I had planned to do some new material last night. I knew it was a risk to bring in a surprise element to my nightly routine, but the bit I had thought of earlier in the day, when bagging up the bite-sized strawberries and cutting the PB&J in half, was just too good to let go. I know my audience typically prefers me to stick to the bit, and even when there is collaboration, I know I need to be sure it's my audience who's making the call on anything new.
I just couldn't let this idea go, though. I had been stewing on it all day, and I knew if I could just get a chance to try it out, I might take things to a new level. So I did it. I went for it. I put it all out on the table. I started as usual: I baked the fake chocolate birthday cake and pretended it burnt my hands when I took it out of the fake oven, but then, during the part where I normally recuperate through vigorous crazy-arm-waving and fanning and hopping up and down as a reaction, I did my new bit. I huffed and puffed and blew on my hands to try to cool them off from the fake burning. I thought it was ingenious, but I knew right away it was a mistake. The crazy-arm-waving and fanning inspired by Daniel Stern in Home Alone would get me a guaranteed belly gut laugh and at least 3 requests in a row to - quote - 'do it more.' But the huffing and puffing? Nothing. Silence. Maybe even anger. Yes, definitely anger. Almost resentment, like a betrayal. And then....'No. I don't like it.' And more silence.
That was that. My audience didn't like it. That meant it was over. Not just the new bit, or the bit about the fake burning of the hands, but the whole thing: no more fake birthday cake in the crib anymore. No more fake birthday party for the bedtime buddies. Those poor stuffies. Because of my bad judgment, and my audacity for creative risk, they are now without this nightly routine and will no longer receive the cake made of air and the dregs of my energy at the end of a long day. I was no longer going to play the Bedtime Chocolate Birthday Cake Baker, a role I had been doing 7 nights a week for several months.
I felt bad, I felt unsure of myself as a performer. Where exactly had I gone wrong? Sometimes my new material would knock my audience out of the park. Like that time I portrayed a common jungle snake and got 'caught' under the coffee table whilst out for a casual slither. That was a hit, a huge hit! Or when I put all the household hats on my head and introduced myself as Mrs. Hat Rack, a crotchety old type who, it turns out, is just unhappy because the hats have been covering her eyes for so long, and when they are finally removed, she is able to smile and see the world for the first time. Knocked that outta the park, if I might say.
My last night as Bedtime Chocolate Birthday Cake Baker left me in kind of a funk. I questioned everything I had been about. I knew I couldn't stay down long, though. Another day would present not only an opportunity for new performances but also a demand. So, I put together my resume. It reminds me of all the work I've done in the past 3 and half years, and it gives me the confidence to move forward. It lists my experiences, all of which I am proud. It showcases my skills and what I've accumulated and how far I've come. I'm thinking about giving it to my audience as a gentle reminder of what I'm capable of. The only risk there is the chance the audience will want to see all the roles performed at the same time and at that exact moment. Or the resume itself will become a canvas for a unique piece of art.
My audience has clearly shaped the kind of performer I am, and has given me a new voice in this artistic world. I'm grateful to my audience for helping me become the actor and person I never knew I could be. That old saying is true: 'Audiences can be tough, but without them, we're just out here crazy-arm-waving and fanning for no one.'