There aren't that many show-stopping hazards for the average storyteller, but laryngitis would certainly be one of them. Today was the BC Teacher-Librarian Association conference and I had two appearances to survive - the first, a panel with four Vancouver Island authors (Karen Rivers, Sheryl McFarlane, Kit Pearson, et moi...) moderated by former features editor of the Times-Colonist, Carolyn Heiman. This wasn't too bad - was able to suck on cough drops, speak softly, let the others talk a lot. Next was a quick lunch (minimal chatting required) followed by an author signing (again, much cough-dropping, water sipping, nodding... and, I might add... not much signing - lots of authors, lots of teacher-librarians, but not a whole lot of book-buying going on! Of course... they must all already have my books! Yes, that's it.)
Anyway, feeling like my head was encased in one of those old-fashioned diving helmets and my voice threatening to disappear again completely, I had to take the stage in the theatre and deliver a performance of the Marriage of Sir Gawain... Much stress. Huge relief that the microphone worked. With an intervention from the Gods of Story I got through it, though having been unable to do my usual neurotic rehearsing, it wasn't as tight a performance as I would have liked... And the venue (blinding lights shining in my eyes so I couldn't see the audience) was not the best for delivering a top notch performance. Storytelling is a very interactive, malleable, flexible kind of thing and when you can't see if the eyelids in the audience are open or drooping, it's hard to connect with the listeners.
The feeling is a bit like being alone in a shower and holding forth about something or other and then realizing there is actually nobody listening and having this horrible moment of self-consciousness that closes the throat and sets me to humming some inconsequential tune in a feeble attempt to reassure myself that I'm not losing my mind. This doesn't usually happen during a storytelling performance because when things are going well and I can see my audience properly, there's a lot of give and take - a conversation of sorts is going on so I really don't feel like I'm talking to myself.
But today, the strange combination of feeling a bit cut-off from everyone else in the room and having consumed far too much Tylenol and Echinacea and not doing my usual vocal warmups (with no voice, it seemed a bit pointless and I was seriously worried that I would use up whatever voice I might have had left) the whole thing was a bit of a psychadelic experience. As a final aside, it is very strange that this audience dissociative disorder doesn't really happen during a stage play - not just becuase usually one doesn't stand up there on the stage doing a very long monologue, but also because there's a script, whereas the story is a very fluid beast that can turn on the teller when the teller is feeling a little under the weather. I am guessing the feeling is more like hanging yourself out to dry as a stand-up comic - something I've always wanted to try but dread so much I've never bothered.
Good grief - what a ramble. After all that, came home and mucked out the paddocks, fed the horses, and then collapsed on the couch to sort of listen to the hockey game. I say sort of because I kept falling asleep. Did rouse myself to vertical position to hear the last 5 minutes of the game, followed by a heart-stopping 4:59 worth of overtime. And I'm glad I did because my beloved Canucks managed to pull out the win with only .7 of a second left to go!!!!!! Thank you, Sami Salo - you rock my world!
All of this was followed by an absolutely delicious dinner prepared by Dad who, entranced by France, cooked some scrumptious beef/onion/garlic/red pepper-laced rich sauce served up with herb-crisped roasted poatoes. Yum!