On Saturday night, I will be headlining the Pound Ridge Storytelling Festival in Pound Ridge, New York. It will be my first hour onstage.
If you're in the neighborhood (or even if you're not), you should come. I'll be telling a series of interconnected stories from my dozen years working for McDonald's. There will be a lot of laughs, plenty of suspense, and perhaps even a few tears.
Up until this point, the longest time I've spent on stage telling stories (other than hosting a slam) has been about 15 minutes.
I'm excited. Perhaps a teensy-weensy bit nervous.
But in terms of being nervous, here is what I have discovered about myself:
1. I am rarely nervous about performing. Almost never. In fact, early in my storytelling career, one of my storytelling heroes and a many-time Moth StorySLAM and GrandSLAM champion took me aside and said, "The problem with you is that you're never nervous, so you need to tell a great story every single time. The audience has no reason to like you until you start speaking, and what you're saying had better be good."
He made a good point. I often take the stage supremely confident, and this may not be terribly endearing to the audience. And these words came from one of the best storytellers in the world, and also from a man who looks at least a little nervous (and sometimes a lot nervous) every time he takes the stage.
2. I am never nervous onstage. In the handful of times that I have felt truly nervous, it was always before the performance. Anticipatory nerves. Once I am in front of the microphone and speaking, any nervousness that I am feeling washes away.
3. I become nervous when expectations are high.
- I became nervous four years ago before taking the stage at the Nuyorican Poet's Cafe to tell my first story for The Moth.
- I became nervous before a Mainstage performance at the Wilbur Theater in Boston when I discovered how much the tickets to the show cost.
- I became nervous at my first Moth GrandSLAM championship when I saw the founder of The Moth, George Dawes Green, sitting in the audience for the first time.
- I feel a little bit nervous about Saturday night because I know that the people who run this festival are depending upon me to perform a solid hour of storytelling and essentially close their festival on a high note.
In the first three cases, those nerves disappeared once I began talking, and I am certain that this will be the case on Saturday night as well.
If not, it will perhaps be even more interesting to watch.