Monday, Oct. 11, 2010
I used to say that people who liked watching performers, also liked watching bull fights. Your’re watching someone risk life and death for their art. There are possibilities of death. . . in public! That is the hardest part about performing, you make your mistakes in public! The “nature of the beast” is that you need an audience and that audience may see you fail. Getting up again and again is what makes a pro.
My Dad used to say that what makes a real “pro” is not the category of performance, but the quality of performance. “Any society today that would ignore quality in plumbing because plumbing might be considered a humble activity, or that would tolerate shoddiness in philosophy because philosophy might be considered an exalted activity will not have either good philosophy or good plumbing . . . neither its pipes nor its theories will ever hold water. Today is truly the day of professionalization."
"Constantly risking absurdity and death whenever he performs above the heads of his audience, the poet, like an acrobat, climbs on rhyme to a high wire of his own making." This Lawrence Ferlinghetti quote was given to me by my friend, Tom Cleary, referring to poets, but I think it also pertains to all performers.
I’ll never forget risking doing a difficult song as a performer in a "sixties" coffee house – I murdered the song. I bravely persevered to the bitter end of the song. . . I should have stopped. After I packed up my guitar that night, my best friend burst through the back stage door convulsed with laughter. She never forgot it or let me forget it either! I tried to think of some pithy saying that would help me be inspired to continue my dream of becoming a performer. All I could think of was Kenny Roger’s song, “Know when to hold em, know when to fold ‘em; know when to walk away, know when to run!”
I did get back “up on the horse” and perform again, but I learned it is better to stop sometimes, redirect yourself, and stand back and laugh at the egg you just laid with everyone else! I also remembered what my Dad said about being a “pro.” Being a pro is learning from your mistakes, standing back to laugh at the egg you just laid with everyone else, and getting back on the horse to ride again.