Last night was one of those nights filled with "Why do we do it?" moments.
I was doing a show for a corporate "Nostalgia Night". First of all I was given the wrong address by the booker (it's a good thing I planned to arrive early!) and had to drive 15 minutes more to get to the real venue. Inside, they had crammed 350 people into a room that seats about 300 and they'd filled the tiny stage with a small band and two trestle tables covered in awards. They were handing out the awards as people at entree and because the sound system was so bad I'm amazed anyone could understand what was being said at all.
I asked my contact if it was possible to move the tables off the stage so I could do my show. He seemed surprised at my request... maybe he expected me to perform in the corner, behind the lectern where the awards presenter was tucked away. That was the only piece of exposed floor on the entire stage! After initially telling me the tables were for the sporting panel segment later in the night, he did agree to move them, which was good.
I patched my headset lapel microphone in and started testing it. The hand-held radio mic everyone else was using was turned up so loud it was feeding back. My mic could only be turned up a tiny bit before it started feeding back too. I did expect it as I've worked that room before. It was funny though because while I was testing the mic a guest called me over to his table and, indicating the hand held mic said "Use the other mic". I started to explain to him that I needed my hands, there was no mic stand, and the hand held was distorting to high heaven.. but instead I just said "Thanks".
The show began and, though challenging to capture everyone's attention in such a noisy environment with such meager amplification, the show did go well. It even went better when a waiter wandered up onto the stage and started flicking lights on and off throughout the room before finally settling on one that actually lit the stage up!
"Why do I do it?" For the applause at the end of the show, the looks of amazement, and the people coming up afterwards saying how much of a good time they had... It's rewarding, in a weird sort of a way, to know that you can somehow create a sense of magic in such a difficult environment.
Sue-Anne, on the other hand, was performing in the beautiful ballroom of Rippon Lea. However, just like my function, they'd crammed the customers in and her promised 3m deep dancefloor/performance space was only 1.5m deep. She was able to use the "boutique" stage behind her as well, but the audience was too close as she was to discover later!
She was doing her 30 minute 'I Dream of Jeannie' stage show and, from the moment the music started and she entered from the back of the room, the audience was enraptured. They clapped along non-stop during her opening linking rings routine, verbally gasped at her floating table, and laughed at the revelation of her McCombical style parking meter production. But it was during the dancing hanky routine that she had a "Why do I do it?" moment.
As Jeannie was running around the space trying to catch the animated hanky, a rather "excited" guest - perhaps caught up in the fantasy of the whole thing - decided Jeannie could use her help. She literally appeared from nowhere and in a flash was up with Jeannie helping her catch the mischievous handkerchief. She grabbed him tightly and refused to let him go! So tightly in fact, that when Mr Hanky was put in his box at the end of the routine and sat up for one last "death throe" it was the end of his performing career.
Sue-Anne was kind enough not to embarrass the lady and simply said "My, you are a feisty one!" as the giggling lady returned to her seat, but inside I'm sure she was saying "Why do I do it?"
Her answer though, is undoubtedly the same as mine. At the end of her show the cheering and applause were loud and long, with people commenting on what a wonderful, magical experience they'd all just shared together.
Why do you do it?