Opening night of my one-woman show, “Jonna’s Body, Please Hold.” The first act went great. I was glowing as I headed backstage for intermission, so happy. Until I looked down and realized my fly had been open the entire first act.
Yep, things can go wrong during a live performance, and when you’re onstage alone there’s no one to cover for you while you fix it. Your costume malfunctions; your mic goes out; your music cue gets botched; your throat catches, and you start to cough; your nose starts to run; you forget a line; some noise (car alarm, cell phone) becomes obviously distracting; you fall over. So many potential mishaps! What’s a solo actor to do?
First, assume that if you’ve noticed it, then the audience has too. There’s no hiding on stage (which is why live performance is so fun and exciting!). Your first thought may be breathless panic – I know that breathless panic well! Just take a deep breath and allow this initial reaction to fade. It will. Pretending the problem isn’t happening only makes the ‘elephant in the room’ more uncomfortable for everyone.
Instead, acknowledge it and deal with it. I watched Lily Tomlin stop her show mid-performance and leave the stage, saying “Sorry, guys, I need to take a drink. I’ll be right back!” It was just fine, the audience didn’t mind at all; in fact, it endeared her to us even more. She was real! She was confiding in us! She was comfortable enough to be authentic with us, and that made us comfortable too.
A simple pause, an acknowledgment of what’s happened, and a fix. When you’re honest and real, the audience will happily wait for you to get back on track. In fact, they’ll appreciate that you’re taking care to correct any impediments to giving them your best performance.
So, make the call and take that drink, wipe your nose, take a moment to remember your line, fix your mic – do what you gotta do. It’s just fine.
Opening night of my show, second act. The lights came up onstage. I marched out front and center, paused in silent anticipation, then emphatically zipped up my fly. The audience howled. I said, “Why didn’t anyone tell me!!??” They howled even more, and we continued happily with the rest of the show. No problem!
With great love,