I’ve been performing I Will Be Good for a couple years now, and like performers everywhere, many times I’ve performed under some duress. Once I performed the day my husband lost his job. Another when I was so ill, I slept under a conference room table until the very last minute before curtain. Often in less than ideal conditions — caterers loudly setting up in the next room, technological glitches during the show, and, of course, the dreaded cell phones that ring mid-performance. Each time, I come out stronger as a performer — increasing my endurance, sharpening my concentration.
This year’s FringeNYC brought new opportunities for strength-building — I performed right after the earthquake and right before Hurricane Irene as subways were closed, shows were canceled and evacuations begun. After the earthquake and Irene, I kept looking at the sky expecting to see a plague of locusts any minute.
The “Credible Threat”
I Will Be Good was selected for the FringeNYC Encore Series and we returned to NYC this past weekend for our first two shows — Friday, Sept. 9 and Sunday, Sept. 11. And with Friday came the “credible threat.” Tensions were high and traffic was paralyzed. My plan to avoid subways was thwarted as going underground was the only way to get to the theater on time. I was rattled by the alleged terrorists’ threat and my anxiety was rising. In my dressing room, a theater colleague revealed her husband had been at the World Trade Center on 9/11, and this was a very difficult weekend for him. She could not indulge her own fear — her only option was to be strong for him.
And that’s when it hit me. My only option was to be strong, too. But not just for one person, for the audience. In my personal life, I’m often asked to diffuse a tense situation, make a shy person feel more comfortable, liven a dull dinner party. As a performer, it was and is my responsibility to do the same — to relieve the audience, if only for a short time, from the anxiety caused by too many security checkpoints; horrific images; and painful, painful memories. And I realized that’s why performers go to war zones and perform for our troops, or hospitals and prisons, or any place where there is anxiety and fear, which these days seem to be ever present. Artists of all kinds can provide relief and laughter and rest for the soul.
We had two great shows and look forward to two more: Saturday, Sept. 24 and Sunday, Sept. 25. In appreciation, we dedicated our September 11 show to our small but enthusiastic audience — and to New York City for its triumphant spirit.