday! Not now! Not here! This is honestly the most important 15 minutes on stage in my entire life. This is the time to really, really excel. This is the time to bring it, to show the world what I’ve got, to rock, bring my A game, etc. … but with each sickeningly unsuccessful click of the remote, I realize the degree to which I’m about to crash and burn.
I stop my show and say, “Excuse me, I seem to be having some projector problems.” I exit the stage and run to my computer and try to sort it out. The screen had frozen trying to connect with the projector – the kind of thing that would have been avoided with more than five minutes of set-up time, but none of that matters now. Not realizing that the computer desktop is still being projected on the theatre screen, I scroll around through the “detect monitors” and “change resolution” menus, trying to troubleshoot. This is why I don’t keep porn on my computer desktop.
Though at this point a big, nasty, depraved porn image flashing on the ginormous screen wouldn’t have actually hurt my situation. Did I mention that, even though I’ve had tech glitches on stage before, I’ve NEVER, EVER, EVER had this particular problem happen? During any other show it would have been OK – fix it and carry on, it’ll be forgotten within a few minutes. Hey, it’s live theatre, stuff happens, right?
But not here. I could hear the sound of a hundred pens in the crowd simultaneously crossing my name off their “shows to book” list. It made a rather pleasant whooshing-scratching sound, Zen-like in its finality. Like a cosmic “Thank you … NEXT!”
I got the problem sorted out within two minutes. An eternity! I did my segment, and people were kind with their laughter and applause. It was actually a pretty good performance, considering. But still … ouch …
And I suppose there’s always a chance that it really WAS a bad dream, and I’m just seriously oversleeping.
I’ll keep you posted.
(Next stop: The tour continues on to Mississippi!)
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