I was performing at my first school of the tour here in Rio de Janeiro today for a group of about 6 eighth grade classes, yes dreaded middle schoolers, when about 2 minutes into my performance the power went out. No lights, no air, nothing! What would you do? How would you handle that?
If you know anything at all about developmental levels then you know that a large group of eighth graders are the last people on earth you want to be standing in front of on a stage in a blacked-out room. I could feel the tension in the air, not coming from the children but their teachers and administrators.
I used the environment to my advantage. I shifted mental gears, re-arranged my repertoire and altered prosity in an attempt to affect my audience’s attentiveness. Remember that when one of our senses becomes impaired, and I would consider their sight as having been impaired being thrust into sudden darkness, our other senses heighten. They had become, not by choice, listeners and my jobs was to aid them in becoming focused listeners. I paced around and across the stage more than I would normally do in order to redirect the angles my voice was coming to them. I, purposely, walked into blind areas of the stage where it was more difficult to see me while continuing to talk in order to challenge those among them who were more sight oriented. As a performer, artist, teacher, musician or whatever, you’ve got to use the environment to your advantage.
I can’t take all of the credit for the ease with which the performance went or total sense of harmony that was established in the pitch black room. I would like to say, “Me, yes I… myself am responsible for the amazing performance under less than desirable conditions,” but I must give credit where credit is due. Theses 8th grade classes exhibited such a high degree of maturity that every adult present was left in awe of them.
During the performance I made sure that they knew how stellar I thought their behavior was under the conditions.
By the time “my” 8th graders left, we were indeed a community. The reciprocity that I experienced left me feeling energized for the next group that I would have to perform for in the dark, 4th and 5th graders.
Let’s fast forward to my impromptu meeting with the 4th and 5th grader teachers at the side of the stage before the performance. You could not have imagined a more frightened group of people. They were frightened for me and the inevitable lack of discipline that they thought I was about to experience on a dark stage in front of their classes. I smiled. I smiled even more and then let them know, “I’ve got this handled. If anyone gets injured or there is a loss of blood involved, I’ll call on you guys.”’
They all seemed to exhale, albeit cautiously, for the moment and allowed me to ascend the stage (alone, sans armed guards).
I could go into more details about the performance and what occurred but suffice it to say that the 4th and 5th graders were as calm, cool and collected as their 8th grade counterparts.
I love it when people who work with a set group of children on a daily basis get an opportunity to witness them exceed everyone’s expectations. I live for that and I love it!
I possess an incalculable number of experiences where I’ve been approached by educators with concerned or worried looks on their faces because, not knowing me, they doubt their students abilities to conduct themselves in a mature manner. I “always” let them know, “I’ve got this.”
The last performance was for the 7th grade classes. Still no power, no lights, no air.
How did it go? Smooth as butter baby!
Yes… I said it that way. After 3 successful performances in a pitch black room with middle schoolers I’ve got every right to gloat.
I’m proud of the people I met today and myself as well. This was one of those challenges that helps you demonstrate, for yourself and others, what you’re truly made of.
My attitude after today? Bring on tomorrow… I’m ready for ya baby!