I dried up on stage yessterday. Like, completely dried.
I was compering a spoken word night, and it was going really well, I had the audience laughing, heckling, doing spontaneous (not forced and awkward) audience participation, and I was riding high on it.
Then I read out the next name on the list 'And now, next up, we have "Sarah"!' Silence. Then, from the back of the room my friend and the night's founder John shouts 'I think it's thee, lass!'
John's great. He organises the open mic running order and, usually I'm on it, except this time I'd specifically said I would compere. I have a big poetry gig on the 12th, and figured it would be greedy to take up an open mic spot. John had flipped into autopilot and stuck me in there as usual. I'd seen it, but sometimes it seems like every fifth person I meet shares my name, so I'd thought nothing of it.
Now, normally I have a good memory for my own work, I don't like reading from a sheet of paper, when actors, singers etc are expected to memorise, so I try to leave the paper offstage. However, when I KNOW I'm performing I'll run through the poems in my head a few times before i go up there. It's not that I worry about forgetting my lines, more that running through the rhythms of my pems in my head calms me, like a mantra. However, last night I hadn't done this, and for the first time I learned the value of it. I couldn't remember a line.
I managed in the end to blurt out the first stanza of one of my poems, and then I lost it again. I spluttered and gabbled and made a few jokes about John dropping me in it aaaaaand....
In the end I managed to whip the last stanza out of the air - omitting the middle two - which, given that there is a narrative to the poem, made no sense at all. Then I finished on one of my much earlier poems - one that's ingrained on my synapses, and got off the stage with dignity.
Then I remembered that I was the compere and awkwardly shuffled back up to the mic to introduce the next, slightly more together, poet.
John SO owes me a pint.