Mary Stuart, The Tony Awards and Coping With Anxiety

Any Broadway fans or people who were really bored on Sunday night might remember that in the televised broadcast of the Tony Awards, when the time to announce the Best Actress in A Play, the camera/announcer accidentally swapped the names of leading ladies of Mary Stuart, Harriet Walters (Elizabeth) and Janet McTeer (Mary Stuart) when the camera focused on each of the women.

The problem is, I reviewed Mary Stuart (for popmatters.com) and have an incredible amount of self-doubt. At first I couldn’t breath. Then I shouted: “Oh my god. No! My life is over! I switched their names! I wrote an entire review and got their names wrong.”
“You never would have done that,” my friends assured me.
“But I would! I totally would. I did. I know I did. I remember.”
I was paralyzed. When I stopped being frozen in panic, I sprinted to my host’s laptop and began frantically searching for my review. But before I could call it up, the beautiful and talented Marcia Gay Harden came on and graciously informed the crowd that the announcer and camera man, not I, had made the terrible error.

I always really liked Marcia Gay Harden. I even thought she was great in Mona Lisa Smile. But at that moment, I wanted to marry her and have her all babies…However that would work….I don’t know.

Regardless, one thing to be learned from this situation is that no matter how many times you rehearse the Tonys, you can still mess up. (I’ve heard that they had 3 practice runs.) To that end, my host assured me that it was way more embarrassing for those people than it would have been for me. But I still felt a little strange that I had so little faith in my own work that I actually believed I would have done something like that. I’d written the review with playbill in hand–how stupid did I really think I was? And while in some situations doubt is useful (like if you’re trying to pretend Secretariat won’t win the Triple Crown so that betting is more exciting for the last race.) But living on a day to day basis with potent doubt about your ability to do simple tasks is not helping anybody’s odds.

Still, all writers and editors make mistakes. And while sometimes mistakes just don’t get caught, the more we make a habit of going through a systematic, pragmatic, checklist of proofreading and fact checking, the less likely we are to make them, thus less likely to doubt our own work. And the less we doubt, the less anxious we’ll get next time we have to something check. Reducing anxiety is good because if we’re already flustered, we’ll never catch obvious mistakes.

Of course, I personally have anxiety attacks every time I send an email, because I imagine that I have made an error, accidentally forwarded something embarrassing, or written something terrible about the person I’m emailing and accidentally included it , or am CCing the wrong person…the list goes on, and it indicates that I have probably far to travel to the Land of No Doubt. (no pun…)

But I haven’t taken a vacation in a while, so it’s probably about time to make the journey. Plus, Next To Normal collected a number of awards, so even if I never achieve faith and serentity, I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that total and complete neurosis is the new black.

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5 thoughts on “Mary Stuart, The Tony Awards and Coping With Anxiety

  1. God, you sound as bad as I am with the e-mails, though I'm mostly concerned that people will take what I say the wrong way (hell, I'm worrying right now that you'll take this comment as some kind of horrible insult and hate me forever for it)….

    Gotta admit, I didn't watch the Tonys…and probably wouldn't have even if I had a TV that works as anything other than a receiver for my DVD player…though I did watch the youtube video of that 80's hair metal singer getting whacked in the nose with that giant…whatever the hell that was…does it make me a bad person that I found that funny?

    Reply
  2. I freak out about possible grammar mistakes in sent e-mails as well. Sometimes I'll go back and find something and then correct it. I'm such a nerd!

    Reply
  3. i feel your pain!! I flipped out for a moment thinking HUH? I had just read some reviews with photos, but thanks to MGH, I was ok. I am the same way with email forwards. sometimes I save things as drafts so i can re-think them…then forget and send them ANYWAY, before the rethinking is complete…DANGER

    Reply
  4. I have had lots of anxiety over things like that. Email is such a weird medium. You are always in sync with your friends, until you are not in sync with them, then suddenly you are some other person or figure–usually not a good one.

    Reply

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