The stage and my nerves
By Maakomele Manaka
Orators have been a part of the human race since a time when man believed in stars. Before telephone lines, people would communicate with each other using only their voices that would travel across mountains. And the village poet would orate so loud that the last person outside the kraal would hear every drop of word he uttered. I just wonder if the poets were nervous before addressing the crowd?
I was recently performing at a poetry festival in Auckland Park, and I had the chance to listen to other poets and singers on stage, I started questioning my self if these guys, the modern orators, so bold on stage if they ever get nervous, because I had ten elephants throwing tantrums in my stomach and before I got on, I was in the bathroom for some time praying that I don’t swallow my words and disappointment my self.
As far back as I can remember, my parents have always been on stage, and so naturally I picked up the burden. I have been performing for almost 11 years and every time I am booked for gig, I get nervous a week before the show, my palms start to sweat, my arms feel weaker than my legs and my crutches cant hold me up.
I wondered if this is normal, so I check with the only person I know who has been performing since before my time, my mother, and she said, “I have been performing for over 25 years and I still get nervous”, and then she also said something that will forever live with me for as long I live, she said, “being nervous all the time before getting on stage, means that you respect your craft”.
Stage can be a beast to some people, the content could be very moving and insightful, and the delivery, if sour, can ruin the entire performance.
So, like many artist or should I say poets who dread stumbling over their words because of nerves, I watch and learn from a lot of old and new performing artists, how they handle themselves on stage, the likes of Hugh Masekela, Don Mattera, Bob Marley, Fela Kuti and Sibongile Khumalo.
As a writer one gets inspiration from awkward spaces, and as a performance poet, delivery and presentation is everything, because I don’t want the audience to get lost and bored. So, when looking at some of our ministers giving their speeches, I cant help but think that they need coaching in posture and delivery, the content is strong, the message is there though it gets lost in how they deliver, and people find themselves thinking of what’s for lunch three paragraphs into the speech.
President Barrak Obama and his political stand point may be questionable to others, though I don’t care who says what, the man delivers a speech and makes a person believe ”yes we can”, the way he holds his posture on stage addressing people, one would think he has a performance poet for a coach, and when comparing him to our president Mr. Jacob Zuma, his speeches sometimes loose their weight because of his delivery, he is not connecting with people, as supposed to when he goes into a song and dance mode, he is probably the only president who commands people’s attention by singing and dancing. Though, on a serious note, we need to believe in what our leaders are saying on podiums, and that happens when there is a connection with us from stage.
To connect on stage is to look at people in their eyes and command your audience, though all they seem to be doing is reading and losing people’s attention spend, I suppose I aught to be a speech coach for some of our ministers, Malema on the other hand needs no help in such matters, because even though he gets out of line when addressing the public, he commands the crowd, one is compelled to listen but after hearing what he has to say, I cant help but think that some people shut off, though nevertheless he commands his audience.
Stage is no joke, she can break or make a person, there is so much that goes into the craft of commanding one’s audience, and for some of us, it begins with nerves.