I should’ve left earlier.
It wouldn’t have happened – I wouldn’t have been in a situation where it could have happened, if I’d just listened to my instincts and gone home.
But no, I didn’t listen… and I’m sorry.
It had been a good… no, a great night. I had played Mr. Voice for a Richmond vs. Raleigh match at ComedySportz, and I actually liked the job I did. As always, there were a couple of minor flaws, but that’ll happen in a live show. Overall, I think it was OK.
I stayed for the long-form show – Overtime Improv and Raleigh’s Nothing I’m Proud Of did roughly 30 minutes each, then did one game together. It was fun.
I hung out because I figured we’d go to Capital Ale House or Silver Diner or some similar late-night foodery for a while before breaking up the party. But instead, the party stayed at the theatre. And that’s when I should have heard the alarm bells going off in my head. But no… but no…
For a while, everyone just hung out and talked, which was fine.
Then the improv jam broke out. The format was that one person was allowed to call out others to play scenes on-stage.
And I was in deep, deep water without a life preserver.
I am not an improviser. I think I’ve made that clear. And the Richmond folks knew this. But the Raleigh folks don’t know me at all. So as the crowd thinned out, and I (stupidly) stayed there, it was going to happen.
And, just before 1:00am, it did.
One of the Raleigh players called me out.
And I freaked out.
I can’t hide from this anymore. I have clearly developed a sizable case of stage fright, to the point where thinking about going on stage causes something close to panic. How do I know this? It’s what happened tonight.
The thing is, there’s nothing rational about it. The Richmond people in the room are among my closest friends in the ensemble. They wouldn’t let me fall – rationally, I know that. And the Raleigh folks, at worst, would have seen me floundering.
But in that moment, it didn’t matter. I had a partial meltdown.
And I felt terrible, even while it was happening. I kind of knew I didn’t want to be on stage… but it was the first time I really had to confront the fact that I can’t go on stage. And while that was happening, there was also the feeling that I was screwing up the vibe in the room, and letting everyone else down (I probably wasn’t, but again, rational thought was gone).
One of the Raleigh guys tried to meet me halfway – how about I did a scene where the gag was I was part of the scene but never went onstage? Nope… couldn’t do that either.
What really hurt was he said “please trust me on this”.
I don’t want any of them to think I didn’t trust them. I mean, I’d literally trust any of my friends in that room with my life. If I were the least bit rational at that moment, I know I could trust them (and the guys from Raleigh that I’d known for a couple of hours). Again, exit rationality.
I’m not really sure what happened. I used to be a ring announcer – the only person who was “on stage” for an entire wrestling show, and I must’ve done a couple of hundred of those. I’ve hosted a few concerts when I was on-air with Big Oldies.
But in a quiet theatre with a dozen people there, I froze.
I don’t know if I’ll really determine what happened. I have a few theories. But since all of them boil down to what I believe to be the real truth, I’ll go with the one that should have been obvious from Day One of this blog.
At my core, I don’t trust myself to keep up with these incredibly talented people onstage.
I don’t trust myself to be there for them.
Actually, I just don’t trust myself.
And for that, I’m sorry.
To myself, for a lifetime of constantly falling short [this is a massive extrapolation, but I think what happened tonight is related to everything I’ve ever failed at, which is just about everything, really].
And to those dozen or so people who had to watch me put the pieces together and fall apart, all at the same time.
Now to be fair, I had this discussion with one friend before tonight so it’s not a complete epiphany. But I wasn’t sure if I was overdramatizing it.
Tonight, I found out that I wasn’t.
And I don’t know what happens next. But I never again want to feel as helpless as I did tonight. And I’m truly worried that it may boil down to the War Games line.
You know it.
“The only winning move is not to play.”
If you’re tempted to comment at this point, I’d really prefer if you don’t. I won’t stop you by turning off comments. But I’m not sure what else there is to say.