Tuesday, March 18, 2014

ready to play the role of a lifetime

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I have terrible stage fright. The kind accompanied by butterflies, nausea, diarrhea, amnesia, cold sweat, self doubt, blindness, shortness of breath, and beet-red flushing of the neck.

It isn't funny.

Unless, of course, you know me well enough to know that I have been performing in public in one forum or another most of my life. That makes it pretty funny.
Annie at Charleston Music Hall - Richard Futch, Cindi Carver-Futch, Caroline Hamrick (c)2012 Gamil Awad
I became a church pianist at the age of 12. Yes, 12. I chose hymns, played them, and led the congregation. I was terrified, but there was no one else to do it. I have continued to play piano and lead worship in churches across the state, from small Protestant congregations (12+) to great Catholic cathedrals.

I played the saxophone in high school and college. Tenor and the great deep baritone sax. Marching band, symphonic concerts, pep band, jazz band, solo and ensemble competitions. I did it all. I even performed in the opening day parade of the 1982 World Fair.

I have been an actor, starring in church Christmas programs in my early teens, working with community theater after college, and performing with various professional troupes in my 20s. I even performed a one-woman show at the Gibbes Museum of Art, portraying the 18th century artist Henrietta Johnston. I was so convincing the children in attendance asked if I was a ghost.

You would think after all this performing, the stage fright would resolve itself. Or, you would think that with such debilitating stage fright I would never step foot in front of an audience again. I wish it was that easy. But while the stage fright doesn't go away, I just can't seem to stay off the stage.

And here I go again.

In May, I will once again tread the boards at the Footlight Players on Queen Street, this time as a member of the inaugural cast of LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER: CHARLESTON.

So what is LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER, other than a phrase you've unwisely tried to ignore your whole life?

LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER (LTYM), the brainchild of blogger Ann Imig, began in 2010 in Madison, Wisconsin. Now a national program, LTYM productions will be mounted in 32 cities across the US in 2014. Each production is directed, produced, and performed by local communities for local communities, and each production donates a percentage of ticket proceeds to a local charity.

The LTYM shows feature live readings by local writers on "the beauty, the beast, and the barely-rested of motherhood" in celebration of Mother’s Day. While the show is performed live in each community, all readings are recorded and available on the LTYM website and YouTube channel for the entire world to enjoy.

Yikes. The world is a big audience.

As soon as I heard about the local production, I knew I wanted to audition. I have a mom. I am a mom. I am also a writer and have some stories that I think are worth sharing. I was confident going into my audition. After all, this isn't my first rodeo. My last role was just two years ago, when I played the worst mother figure imaginable, Miss Hannigan in Annie.

But here's the big difference: this time, I am not going to be a character in a play. I can't hide behind an accent or a costume piece, toy with an instrument or a bit of staging. I can't razzle-dazzle them by belting out a song. I can't be the comic relief or play the straight against another actor.

The person on that stage? It will be me, Cindi Carver-Futch. And the lines? They will be my story. If the audience doesn't laugh, doesn't cry, doesn't applaud, there will be no one else to look to but me. I can't blame the dramatist or the lyricist, the choreographer or the director.

I should be scared out of my wits.

Maybe on May 4th I will be. But right now I am not worried. And I don't think I will be then, either. Because for the first time in my life, for better or for worse, I will stand in front of an audience in the role I was born to play.


There's not another person in the universe who can play me like I can. I think I'll do ok.

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