Before I move on with the post let me say that being the MC is something I like doing and for the the first few years that we did our street shows (which was what last night's show was) I never put myself in the lineup. Preparing for the show required a lot of my attention and I didn't often feel that I had time to prepare a solo performance in addition to everything else. Also, the street is a bit of a chaotic venue and keeping an eye on the crowd, responding to last minute SNAFU's that crop up and just keeping track of all the performers in a space without a back stage requires focus - running the show is often all I feel capable of doing. Finally, there is no dressing room on the street and I often find it difficult to switch between me as MC/ringmaster and me as solo dancer without a costume change. So not being in the lineup was nothing new for me and in fact for these particular shows it was my preference for several years.
The show went very well and we drew a large crowd, my guess is 200 or so people. As with any live show there were a few bumps but all of the performers did their best; the band was lively and clear, the dancers beautiful and jingly, the comedy funny and the fire spinners bright and awe inspiring. It was a solid show.
After the final bow the audience began to disperse and as often happens people made their way to various performers to congratulate them and tell them what a wonderful job they did. I stood in the middle of all of this, listening to the words of support and way-to-go's that everyone else was receiving. It took a moment but I realized soon that no one was approaching me and I began to feel a little uncomfortable and a bit foolish. I wanted to pout at everyone and say, "Hello. Um...doesn't anyone know how much work went into making this happen? Hey...you know who did that work? ME! Won't someone please come tell me what a good job I did? Um.....please? Please?"
I didn't of course and instead made my way across the square to my dad who told me I did a great job and what a wonderful show (thanks Dad). After which I went for wings and a drink with a fellow cast member and then went home and crashed.
Now contrary to what things might seem this post is not about me sulking over not getting enough kudos after a show (okay maybe a little but it isn't the main point). This morning as I sat on my back porch drinking my coffee and scribbling in my journal about the prior evening it occurred to me that there isn't any reason why anyone on the audience would have any idea that I did anything other than just show up, announce the performers and go home. . Really, how would any of them possibly know how much preparation each show takes or that I manage a troupe of 16 people? They wouldn't of course and for them the show wasn't me walking out and saying, "Ladies and Gentlemen I now introduce to you..." It was the dancers, the music, the jugglers, the fire spinners, etc.
And now to the real point of this post. As I wrote those words in my journal I had the realization that this applies to so many of the people we encounter in our everyday lives. We don't know what is going on behind the scenes with anyone really. The people standing next to you at the bus stop, with their briefcases and shiny shoes might have had to spend ten minutes convincing themselves that today was worth getting out of bed for. The guy who accidentally bumped you in his hurry down the sidewalk and didn't stop to apologize might be running to meet a lover who has returned after a long business trip. The kid in his ripped jeans staring into space might be stoned out of his gourd or he might be composing poetry. The super cheerful cashier behind the checkout counter might be thinking how it's been one year to the day since her last drink and she wonders if she will ever stop craving it.
Whether it is someone we see every day or a stranger on the street, what we see for the most part is the outside; the show, the costume, the adopted facial expression. We have no idea how much or how little effort it might take for that person to face each day. We don't have a window into the troubles and joys that they may be carrying in their heart. We don't know what keeps them awake at night or what happy thoughts might lull them into slumber.
When I see a show that someone else has produced or directed, knowing the work it takes, I will often go out of my way to find that person to congratulate them on a job well done. Now if I were to walk up to each person I encounter and say, "Congratulations on being alive and for making it through whatever it is that brought you to this moment today. Good job!" I'd likely either be thought of as anything from cutely weird to totally insane; I'd also have no time to do anything else. However what I can do is keep in mind that just as so many in last night's audience had no idea what goes on behind the scenes of a show, I have little to no idea what is going on behind the scenes in the lives of others and perhaps by recognizing that behind that mask and costume is a person with their own unseen struggles, joys and burdens, I (all of the rest of you too) can become a more compassionate and understanding audience member in this grand show that is humanity.
And let me just say congratulations to each of you for making it to right now. Whether you had to fight every step of the way or you danced down a path of daises I'm glad you made it here. Good job!