Recently I played a two week run of My Fair Lady in Chicago. It was superbly professional, so it ran exactly the same every show, 8 shows a week.
Recently on The Long and the Short Of It podcast I heard a discussion of Vuja De – the opposite of déjà vu. The idea that you KNOW you’ve done the exact same thing before, but you FEEL as if it was completely fresh and new.
So this was what I tried to implement. I brought my attention to something different in every show, and tried to notice something new each time.
I noticed the harp part, the bass part. I tried to listen for all of the words on stage even while I was playing. I paid attention to the percussionist and admired the really CLASSY way he kept the group tight. I thought about the way my lungs expand and the way I use my body differently on the oboe and on the English horn. I engaged more actively with the intonation of the group to predictively match instead of adjusting each time I hit a given spot in the score.
And I continually looked for the magic, that moment in each show where everyone is pulling together or feeling the same thing. In the pit we are such pros – we all pull out our phones and books the second the dialogue starts, and read until the moment we have to play. You don’t see us reacting to the stage, not between numbers when it’s not our job to do so.
But when we’re playing, there’s an engagement, a connection, a feeling of support and intentionality. When everyone in the group, onstage and below the stage, are engaged in the same activity all at the same time, when people are taking their work seriously – THAT is the magic. It feels fresh every time. It’s Vuja De all over again.