I was preparing to make my entrance during a matinee performance yesterday when my scene partner leans over and whispers this in my ear. We were about to sing a song together, and apparently she was not feeling completely on her game.
For those who don't know, "cracking" is something that the voice will sometimes do when a person sings too high or is very tired and fails to reach their desired note. The strain causes their voice to falter, squeak, or “crack," kind of like a teenage boy’s voice as it goes through puberty.
Cracking is not good. In fact, it's considered by many to be the cardinal sin of music theatre. I'd be lying if I didn't say I got a little bit excited at the possibility of such a disaster happening. I would never openly wish for another performer to make a mistake, but after 200 performances, it's kinda nice when things get jazzed up.
Thankfully though, and to my disappointment (just kidding), the song went off without a hitch. No cracks. No squeaks. Not even a note sung under pitch. Everything was totally normal.
I found my fellow cast-mate during intermission. "No cracks," I said.
"Yeah, I'm surprised," she replied, "I guess I'm weakest when I think I'm strong."
Walking away, my writer brain immediately started working through this universal wisdom that she had accidentally poured on me.
She was right. When I'm sick or tired and afraid my voice might crack, it never does. In realizing my weakness and vulnerability, I put in extra effort to use proper technique and guard against things like cracking or singing off pitch. It's when I think I'm in perfect vocal health, and I slip into the place of comfortable complacency that I end up sounding like a pubescent child.
She was right about more than just singing though. Whether she knew it or not, she had just made a wise observation about humanity in general. The moment we think we are invincible is the moment we are most likely to fall.
When we think we can deal with temptation by our own power, we've already lost the battle to sin.
When we think we're talented enough to make that movie all by ourselves, the project has already failed.
When we think our team can't lose, we automatically open the door for the Cinderella team to upset us.
The best creatives, the most winning teams, the strongest people, these are the ones who, no matter how "strong" or "successful" they may feel, refuse to fall into comfortably complacency. These are the ones who guard against cracking.