Worst show of my life! Now what?

Black and white image of a woman with her hand on her face

So you had a bad performance, now what? As a teacher I’ve had a few students come to me after a bad performance wondering what to do. After having this conversation a few times, I thought it was worth writing down the advice that a regularly give out.

First of all, and before you even start performing understand that we are all only human and we have good days and bad days. New spaces, different audiences and malfunctions are all things that could throw you, the key is recognising what is in your control and what isn’t. With that in mind here’s my advice for dealing with the disappointment of a bad performance.

1. Sleep On It

Don’t decide that night that you’re never performing again. Emotions are running high after a show, put it out of your mind for a day or two. The best thing you can do is try and relax. Don’t beat yourself up, what’s done is passed and stressing out at 2am doesn’t help anyone.

2. Debrief

Do you have a friend or mentor who can talk it over with you? Call them, set up a time. If not, it’s time to get out the pen and paper. When you’re ready you want to ask yourself these three questions:

  • How did the audience react?

Was the audience enjoying your performance? We have a tendency to be our own worst critic, and that’s fine, it helps up to set our own standards and drives us to do better but, and this is what I repeatedly tell my students: The only person who knows what your routine is meant to look like is you. As long as you look like you know what you’re doing they’ll believe you.

If the audience enjoyed your performance it really wasn’t that bad.

  • What wasn’t in my control?

Did you go out to a cold audience? Did you struggle to get ready in time because you spot in the line-up changed? There are all kinds of reasons that are out of your control that might affect your performance. It’s important to recognise these, it will help you put things in perspective. Things on this list could include; technical hitches, last minute line-up changes, poor show organisation (it happens), a very cold audience, etc.

  • What was in my control?

Now for the hard part. This is the uncomfortable bit. It’s time to appraise your performance honestly. Last minute line-up change? Not your control. How you react to a line-up change? Absolutely in your control. Once you’ve identified what is in your control it’s time to figure out what you do to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Forgot your choreography? Practice more and work on your improvisation skills.

Costume broke? Inspect your costumes as you pack them for a gig, keep a repair kit on hand.

Something threw you and you got stressed? Maybe consider practicing some mindfulness, find a way to manage stress backstage.

This process is NOT about beating yourself up. It is about honest appraisal and preparing yourself for the future.

3. Let. It. Go.

Now that you’ve been through the process above. Put your actions into practice, make it part of your pre-show routine and then let it go. Treat it as a learning experience.

We all make mistakes, use it, learn from it.

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