Recently an old memory of being on stage in school coupled with moments of anxiety that had preceded the performance, popped into my head. I couldn’t remember what I’d done to dispel the feeling that particular time, but I do know I found it liberating being up on stage and singing It’s a small world after all with fellow middle-schoolers at The Indian High School in Dubai.
Former students may recall that long before the impressive Sheikh Rashid Auditorium was built as part of the school, stage performances, competitions, prize giveaways and other indoor school events were held in a smaller auditorium/hall — and this is where most of my stage memories spring from. Not all performances (whether at school, or college back in India) were preceded (or marred) by a sense of nervousness.
But yes, the occasional ‘stage fright’ did occur, and I would forget or mix up my lines or dance moves (haha); on rare occasions even lose my voice completely, like the time I attempted singing Jason Donovan’s part in an Especially For You duet with a hostel friend who (as a spunky Kylie Minogue) luckily made up for the fiasco. Seeing my hostel-mates cheering in the audience gave me a boost, and I laughed off the experience after a couple of weeks.
Despite these occasional (and sometimes funny) glitches, some of the best times of my life have been spent on a stage — whether to dance, sing, play music or recite poetry or lines from a play. Even though I’ve always had apprehensions about ‘putting myself out there’, I realised over the years that there was something extremely empowering about being the cynosure of all eyes while you give a public performance everything you’ve got.
There are always niggling questions like, is the audience really listening, or watching? Are they bored; are they judging you? But sometimes, you get so involved in the gig that these doubts are relegated to the background, and you end up having the time of your life. I remember feeling ridiculously elated after attempting Madonna’s True Blue on the school stage with a couple of friends back in the late ‘80s, despite knowing that I missed a step here and a cue there.
Back then, we would often pat each other on the back and give each other pep talks. Sometimes, there was no one to encourage you and one just had to throw caution to the wind and go through with the experience. Even today, I’m not sure if I would be 100 per cent confident if asked to go up on a stage. But as with everything else, you tend to live and learn.
What I have gleaned from my occasional stage experiences in four decades is that they have given me a ‘high’ as well as knocked my confidence a couple of times, but they also taught me never to give up, no matter what. Life is all about new stages and second chances.