The Stage Fright Girl verses the Boys Club
Some time ago, I was asked to do a Clown Magic show for the Boys Club of NY. Aside from being equipped with my usual magic and props for the show, I had my Wireless Microphone and sound system, which is mandatory for large audiences such as this one.
The group that was to go on before me was four eight to ten year old girls who were to perform show tunes. Their coach was a former Broadway co star who I’ve seen in the movie version of the same play. I just can’t remember the name of the show….sorry. She asked me if it was ok if the girls used my mike and I said ok if the girls would be my assistants during my magic show in return, and they were all fine with that. She then wished the girls luck and went to sit in the audience. The youngest looking girl in the bunch seemed to be extremely nervous about singing in front of an all boy audience of 200 and of course the other girls (who seemed to have tons of stage experience) didn’t make it any easier for her by teasing her. I tried calming her down by joking around with her about other things. She was scheduled to go on second, but since she was such a bundle of nerves, the other girls agreed to go on before her. All three seemed to be these overly confident kids who were just about born on a stage; where as this other one was totally new to the whole scene. The 200 boys in the audience weren’t too attentive to the other girls who seemed to pay them no mind all the while singing and doing all of their rehearsed moves and curtsies. When it was her turn, the fourth girl was still a wreck and after I put my Microphone on her, she cried out “I can’t do this!” After she was introduced by the MC, the other girls all pushed her out on the stage and started laughing. I was probably as horrified as she was as I was recalling from my own childhood how mean kids could be when you’re not like them especially if you’re a cry baby. While on stage, she just stood there frozen for about thirty seconds while looking out into the crowd of what was once unruly boys and had suddenly turned quiet either because they were curious as to why she was standing there doing nothing, or because she was so pretty. Whatever the reason, she yelled out in front of all of them “I Can’t do this!” amidst all of the roaring laughter of the 200 boys in front of the stage and her so called friends back stage. At this point, I felt obligated to do something to help this traumatized child since I was the only adult back stage, even though I was dressed as a clown at the time. Trying to calm her down the best I could at the time, I led her over to the curtain which I had cracked open for her to see the crowd. I said “Look out there.” “What do you see?” In a sobbing quivering voice, she answered back, “A bunch of boys all laughing!” “Look again”, I said to which she did I then matter of factly but excitedly said “They’re all wearing their underwear!” “Look! Don’t they look ridiculous” “Especially that one with the striped undies and that one with the hearts…etc.” They even look more ridiculous than you looked a few minutes ago. When I caught a glimpse of a smile, I said “Now get out there and sing your little heart out and most importantly….Have fun!!” After which I honked my clown horn which caused her to chuckle a bit. I hate to say it, but when she walked back out on that stage, I was half expecting the worse, but to my surprise and everyone else’s she made “Judy Garland’s Somewhere over the Rainbow “look amateurish! At the end of her song, the 200 boys not only clapped, but cheered, whistled and some even gave her a standing ovation. I swear I’m not exaggerating! When she went back stage, she gave me a big hug and her co stars were forcing themselves to compliment her, but I could tell by their expressions that they were pissed that they got no where near as much attention as she did. As for me, I did something totally out of character for a Clown….I cried! I mean, here was this 6 year old girl who was totally traumatized a few minutes ago by the same 200 boys who were now in awe of her! The best part about it was that I might have actually had something to do with it!
Shortly afterwards, the next reaction I got from the same girl totally floored me. In another quivering voice she surprised me with “I’m soooo nervous!” Of course I responded back with “What could you possibly be nervous about NOW?!” “I have to be your assistant!” “Oh please!” I blurted back. “That’s a piece of cake compared to what you just conquered!” I’m the one who should be nervous!” I have to follow you!”
The weird part about the whole incident was that I ended up doing better than I would for a crowd that size, especially since I hadn’t been clowning that long at the time. I mean eight to ten year old boys are not exactly the easiest group of people to perform for, let alone get their attention. I should add that I was also fairly new to clowning at the time too.
What had happened here? Had I ended up taking my own advice and had a blast? Or had I concentrated so much on helping someone else that I had just floated past my own nerves?
Whatever the case, I would love to end this story with my little protégée showing up ten years later on “The Grammy Awards” and mentioning “Polkadots the Clown” but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time.