The stage is set. You are standing there, adrenalin coursing through you. In a flash of the spotlight you find yourself frozen, and then you bomb!
There is something powerful about the stage. Something that it transfers to you as soon as you are on it, it gives you itself, to your care. And then you become the stage. You are the performance. But this transition comes with great effort. An effort of the internalised self. An effort that means the world of difference in your performance and yet at that moment is everything that you cannot control. You forget that it needs to be schooled, and you become its slave. This tension, this anxiety will mean the end of your dreams, if you do not make the aforementioned effort. It happens to the best of us, and so frequent that we gave it a name – stage fright. As it begins to gnaw at you, there is nothing more than quitting that becomes the simplest and safest option. To get off the stage and run away where no one can reach you! And once you settle with this, you mar all your practice, all your hard work, and all your dreams.
Amitabh Bacchan said this once, “I am very conscious in front of the camera. I still feel nervous when it rolls on the set.” Is it strange then, that we must always feel this nervousness when we have to perform? Some people tend to believe that the true mark of a performer is self-doubt. Underestimating or overestimating your art is variably important. For in these extremes, we must find a balance. The catch here is that this balance comes from within too. So probably, hope and belief would capture this balance. Or something more? Courage, confidence and will must be added to the mix. But all this ideology is tested impatiently by the all powering nature of the stage. When you step on the stage, everything becomes a blank canvas. Your pep-talk is but meaningless mumbling. What do you do then? The answer is simpler than you might think, you just go out there and perform. Try to do your best and live your act. This may sound off, but yes you must do this as a leap of faith. All of us know how faith can work in a dichotomy. But all of us also know that faith and belief are empowering too. It is this power that you must channelise when you are out to perform, because there is always more to a performance than just a prize.
Allow me to share my own experience.
A thousand thoughts go in my mind when I am told, “You are next, please come backstage.” In class 1, I participated in my first Solo Singing Competition in school. As my name was called out, I froze and somehow crawled up the stage. I have crystal-clear memories of what followed that I won the first prize that day. How? Probably because I just lived my performance. I remember it as crisp as if it were yesterday. It has been 12 years. I did not think much about the people sitting there in the hall. Only that my teacher sat with me and told me before I started to sing, “Close your eyes, and relax.”. I still remember her smile when I opened my eyes after 4 minutes of Ae Mere Pyare Vatan. More than the first prize, that smile and my joy at seeing it was my courage for the next performance. But even in my performance last year, I froze just the same and wanted to run away from the hall full of people judging every nuance of my imperfect and badly practised song. I did not win the first prize this time. But I felt very happy when I saw the smile again.
It is said that while performing, we could find someone in the audience. Someone who nods at the right intervals, someone with a smiling face. It does help a lot when you find that person, and unsurprisingly you will always find one person who fits the description.
Recently, at IIT Delhi’s Rendezvous, Viren Barman, Mr. India 2016, First runner-up, judging an event said, “It is very important to lose too. I am sitting here after losing countless times. And that is what keeps you going. If you never lose, what is the point? You will never know what it means to win truly.” No game is played to lose, winning is always the incentive. But every loss teaches us more than the victory. What is important is that in victory you keep humble and in your failures, you keep courage and faith. More often than not, the failures will outnumber the victories. But that is how your skill is sharpened. Until you achieve excellence that leaves an impression. And more importantly, an excellence that offers you unadulterated joy.
The stage is never our enemy. Shyness and inhibitions ruin more opportunities than anything else. The best preparedness for the stage is that of the spirit. An unabashed sense of confidence; that inspires you to do your best and considers the competition as a secondary concern. Personality, after all, begins when comparison ends. Staying true to yourself through failures and fighting back harder is the key to achieving success. Getting stage ready is a comprehensive process that continues a lifetime. Through the highs and lows, nothing remains constant. And it is in this erratic behavior that we must need find an equilibrium. Every stage is different, and hence, the lessons differ too. Try to shine your best on a multitude of stages. Try to shine within and without.
Feature Image Credits: Rishabh Gogoi for DU Beat.