Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Dying of embarrassment

WHEN YOU ARE handed ponchos as you take your front-row seats for a Blue Man Group show or a SeaWorld presentation, you have a pretty good idea that you’re going to be part of the splashing-good-fun action.

I had no such heads-up when Marcia and I secured front-row seats for Broadway’s The Play That Goes Wrong during a trip to New York. I was excited that we were able to get to see the British comedy I had heard so much about, centered on an amateur drama group whose production becomes a catalog of disasters.

And then it all got a little bit uncomfortable. With the pre-curtain stagehands’ last-minute preparations actually part of the show, it became apparent, I found myself reluctantly dragged up on stage to hold up a piece of scenery that kept falling down despite my best efforts.

Needless to say, there were further humiliations in store over the next few minutes. They included my inability to pick up a toolbox that must have been held down by a remotely-controlled magnet every time I tried to lift it.

It was all good-natured fun, and I got a sympathetic round of applause when I was finally allowed to return to my seat. But those few minutes in the spotlight left me feeling surprisingly awkward.

There was a time when I was terrified of public speaking. The mere thought of having to address a group of people would make me queasy and dizzy. But that has passed over the years as I have found myself doing some preaching and teaching. I still get nervous, but I’m able to overcome the fear.

Not so when it comes to performing rather than presenting. There’s something about having to pretend in some way that makes me go cold. Maybe it’s because I have no talent for acting, but I feel like people will look at me and laugh—and not because they are supposed to.

It’s a weird thing. It’s not as though I’m the greatest orator; anyone who’s been told “Thank you for trying” after a sermon can’t claim to be a speaker of much note. But somehow, I am way more comfortable at failing as myself instead of as someone else. As a person who long struggled with insecurity, I guess it’s a sign of some progress.

That’s got to be worth a round of applause, no?

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