Artist Horror Stories: The Audience Is the Enemy
Note: This was originally written as a monologue for a live theatre performance with the theme 'artist horror stories.'
A friend of mine claims to be my biggest fan. Unlike my mother, she goes to all my shows and sits on the front row. Unlike my sisters, she posts about my gigs and livestreams my performances. Unlike my girlfriend, she tells everyone what an amazing artist I am and how I'm the next Taylor Swift. Heck, she's already made me a Facebook fan page, proclaimed herself as the president of my fan club, and gotten into a spat with a basher or two.
Yeah, some days I feel like a celebrity.
Okay. Where’s the horror in that, you ask? Why wouldn't I rejoice over the fact that I have such an adoring fan? One who would go to war on my behalf when I'm criticized by strangers who don't even listen to my music in the first place? One who would believe in me when no one else would, myself included sometimes?
Well, picture this: I’m on stage, playing my guitar, singing an original composition. I close my eyes and give it all the feels. Tears even come when I forget myself and lose myself to the music. When I finish, my friend is there, standing in the front row. She's clapping and cheering so loudly, it doesn’t matter that there are actually only twenty other people in the crowd. She chants, “More! More! More!” and the rest of the audience succumbs to peer pressure and follows suit. Nevermind that she’s the only one who truly wants more.
Packing up after the gig, I hear my friend explain to a stranger what my song’s all about. She's so passionate about it, I’m touched. She gets it. She really gets it.
And then, while grabbing something to eat after the show, when it’s just me and her, she goes, “Hey, great job! You were kinda sharp at the end, though.”
The last song, she clarifies. The second to the last note of the last song.
Nuh-uh. She’s not done. Wait for it.
“Just a bit! Your rendition yesterday was better, less nasal. And, hey, about your setlist… do you really have to include that original song? It’s nice, but the tone’s not too catchy, and you eat your words sometimes, and your lyrics are a little too deep and needs explaining. Can’t you do covers instead? Everyone knows Insert-Popular-and-Overplayed-Song-Here-Taylor's-Version, that’s going to get their attention more than your experimental music.”
Please note that the series of performances in question is to promote my original works.
Look, it’s not that I don’t accept developmental feedback or constructive criticism. I do. I welcome it. But can you imagine having someone in the crowd who knows you so well, too well, that she's aware of every slip up, every mistake? Like, she can tell that you don’t normally sing certain lines in one breath because there’s breathing and everything and she’s heard you practice that particular song a gazillion times but for some reason you get so nervous you rush through the entire verse and she gives you hell for it afterwards?
Can you imagine going up on stage with the knowledge that, somewhere in the darkness, the person cheering for you the loudest will be the very same one who’ll be judging you the hardest?
Terrence McNally, in his play Master Class, sums it up perfectly through his lead character, opera singer and diva Maria Callas: “A performance is a struggle. You have to win. The audience is the enemy.”
And that, my friends, is the true horror.
About the author
Filipino author, singer-songwriter and theatre actress. Loves writing fantasy short stories, composing songs for books, and reading SFF and YA. Also writes romance, horror and scifi. Married and based in the UK. www.mariesinadjan.com