In addition to running this blog, teaching, and being a full time graduate student I also work extremely part-time as an acrobat. My mentor used to tell his audiences that performers do what we do because for us applause is like those hugs we never got enough of as children. It’s one of the truest statements I ever heard about performers. Not that we all had bad childhoods, but that we are all extremely insecure people. This is the thing my mother (a non-performer who gave me plenty of hugs) understands the least about what I do. To her (and I’ve found to many non-performers) people who get on stage must be extremely self-confident because they can get up in front of people and do whatever they do. It is, in fact, just the opposite. We tend to be the sort who are so insecure we can’t believe we’re worth anything at all if we don’t have people periodically affirming us.
Which brings us to the actual subject of this blog post. I’d like to propose a new disorder called Post-Performance Letdown Disorder. This phenomenon it kind of like Seasonal Affective Disorder where people get all depressed and crotchety if they don’t seen enough sunlight. But in this case it’s brought on by a lack of applause rather than sunlight.
I don’t know how it works for other performers but I find this usually sets in after a series of performances. Things are going well as long as I get my regular injection of applause; it has a serious anti-depressant effect. But the minute I go off applause, I go into a funk. I’m like a junkie in withdrawal and I’ll be honest, I’m not all that pleasant to be around.
The real dilemma here is treatment. People with SAD can get those sunlamps with help. But I don’t think artificial applause machines are going to help. Performers are neurotic enough to see through the ruse—we’ll know that applause is for someone else. Someone who’s probably getting roles and getting stage time while we sit around being worthless. Did I mention we’re neurotic?
So until a valid treatment is discovered, people with PPLD are left with two options: go cold turkey off applause and wait for the withdrawal symptoms to dissipate or find another excuse to get applause. A sad fate indeed.