I still remember choking at my piano recital during high school. The girl before completely blanked (horrible to witness) and her wipeout psyched me out. I was playing Bach Invention #13, which I loved and practiced a kabillion times at home, but that moment, with everyone staring at me? All I could get out were the first three measures — then CHOKED. (I ended up jumping ahead in the piece and played the whole thing in 30 seconds. Having a fast word/per/minute typing time is good at work, but not really relevant for the piano — unless you want to get the hell out of dodge.)
When you’re doing a show, choking is worse. I still remember blanking on lines in a Steinbeck show I did with my friend Christine. It was like a MONOLOGUE while two performers acting out the story — so it was all on me. The moment I forgot my lines, the lights shined brighter, I could hear my heart speed up, and I broke out into a crazy-woman level of sweat. Not good. As I sat there wondering what I should do (I thought about starting over, I thought about leaving and never coming back, wondering where the fire exit, etc.), the line finally came back to me. Thank God!
The only other times I choked was um, four times, during the first time I ever performed a one-person show because I was so unbelievably nervous. We put the script on the accordion’s music stand, thank God! Hopefully, those days are behind me — not the forgetting part, because I’m only too aware of how my memory is starting to fade with age, but next time, maybe my runaway nerves will have chilled.