Something that’s been floating around in my head for a few years crystallized recently after a couple of conversations with my students – it’s about what to do when something goes wrong in your performance, or, more accurately, how to change your mindset about how to react.

We often find that if something goes wrong, especially something that our audience sees, or that makes us look foolish, it’s very hard to overcome the desire to shrink away, to look sheepish, to apologize. And the reason for that is because, in our culture, that is what is normally required, in a normal social situation. We have sort of an unconscious “societal contract” that that is how we behave to be accepted again: to look sheepish, often to apologize. And then everybody says “Oh, it’s OK” and you get on with your life.

It becomes easier to let this behavior go when you remind yourself that, as a performer, this is not the contract you have with your audience. Letting go of any embarrassment you may have isn’t about you, isn’t selfish or arrogant; it’s about what you owe your audience. You owe it to your audience to let whatever happened go, and still knock their socks off. Your audience does not expect you to look sheepish or apologize – they expect you to blow it off, continue to be larger than life, and put on a great show. This is the audience-performer contract, and you owe them the best show you can put on, regardless of what happens.