I'd like to thank Elmer for sharing his experiences of stage fright with us!
He obviously finds stage-fright a positive help in inspiring him to produce " the best, most inspired, high-energy performance he is capable of giving. " I wonder, however, how true that is of other performers? Maybe there is a problem here with terminology; I myself only have a little experience of acting (in an amateur way, many many moons ago) but I would distinguish between the natural nervousness before going onstage ("will I do well?/inspire and please the audience?/remember all my lines?) and true 'fright' ' or fear which can be both irrational and paralysing. (Ask anyone with a serious phobia about something).
As Elmer has indicated, the first of these can indeed inspire the performer to produce something remarkable. The second, I feel, would only inhibit the creative process at best. ( I guess that would be my experience)
An example : Laurence Olivier was a great actor with a long career in the theatre, as well as films (I was lucky enough to see him several times live on stage when I was a rather stagestruck young thing). No doubt he frequently felt nervous and apprehensive before going onstage, especially on first nights! However this never hindered him badly and no doubt the heightened awareness and excitement helped him give an inspired performance on occasion. (like you, Elmer!) Even if you call this feeling "stage fright" it didnt hinder him, as you would expect with such an experienced actor. But ....(and he described this in his autobiography) quite late in his theatrical career - I think in his late fifties/early sixties - he did begin to experience true, full-blown stage fright. He couldnt explain why this happened, it seemed totally irrational; but he found it a terrible experience that almost stopped him in his tracks. He even considered retiring from the stage. He wrote about the paralysing fear he felt when confronted by an audience, and how this made simply getting through a performance difficult. He even had trouble being on stage with his fellow actors; he told one ( I think it was Frank Finlay, who was playing Iago to his Othello) "For God's sake don't look directly at me on stage or I will go to pieces"
Olivier found this whole period, which seems to have lasted some years, one of the most terrifying experiences of his career and I dont think this kind of stage fright is a positive emotion that could have enhanced any performance he gave.
Perhaps this sort of paralysing fear was something like GG experienced when faced with playing before a live audience. I don't think however he referred to his emotion as "stage fright" even though, as we all know , he described fully the reasons why withdrew from the concert stage. It seems pretty obvious though that stage fright was what it was!
Elmer writes "My experiences with stage fright make me wonder what he substituted after leaving the live stage to maintain that amazing creative tingle." My feeling is that he probably didn't need to substitute anything. I believe he felt that the recording studio itself offered him more opportunity be truly creative than the concert stage ever did; look how he resented the stage's lack of "take-two-ness", so that if he was not playing his best, he had no chance to stop and tray again, or to experiment with new ideas.
I believe that GG's "creative tingle" was stimulated by the opportunities of the recording studio itself, because that was where he could best express his joy and passion for creating something beautiful. He could concentrate all his efforts into the music itself and didn't need to worry about (or fear) the reaction of others to how he was playing, how he looked, what mannerisms he displayed. He wouldn't have needed drugs specifically to help him get through a recording session, although I am not suggesting that he found the process easy. Although obviously he wanted his (recorded) music to reach out to others, and move them, he was, in the studio, playing for himself, expressing his own deepest feelings. Music was, after all, his life, his chosen mode of communication with the world, or, as he once put it himself, "his ecstasy".
But I guess all performers react differently. Would any of the musicians on this list care to comment about their own experiences with stage fright?
Kate (Not a musician!)
Original message from : Robert Merkin <bobmerk@EARTHLINK.NET>
Subject: Re: [F_MINOR] Drugging in the classical music world
Date: Oct, 20, 2004, 5:26 am
This seems to be about Stage Fright, maybe my experiences provide a little insight. I've acted a lot, beginning in college. I always loved it, but the moment that the audience began to have lots of people in it -- before opening night, during rehearsals -- I got stage fright, clearly a big, obvious dose.
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