Fringe Fairies (by Yana Kesala)
Opening night in Winnipeg. The stage is dark. A spotlight comes up on a woman in a blue dress looking out into the distance. A funny memory crosses her mind and she laughs at the recollection.
“Big breath. You’ll be great,” responds a lady in the front row. I hadn’t asked for audience participation but heck, if this stranger already knows I’m gonna be great, who am I to argue?
It’s not the first time someone has misread the beginning of my show. The other time was in Chicago when I performed for an audience of people who have known me since diapers. They assumed that I had seen them, forgotten my lines, and laughed. At first it made me question whether I was acting well enough, or if the moment was unclear, or if the audience thought I was unprofessional. But it’s none of those things. The audience just wants to be involved, to be in on the secret. They want to watch and see something of me in the performance. They are doing what all the best audiences do: They are relating to the performer and putting themselves into her shoes.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I do what I do.
I often get asked if I want to get into acting for film. I’ve thought about it, but not for long, partly because I haven’t pursued that skill set and have no desire to attempt losing 50 pounds. But the main reason I don’t do film is because I love performing in front of a live audience. Early on in the process of writing my solo show, the audience became my scene partner. Which can be scary, considering that they are different every time. But it’s also beyond exhilarating. My script stays the same, but each audience reacts so differently. Some think I’m hilarious and give me lots of laughter (these are usually the audiences full of people with demanding mothers who relate all too well to my character) and others are just silently rapt (until, like last night, the final blackout came and people gasped!). There are the ones, thankfully not too often, that just don’t get it and can’t wait to leave and get to the beer tent already.
And then there are what I like to call the Fairy Godmother audiences. They are full of people who are rooting, with every fiber of their being, for you to succeed. Usually it’s in your hometown, like when I last performed in Seattle and had a sold-out house to friends who were sending so much love my way I almost got knocked over. But sometimes you are lucky enough to have that in a new town with a room full of strangers, with the Queen Fairy Godmother telling you right at the beginning that you’re gonna be great. And who’s gonna argue with her?
Nobody. Especially not this little Tinkerbell, who needs applause to live.