There were ten minutes left before the curtain would go up, ten minutes before my opening lines, ten minutes before the show would begin and I couldn’t look back. And that’s when I heard it.
Sitting in the dressing room, with ten minutes to go, I heard glass shatter out on stage. I raced around the corner, down the hall, and past the curtain to discover that a stagehand had tripped over my table and a prop (made mostly of glass) had shattered into a hundred pieces on the floor.
It doesn’t matter what the prop was, what matters is that you understand that it was essential to my performance. I had been working on a new part of the show for weeks and that prop played a pivotal role in that part of my act.
I was instantly disappointed. All of my work was for naught, my new idea wouldn’t get onstage after all, and I didn’t have a backup plan for that part of the show. I was furious.
My first impulse was to panic. I wanted to scream or throw something or place blame somewhere. Anywhere. I needed somewhere to direct my frustrations. I needed an external place to direct my rising temper. The pressure of the looming performance was getting to me and, now that my new idea was destroyed, it was all I could do to not tear my props down, pack it all up, and head home.
I almost panicked. Almost.
But then, I forced myself to take a deep breath and surveyed the scene. The audience would be here in ten minutes, the show was going to start whether I was ready or not. Freaking out wasn’t going to solve anything. If nothing else, it would just make it worse.
I sat down for a moment and tried to work out a solution. I couldn’t repair it, I didn’t have time to run to my studio for a replacement, and I didn’t really have anything to replace it with.
What to do?
And then, as I sat motionless in the dark, I had a moment of inspiration. It started small, as all ideas do, then grew bigger and bigger, until it had replaced any other idea I’d had up until that point. In that moment of near-panic I found the solution.
I had created something even better than my original plan.
I raced back to the dressing room, grabbing whatever miscellaneous props I could find. Everything was right in front of me, just waiting for me to put the pieces together. I swept the stage, placed the new props in place, and went back to the dressing room to get focused.
There were five minutes left before the curtain would go up, five minutes before my opening lines, five minutes before the show would begin and I couldn’t look back. And that’s when I knew that this would be one of my best shows yet.
All because I didn’t panic.