Before I stepped on a stage as a performer, I was a Maid (also known as a Stage Kitten or Pick Up Artist....basically someone who prepares the stage for the performer, placing props/chairs/tables etc exactly where they want and after the act, picks up all removed clothing/props and gets them back to the performer) and then a Stage Manager (the person in charge of the show, sorting the lighting, liaising between performers and DJ/sound engineer over running order, whether the performer walks on to their music or whether it starts only when they're on stage, working with the maid/s or being the maid as well, ensuring the timing of the whole evening stays on track, making sure performers are fed and watered etc).
I ABSOLUTELY RECOMMEND TO ANY POTENTIAL OR NEW PERFORMER GETTING BEHIND STAGE AND WORKING AS A MAID OR STAGE MANAGER BEFORE YOU VENTURE INTO PERFORMING! You'll learn so much so quickly from seasoned performers and provided you know your boundaries, it's a great way to network too.
These are just 10 random things I learnt behind stage when I started out....
- Everyone gets nervous. Even if they say they don't. HOWEVER the clever ones get nervous and know that this is a good thing..... they tell themselves it's not 'nerves' it's 'performance readiness', your body pumping itself with the adrenaline to do something a bit scary....it's the fight or flight thing and without this extra 'energy' your performance would be flat.
- Everyone gets the aftershow comedown. Your body has pumped itself full of the adrenaline to cope with being on stage in front of all those people, and you've probably had a huge rush after coming off stage - the "I did it!!" and hopefully had loads of praise/applause from the audience/the behind-stage team.....so you are going to have to come back down once you're in the 'real' world again. If you don't perform that regularly or if you debuted a new act, you'll also find that for weeks and months you've been getting ready for that one performance, and now it's over, and you suddenly don't have to prepare anymore...and there's a gap in your life for a short time. So you are going to experience a bit of a crash, think of it like a sugar rush crash but with glitter. It will probably come a day or two after the show and the BEST ways to cope with it are a) knowing what you're going through and that it's perfectly normal, b) riding with it....stick your pyjamas on and eat chocolate in front of a good movie (or EastEnders ;)), c) TAKE ACTION - start brainstorming stupid things for a new act......the best way to deal with being down is to take action (and this is from a woman who knows too well about being more than down).
- If there's one thing you remember from this - let it be this: for each act you do, put it on a cd ON IT'S OWN, ie. burn a new cd (most computers can do this & if you need help ASK, people are only to glad to help) WITH ONLY THAT TRACK ON IT. Then take a permanent marker pen and write on the cd a) your stage name, b) the name of the act or the song, c) and either "Start ONLY when I'm on stage" or "I walk on to track". If you are doing two (or more) routines, use a separate cd for each one. And mark each one clearly as above. I swear this will prevent so many instances of DJ/sound engineers playing the wrong track for you....or forgetting to switch track off and it going into the next. There will still always be mistakes, it's part of life, but this is one thing some of the best British performers taught me and I beg you, please don't turn up to a show with a 2 cd compilation album and then be surprised when the wrong track starts once you're on stage.
- Have back-ups - lots of shows now ask you to email your tracks to them beforehand so they can put them on their computer to play. But still take your cds, and have extra back-ups. I'm a complete belt and braces woman, I have my cds, then I have the tracks on a memory stick/flash drive.....plus I have them on my iPhone, and before I had an iPhone, I used to take my ipod with them on. Be prepared. And this isn't just with music. Have those extra pairs of fishnets, clear nail varnish, extra red lipstick etc. Ever since maiding I've always carried a tin of hairgrips, safety pins, extra toupee tape, small scissors.....because even if I don't need them, someone backstage will during the night and you'll make lifelong friends from being the saviour of the moment.
- Take your own mirror. I'm sure that somewhere in this world is a venue with a perfect changing area backstage. As yet, I haven't found it. I don't know yet whether the USA has more space backstage than in the UK, I very much doubt it, so don't expect more than a broom cupboard or the toilets/restroom and you won't be disappointed. If we were lucky in the UK we might get a row of cubicles in the ladies, but more often than not you're changing with 5-20 other performers, male and female in a room they keep the drinks bottles and ice in.....AND there's probably only 1 or 2 mirrors (if that) and all of you want to use it at the same time, whilst dodging barstaff indignant that people are in their space. So do yourself a favour and take your own mirror.
Here endeth my ramblings for the first part of 10 things.....I'll ramble the other 5 tomorrow.