Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Festivals, singing and self doubt

Yesterday, was the culmination of months of planning and organising. Mostly just by me.
Now, I like to be in control as much as the next person, I have learnt over the years that if I want something done properly and in good time, then I can't rely on others to do it. This year was no exception unfortunately, despite the fact that I really needed the help, and asked for it on a number of occasions. I had a couple of people step up to help, but, helpful as those people were, somehow it didn't work out, and I ended up being made to feel a little useless on the day due to my apparent lack of foresight.

I don't know if I genuinely misunderstood them, or if I really just am that stupid, or if I should just ignore their upset comments and trust that I did everything I could to get this festival going, despite being under more than the normal amount of stress this year, and that their frustrations were not my fault.

It did go well, the students taking part had no idea of the things going wrong behind the scenes. Somehow, little old me managed to get 13 school choirs together, for 13 hours, provide them with 4 really amazing choral/stage workshops and then give them a night of performance opportunities a lot of them will likely never forget. That has to be a good thing, it's what this city (and this country) needs. A bigger push towards getting kids from all backgrounds involved in positive extra-curricular arts activities, by allowing them to join choirs which aren't focused on classical/arts music (generally considered boring, elitist and old fashioned). Singing music they listen to daily, singing in groups, holding harmonies and still working towards excellence. Having the chance to put their work on show. Keeping ticket prices low so that all parents feel able to come and be involved on the night. That's my vision for this festival, and so far it is working.

So why, after yesterdays mammoth effort of coordinating everything, looking after everyone, applying for all the funding, liasing with all the schools, and keeping everything running smoothly for 13 hours straight, after nearly ten months of planning, do I feel like I somehow failed?

Because, despite all the positives, the only things I can think about is everything that went wrong.

  •  I (wrongly apparently) assumed that my main help was handling ALL the technical stuff. I thought he told me that a sound check should be about getting them on and off the stage and singing perhaps a line of music, that they should need no more than 3 minutes to do that. So that's all I timetabled for sound checks. 
  • I also wrongly assumed that the schools would arrange to bring their own copies of the massed item music for their singers - some did, some didn't. Again, my main help questioned what I had done about this on stage in front of everyone, so obviously, I felt crap. Despite the fact that I had sent out music months ago to all schools and requested that they bring their own copies.
  • I felt rubbish about how knackered everyone was - the workshops were awesome, but by the end, the kids and presenters were completely shattered. Clearly I had overestimated what could be achieved. 
  • I also had somehow managed to get all the way to the event without arranging a stage crew, runners or front of house ticket takers. It's not that I hadn't thought about it, I'm pretty sure I even asked someone else to arrange it, but it just didn't eventuate. 
  • Parents complained because they were seated behind performers who constantly stood up in enthusiasm and blocked their view. I am in two minds about this one - yes I see their point, perhaps seating them at the front next time would be better, however I am focused on this being a very student orientated event, so I refuse to budge on having them sit anywhere but in the auditorium so they can watch the concert. 
  • There were major parking issues, heaps of people got parking tickets for parking in non parking areas - double yellow lines, on curbs etc. Our festival ran 20 minutes later than anticipated (which to be fair is not very late in school concert terms), and they were not happy. I again am focussed on the students, and feel that if you are going to park illegally, then don't get upset if you get a ticket. 
So, there is clearly a lot to think about for next time. I am now so tired I can hardly move from my bed. I took advantage of the post show excitement and emailed out to all the teachers about forming a committee for next year. Ideally, I just want to ensure that my vision and philosophy behind this event doesn't get distorted. That it remains student not profit focussed, and that it is as low cost to parents as it can be to ensure that choral singing doesn't get put into the 'elite' music category. I want to take a back seat now. I feel that things are well established, and that if a few people take over and share out the jobs, then it will run smoothly. More brains, more ideas, less oversights.

I have had a resounding yes from 3 people, and I know that my helpers from yesterday will definitely be on board. 

This project means a lot to me, and I want to see it keep going. Yesterday was essentially a massive success, and I wish I could feel as excited as other people are about it. 

Do you ever feel like you've failed despite everyone else telling you how amazing you are and that what you did was incredible?

Sunday, 28 July 2013


Today, I got told that I haven't written anything for ages.
Well yeah, I guess that's true. But to be honest, I feel silly writing about nothing. Nothing has happened since the show, except that I've gotten more pregnant.

I have been writing furiously on my pregnancy blog though, so feel free to check that out if you feel so inclined. But that's not the point of this blog. I started this one as an outlet for myself to connect with others and to help people understand a little more about anxiety, depression and mental health from an 'insiders' perspective.

I feel that I've had nothing happen to write about, and so I haven't written.

But I guess I'd be lying.

Soon after the show ended, I got very anxious and depressed again. I didn't go out, I didn't meet up with friends, I was super tired, incredibly unmotivated and basically went into hiding. But I didn't want to write about that. I mean, who wants to READ about that?  I don't want to be 'that girl' who moans online and goes sympathy fishing!

I found myself facing that realisation a lot of people like me come to. It's one thing to write about all the good stuff you're doing, and to inspire others to take steps to overcome their demons, and to do that yourself and be proud about it. But really, we are not telling the whole story. We reminisce about the bad periods while we are in a good zone, and talk about how well we are doing now. I was happy to talk about how bad things 'had' been, and about all the things I was proudly doing to make an effort to live the life I really wanted to be living. But the moment things got hard, I stopped talking about it. I felt ashamed, I felt 'stupid' and felt like I'd failed again.

I guess it's a double edged sword.
On the one hand, I want people to know, to understand and to stop stigmatising.
On the other, when things actually get tough and I actually have to 'deal' with the issues I'm blogging about, I actually don't want to share it anymore.

Hmmm, I'm going to have to think about this one.

Friday, 12 July 2013

I'm Still Here!

....just in case you were beginning to wonder.

Yes, it's been nearly a month since we did the show, and a month since I last wrote a blog here. I have been regularly writing in the pregnancy blog mind you, so it hasn't been all stop-stations in the writing department. By the way - feel free to check out the other blog, if you feel so inclined.

I figured, since it's been a rough month mentally, and it's now July, which is over half way through the year, and baby is due in just 10 weeks now (YIKES!), that it was time to evaluate and reflect on all that's been this year.

My new years resolution was ;

"to stop making excuses, and work towards achieving my dreams of being a performer."

And you know what? I think I've been successful. I may not have completed the original goal, which was to "work towards recording an album", but I feel that what I achieved with the Brass Band Concert, and then the Cabaret, actually far exceeded what I imagined I could do performance wise, and therefore, I am happy. (And to be honest, I wrote 5 pretty decent songs over christmas, so that actually counts that first goal as achieved also!)

Getting pregnant much faster than expected did throw a spanner in the works for a start, but after I got my head around that little bump (baha!), I actually really surprised myself with what I achieved in this past six months.

Sometimes it's good to put things into perspective, to stop beating yourself up about the little things that you haven't managed to do (the dishes, cleaning, all that marking for school), and take time to feel a little bit proud of what you have done. Here is my list so far this year;

  1. Performed solo at a brass band concert
  2. Flew all the way to Auckland by myself without taking any medication
  3. Saw Josh Groban perform live (life dream!)
  4. organised and performed in a scripted cabaret concert 
  5. sung solo with a head mic (squee!)
  6. acted with my husband (scary!)
  7. made it through the 1st trimester, and some heavy endless nausea
  8. made it through the 2nd trimester...just
  9. wrote and recorded (albeit on garageband in my house) 5 original songs
  10. put them ONLINE!!
  11. kept up these two blogs, forcing myself to put my own demons out there into the world.

What are the biggest thing I've learnt this year?

  1. That when you are open and honest about what you are going through, almost everyone around you reciprocates, and you realise you are not as alone as you thought you were.
  2. That I really enjoy performing live, and can manage a panic attack on stage.
  3. That writing makes me put things in perspective, and that I actually might be quite an ok writer after all.
  4. That I possibly, might actually be able to do anything...except maybe fly.

So, people, GO MAKE A LIST OF THE COOL THINGS YOU HAVE DONE SO FAR THIS YEAR, and then have a smile, and a wine and congratulate yourself just a little.

Time to go think of the next step to work towards in the 'becoming me' saga, what can I do to challenge my anxiety further? Oh yeah! Have a baby.
Maybe I'll go do that.

Until next time, here is a completely irrelevant, but very happy kitten.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Show Time

Saturday was the big day.
We had a full house!
We got a standing ovation!
That is crazy, as far as I'm concerned.

The Show

I woke up and instantly entered my anxious place - becoming quiet and feeling a little surreal for most of the day.  I busied myself as we waited for my parents to arrive and as our 3pm call time approached, making cards and organising the programmes and front of house paperwork. By 2pm I was quite nervous, and feeling queasy in my stomach. I knew we would have a full house, as we were already putting people onto our waiting list.

That was something I was having trouble comprehending - how many people suddenly wanted to come and see it!

3 O-Clock arrived, and we met everyone else at the theatre. They were all also nervous and freaking out and excited, which made me start to feel better. We attempted a run through
Which went terribly.
I couldn't remember a single word, lyric or line. I kept forgetting to speak. I kept forgetting what was happening.
Then I started to feel faint.

Immediately my brain switched into catastrophe mode. I hadn't eaten enough. I was too nervous to eat. I was going to ruin the show by fainting on stage. What if I ate too much and then was sick. I knew without a doubt that I was going to ruin everything!

Before I knew what was happening, it was 10 past 7, people were queuing at the door. There was no turning back now!

Take places side stage.
Lights to Black.
Enter Stage Left.
We were on!

Everything went smoothly. I didn't mess up the first song. The others sang amazingly. The crowd was giving a great energy, which we were reciprocating. Everyone was buzzing.

Then, four songs in, my worst fear hit out of nowhere. I was too hot, I couldn't breathe right, I couldn't leave the stage. I was feeling nauseas, faint, dizzy. I  began mentally going over options for getting off the stage. Then the 'what if's' kicked in.

"What if I faint?"
"What if I leave the stage and then pass out, and the show stops 'cos no one knows where I am?"

"What if I can't make it to the next song?"

Luckily, the next song came very quickly and I was able to recover within a few lines of singing. PHEW!

After that I was fine. I even started to have fun! The show went so well. So much better than I thought it could. I remembered all my words (well for the most part, and I successfully fudged the ones I did forget) and hit all my notes, and didn't drop any lines. WOOT!  We got some amazing feedback, and my parents were so so proud!
 "hope you are as proud of yourself as I am, of you! Wonderful show. Lovely people. Well done to all involved. This is what theatre in Christchurch should be aiming for. Nice to see a piece that was not afraid to show some raw emotion. Xxx"
"You all rocked. Totally blown away by the amazing voices. I can only hope to be at that level myself someday. Well done. (Oh, and the guy on keyboards was pretty good too!) "
"Great night out last night congrats to cast of Broadway here I come. Deserves a bigger audience. Well done Jessica and co, thoroughly enjoyed it. " 

To be honest, I don't think I have actually processed properly what it is that I achieved personally, or that we achieved as a new theatre group. Everyone is already talking about 'the next one'. All I am thinking is 'let me have this baby first!'

Personal Wins From the Show!

1) Performed solo for an audience
2) Sang with a microphone for a crowd
3) Acted out scenes that weren't sung
4) Managed a near miss panic on stage
5) Finally showed my parents what I can do!
6) said 'thanks' to all the compliments (usually I make an excuse)
7) Made my Dad proud!
8) Made me proud!
9) Achieved my new years resolution of doing more performing

9 wins is a pretty good number, don't you think?

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Dress Rehearsal

Literally until the lights went down and I was waiting back stage, I felt pretty ok about this dress rehearsal. I had managed to put a lid on the seemingly enormous number of people coming to it, and was confident that everyone in the audience was friendly and kind. 

These pleasant feelings of calm and control vanished very quickly in the minutes before we went on.

I wanted to be sick. 
I was feeling too hot.
I was convinced I would forget every word, that I'd look stupid, that this whole thing was stupid, that we would look like fools.

"I can't do it. We have to stop it now!" I whispered frantically to my husband who was waiting not far down from me.

"You'll be fine. You can do it." He replied.

I 100% did not believe him.

Lights went down, we all walked on. I didn't mess up my first few lines, and I even managed to get through the first song without mucking up. Success!
Unfortunately my nerves were only mildly placated by this achievement. As the act went on, and the audience failed to laugh where they should, my anxiety started to spike again.

It was true.
This is a piece of crap theatre!
We sound awful.
They hate it.
This is lame.
We should STOP NOW!

Act 1 over. 

It took only 40 minutes for act 1, so it's a relatively short show. Our director didn't give us any feedback at the 'interval' and we were all freaking out a little. 

My nerves had settled down a bit. I had made it through the act 1 songs and only stuffed up one word! As far as I was concerned, that was a WIN!

Act 2 was slightly shorter, and had a few more tech stuff ups, and one insanely long dead patch where someone forgot their line - which they finally recovered, and we moved on. 

Successes so far?
I didn't forget my words.
I didn't throw up on stage.
I didn't have a panic attack on stage.
We got really good feedback from the audience after wards.
The director said my acting was really good (phew!).
I felt ok in the end.

Now to face Saturday....and to remind myself "I'm doing this for my Mum!"
Act 2 'bar fight' - me on right looking pissed!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

3 Sleeps Till Show Time!

My plan is working.

I am stressed. And excited. And freaking out.

I have to keep calming myself down by reminding myself "I'm doing this for my mum."
That really does make me feel better. I think perhaps it's because if I focus on the fact that I only really care what my mum thinks about how it goes, then I feel a lot less scared about the fact that this is kinda all on my shoulders if it goes horribly badly.

Which it wont.

I hope.

Pre-Tech Rehearsal Photos

The 3 leading ladies (I'm far left)

Pissed off after another failed audition!

The fantastic Roz as Lucy

Karen mid song 
Saul having a thinking song moment
Pre- rehearsal briefing

Thursday, 6 June 2013

The Unfairness Of It All

I guess I've always been something of a feminist.
It probably began with my very Catholic upbringing. Having to listen to weekly sermons about the sinful nature of abortions, of young mothers, of adultery and all that other 'abominable' stuff.

I refused to get confirmed when I was 11 - siting that 'I wasn't sure that I really wanted to be'.
Then horror of all horrors, I refused to keep attending church when I was 13 years old.

That did not make my father happy. (Secretly, I think my previously anglican mum was a bit proud)

I was a very stubborn girl though, and wasn't about to give in. Not when I felt it was quintessentially wrong that it took both a man and a woman to create a baby, but that the woman would be the one who was demonised by society if she weren't married, was too young, or too poor. Then I saw a couple of girls forced to leave school because of the scandal it would create.
What happened to the boys?
Nothing. They later both graduated with a full education.
So I stuck to my guns. After weeks of Sunday arguments which went nowhere, I finally agreed to a compromise. I didn't have to go to church. But I did have to do the dishes instead.
I think my dad might have been a bit shocked when I said yes to this arrangement.

Question:  What did I learn from this experience?
Answer:  Society views women as weak.

It's a fact. We are not physically as strong as men. We cry more often. We ask for help more often. We take 'mental health' days more often. We need more sick days because of events created by 'mother nature'.

Basically, women take better care of themselves then men do. But for doing this, we pay quite a price.

To Be Continued...