My first big performance was a disaster. I was 14 & had only been juggling for about 6 months or so, I had taken my juggling balls in to school & shown a few friends what I could do. The word got around that I was a juggler & I was asked to do a spot in the year 10 arts evening show. I went home & put together a routine of what I thought was really high quality material. My 'routine' was a display of pretty much every trick I could do, grouped together in style & performed in order of difficulty. No music, no movement. Just a kid dressed in a shirt & waistcoat, standing on his own in the middle of a stage doing a bit of juggling.
That wouldn't have been all that bad if that was what had actually happened on the night.
I was asked if I had any special requirements lighting wise, not knowing any better I just said no. When the curtains opened I was stood staring at eight blazing suns & I couldn't see a thing. The audience saw a hesitant young lad, squinting at the lights, then he walked forward, looking down at his feet so as not to fall off the end of the stage.
After finding a spot where I was happy I would not disappear into the audience if I made a sudden move I waved at the crowd (still in silence you see) & made myself ready to begin my routine. My first trick was a three ball behind the back start. I swung my arm behind the back & threw the balls over my shoulder. I clawed at all eight circles I could see & only one of them happened to be a ball. The roof lifted with laughter as my beanbags thudded on the stage. After taking a bow I picked up & had another ago. I swiped again, this time I managed to bat one of the balls so that it bounced & rolled off the end of the stage. While the audience was laughing, I hopped down to retrieve my prop & twisted my ankle. I found my ball & limped back up onto the stage.
I gave up on the fancy start & started juggling, I completely gave up on the sequence of tricks I had painstakingly memorized & went through a selection of tricks which involved as few throws & as much carrying as possible. After planning an almost 5 minute long spot I was on stage for about 2. The two spare balls that I had for the five ball finish never left my pockets. I just wanted to get off stage as soon as possible.
All the while I had a voice in my head saying, "Get off the stage, you've failed, get off the stage now, it's too late, just get off the stage..." But luckily Freddie Mercury was singing "The show must go on" so I stuck it out (so many voices in my head, it's a wonder I'm still sane).
I went home, threw my balls in the bin & didn't talk to anyone.
It wasn't my finest hour, but I learnt that performing & juggling are two very different things. In reflection not everything was bad. I took the plunge & got up on stage in the first place, certainly no mean feat. I looked the part with a smart gentleman juggler image, I took my drops with good humour on stage (if not off it) & I carried on (despite the voices). Strangely at the end of the ordeal I received a nice round of applause. At the end of the day not everyone is a juggler.