Plinky.com asked me whether I’d ever been on stage and what it was like.
Well, as many who follow me know, the answer is a resounding YES!
And now I’ve got to avoid a long autobiographical description of all the times I’ve trod the boards. Ugh, how boring would that be? Instead, I’ll summarise.
I’ve played in bands since I was 11, acted in plays since I was 7, directed a couple of plays and, every so often play out with just me and my guitar. In my corporate life, I regularly present to large audiences, including global web-casts with online interaction.
I’m wired to perform – and have been all my life, from childhood play-acting onward for the next 40 years. It’s part of being the story-teller I am, inventing a story live and being one of the characters
[it’s no surprise to me that improv hooks me so much – almost too much if truth be told – like a drug in which I could lose myself]
being all the characters, if the story is strong enough.
How does it feel?
When it clicks, it’s flow – time and space disappear and I’m in the moment, being the story. Sometimes that doesn’t happen – with the music, if something’s off (tuning on a guitar, something in my own or my bandmates’ sound) then I’ll stay self-conscious and in my front-brain. But when I can flow… I don’t disappear exactly, but I do step into the observer self, watching and experiencing at the same time. Everything moves in smooth, fluid, slow motion. Little details become very, very clear. The look on somebody’s face in the audience, the exquisite timing of a hi-hat roll. Sometimes I catch the sound of my guitar, something I’ve just played, and think with a sense of true wonder, “that’s coming out of me!”
[and believe me, compared to other guitarists, I’m nothing to write home about]
And the absolute best feeling is when that moment of calm flow for me seems to connect completely with the energy of the audience.
This is really hard to explain if you’ve never experienced flow but when it happens… It’s what it means to transcend, I believe; to be connected to the common experience.
When it happens, which isn’t always, it’s like energy beams connecting whole body to whole body – think of any movie where plasma or ectoplasm dances between people and you’ve at least got a visual representation but it’s so much more than that.
When I was about 16, we performed Wedekind’s Spring Awakening and toured it around local schools and community centres. Performing in the round, with a completely exposed set, no furniture; just us and an audience of sceptical teens wondering why they were there and with little interest for the subject matter. Each performance, we played out the tortured coming of age with honesty and integrity and, by and large, hooked those surly teens into our performance and the world of the story. We on the stage, living out what many of those watching were experiencing, reflecting back some small aspect of their life. Flowing. Flowing. After we finished there was a Q&A and these were some of the most full and frank discussions I experienced as a teen. We’d connected.
That’s how it feels to be on stage. It’s why I go on stage. It’s why I write. It’s why… Just WHY. Through stories and connection, we understand, share and claim our world.