What to do when you faceplant on stage

On Wednesday, I had a bad show.

It happens. And as performers, we all must deal with it at some point.

But it’s how you deal with it that makes the difference.

Now, it’s not like I tripped and busted open my face (which I’ve done) or accidentally took a swan dive off the end of the stage (which I’ve also done) or slipped and fell so spectacularly that I took flight in mid-air (which I’ve also done – are you sensing a theme here?)

No, I just had a kinda “eh” performance. But you know what? It happens. It’s part of being a regular, working performer: you will have good days and bad days. And it’s unrealistic and arrogant to assume that every single one of your performances should be OMG ON FIRE BURNING DOWN THE FUCKING HOUSE.

It’s the gradients of performance – from the “eh that was okay” to the spectacularly sizzling, audience-roaring, rafters-shaking moment – that make what we do so interesting on a long-term basis. It sets a pattern for growth and improvement. Every time you have an “eh” show, you should try to examine it and take away a lesson if possible.

What you should NOT do is beat yourself up, and under no circumstances whatsoever should you throw a temper tantrum backstage.

I once worked with a performer who regularly did this, and it made backstage a nightmare experience. I would watch her do a perfectly nice routine, and then she would storm backstage, throw down her clothing and burst into tears, wailing and moaning while the rest of us were trying to get ready for our next set. Not only did it create a tense and uncomfortable atmosphere backstage, I came to dread performing on the same bill with her.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t be upset if you experience a massive mistake on stage – but you need to be mindful of others around you. Throwing a hissy fit backstage is childish, self-centered, and disrespectful of your fellow performers. Same goes for when someone compliments you and you respond with “Oh god that was SO awful I just SUCKED!” Shut up, smile, and take the compliment. It’s only polite, and if you don’t agree, keep it to yourself.

Remember that most of us are over-rehearsed perfectionists, and what appears to us to be a glaring mistake is most likely something the audience never noticed. Remember, the audience doesn’t know your choreography – so if you fuck up, just smile and keep going!

Plus, I’ll let you in on a little secret: the audience actually likes it when we screw up, because it makes us look more human. It adds an element of realness, and quite frankly, it’s part of the thrill of live theatre. If you can recover gracefully from your misstep or mistake by smiling, giggling, and boldly forging onwards without missing a beat – then they’re going to love you even more than if you hadn’t messed up in the first place. Trust me on this. Everyone roots for someone who can get right back up after a fall and keep going. As my dear friend Devilicia once told me (after I faceplanted on stage during the Miss Exotic World competition in 2005) you have to do like Mr. T and RECOUP:

If you fuck up – it’s okay! Take a deep breath. If you find yourself so upset that you need a moment, excuse yourself from backstage and take a walk around the block. Grab a smoke or a drink. But for chrissakes, don’t be so freaking hard on yourself! You are but a mere mortal – albeit a fabulously sparkling one – and the cursed forces of gravity will get the best of all of us eventually.

Especially me. Every day is a war I wage against gravity, and most of the time I’m losing the battle.

And that’s okay, because what’s a couple of massive hematomas and fractured ribs in the name of entertainment?

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1 Comment

  1. “Every day is a war I wage against gravity, and most of the time, I’m on the losing side.”

    Few words have ever rung so true in this household! It seems, daily, I berate Gravity as the enemy. Ah, maybe in the next life, we’ll both be outfitted with gyroscopic self-righting mechanisms. Like Weeble-Wobbles. 🙂

    So glad you’re doing this! Write more!


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