Monday, July 25, 2005

A Humbling Experience

Continuing with the theme of Humility (apparently), I was a guest on a show this past weekend on WGN Radio. It was one of those deals where the host helps promote a theatre show by having the actors do a short excerpt. The performance went fine, but what stuck with me was how VERY different live radio broadcasting is from, say, commercial radio voiceovers. I was frankly in awe of our director, who's done live radio before, because he was so... um... "immediate", I guess. He could verbally react — seemingly within a nanosecond — of any question put to him, and coherently as well (no "umm" or "ahh" spacefillers). Matter of fact, one of my fellow cast members was asked a question on air, and though they answered after maybe at most a second of thinking how to respond, both Host and Director went into a happy riff about how brain-dead theatre actors are in the morning.

Then there was the issue of my headphones. I figured they'd be dead until we went live, so I wasn't concerned that I couldn't hear anything beforehand, but when we did start our segment my cans were still dead and I felt helpless. I looked to the booth for the sound engineer since, in commercial voiceovers, the engineer is god-in-charge-of-all-equipment (and woe betide the actor who messes with anything), but the engineer had actually stepped out of the booth and was nowhere to be seen. I made a motion to our director indicating my plight and he — with not a little exasperation on his face — calmly walked over and twisted a knob that was basically right in front of me. That brought up everyone else's voice in my ears, but strangely not my own, so I just forged ahead and made guesstimates as to how far I had to be from the mike to keep from blowing it out on some of my louder lines (from talking later to those who heard the show, I apparently succeeded in this).

Between these experiences and numerous small other instances during that hour or so, I came away feeling like a bit of a moron, at least when it came to live radio. Which, since I'm a glass-half-full kind of guy, isn't all that bad — it's good to keep your talent and experience-to-date in perspective, and realize that you have much to learn from other performers and in other areas of live performance. Humbling experiences can be good teachers. In fact, I daresay the line between "humbling" and "humiliating" is just how well you're able to put your ego aside so you can draw good information from the whole thing.

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